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Originally published October 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 30, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Concert review

Garfield kids and Person swing, and Cuong Vu Trio challenges

The young disciples of the Garfield High School jazz band amply backed up old master Houston Person Saturday night for two sets at the Triple Door.

Special to The Seattle Times

Continuing concerts

Earshot Jazz Festival 2007: Concerts continue tonight through Sunday night, including shows from McTuff on Wednesday at the Tractor Tavern, Eric Person Wednesday and Thursday at Tula's, and Iva Bittová Friday night at the Chapel Performance Space. Prices, locations vary; check for complete schedule and venues at 206-547-9787 or www.earshot.org.

The young disciples of the Garfield High School jazz band amply backed up old master Houston Person Saturday night for two sets at the Triple Door. While experience carried the night, it was youth that stole the show.

Person, known for his breathy, bluesy style and his longtime partnership with the late vocalist Etta Jones, fronted the big band for renditions of the Louis Prima ballad "A Sunday Kind of Love," the swing classic "Sentimental Journey" and Illinois Jacquet's "Black Velvet."

Performing with world-class musicians is nothing new for Garfield, which has shared stages with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Nicholas Payton, David "Fathead" Newman and Garfield alum Quincy Jones.

The nearly-all-underclassman Garfield band opened both sets alone, wearing black suits and black shirts, in front of a curtain that mimicked a starry night sky. The two sets featured the same songs for the most part with a few exceptions. The band debuted a slow blues swing titled "Yearning," which displayed all of the group's strengths, precocious solos, crisp phrasing and dynamic range.

Band director Clarence Acox showed his willingness to throw complex arrangements at his young charges with "The Doc Is Out," an up-tempo song written for legendary "Tonight Show" trumpeter and bandleader Doc Severinsen. Alto sax player Robert Struthers was featured in a wailing, minor blues called "Lonely Street," an arrangement that suited Struthers' particular style, Acox said.

The depth of the Garfield jazz program was also evident as players rotated between songs. The jazz program is so healthy, it auditions about 90 students each year, creating the need for three bands and platoons of musicians.

Solos by pianist Ben Hamaji and Struthers drew some of the most enthusiastic applause and particular approval from Person, who at times seemed surprised himself at the musicianship of people so young.

"They inspire me," said Person.

Cuong Vu Trio

As Cuong Vu pointed out Sunday to his audience of about 150 at the Seattle Art Museum, "it doesn't quite sound like jazz," repeating the often-made commentary on his unique brand of ethereal fusion.

"Now I have a gig as a jazz professor," Vu said, referring to his position as an assistant professor of jazz studies at the University of Washington, "so I guess it's jazz."

The Grammy Award-winning Vu performed a set of new compositions in his trio (drummer Ted Poor, bassist Stomu Takeishi), most for the first time. The audience at SAM's Plestcheeff Auditorium included many of his UW students and his "boss," Marc Seales, professor of jazz piano at the UW. The group did play one song familiar to its fans, the title track from its most recent album, "It's Mostly Residual."

The small group imparted a very large sound, aided in part by electronically induced effects of echo and delay. Takeishi, playing in his bare feet, filled the room with his powerful, percussive style, playing his electric bass the way someone might play lead guitar.

The trio did not play traditional jazz as in melody over chord changes. Its songs were a kind of soundscape, inventive and sharp percussion beneath circular melodies and repeating flourishes. The group kept strict time; the rhythms were meticulous and complex, yet it all seemed to float. The notes Vu struck were like paint strokes, best regarded by taking a step back. Call it what you will. Jazz or not, Vu's music is unique and challenging.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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