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Originally published Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Bellevue native Ariel Pocock celebrates sizzling jazz debut

Talented jazz pianist/vocalist and Northwest native Ariel Pocock celebrates the release of her debut album, “Touchstone,” May 21, 2013, at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Bellevue.

Seattle Times jazz critic

Concert preview

The Eastside Jazz Club presents the Ariel Pocock Trio

7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, 11010 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue; $8-$13 (425-828-9104 or www.eastsidejazzclub.com).

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Ariel Pocock.

No, her family has nothing to do with Seattle’s Pocock Rowing Center. But she’s definitely part of Seattle’s musical family. Her father, David Pocock, directed the Northwest Chamber Orchestra from 2003-2005 and both of her parents are piano teachers.

Local jazz-watchers started noticing this supremely talented young lady back in 2007, when she was at Bellevue’s Tyee Middle School and won first-place piano awards from Down Beat magazine, the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival and the Bellevue College Big Band Festival.

Two years later, Newport High School drafted her to sing at the Essentially Ellington competition (where Roosevelt High School placed third this month) and she won again — for piano and voice, both.

Now Pocock, 20, is releasing her debut CD, “Touchstone” (ArtistShare), on June 21. The Eastside Jazz Club presents her Tuesday at Bellevue’s Marriott Courtyard Hotel. (CDs will be available for pre-order).

Pocock left the Northwest two years ago for the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, on a full ride. But she’s thrilled to be coming home.

“It was the perfect place to grow up,” says Pocock, who speaks in disarmingly ebullient cascades. “There were older musicians willing to mentor young players — so many great teachers! — as well as UW professors like (trumpeter) Cuong Vu, and (guitarist) Bill Frisell, (pianist) Bill Anschell, my teacher (Michael Stegner). I was playing all the time.”

As a freshman at Miami, where she studies with fabled piano teacher Shelly Berg, Pocock got a crazy break. An executive at the UK branch of the Verve label saw her audition tapes on YouTube, then flew her to London to play at London’s prestigious Ronnie Scott’s. Then, suddenly, the label folded.

“One day we were talking about going into the studio, and producers, and what material to record,” says Pocock, “and the next day it was ‘Have a nice life.’ ”

But the Verve experience didn’t turn out all bad. Another Miami alum, veteran record producer Matt Pierson, had already rounded up drummer Eric Harland, bassist Larry Grenadier and guitarist Julian Lage for her album. Since Pocock still had her Verve advance, they decided to go ahead anyway, releasing “Touchstone” through ArtistShare, a fundraising platform that recently signed a distribution deal with Blue Note.

The album is a dandy, featuring in equal measure Pocock’s sinewy jazz piano and breezy vocal chops. She kicks things off with an unconventional vocal/drums duet on the 1930 standard, “Exactly Like You,” showcasing a gaminelike voice with a salted caramel tang.

Though Pocock sings and plays traditional jazz repertoire — “Devil May Care,” “All the Things You Are,” “When I Fall in Love” — she is careful to honor more recent work as well, by James Taylor (“You Can Close Your Eyes”), Tom Waits (“Rainbow Sleeves”) and Kate Bush (“Mother Stands For Comfort”).

A for-real jazz player, Pocock evokes the mysterious mixology of Thelonious Monk on “Barrel Roll,” the clear springs of Keith Jarrett on his song “Country” and Bill Evans’ oceanic yearning on “When I Fall in Love.”

But the tunes her fans will no doubt request are her achingly plain-spoken rendering of Randy Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl” and the album’s woozy, late-night heartbreak of a closer, “Touchstone,” by Pierson’s friend, singer-songwriter Dayna Kurtz.

Pocock’s no fool about what the public really likes.

“Once you open your mouth,” she says, “everybody just wants to hear you sing.”

They will definitely want to hear Ariel Pocock.

Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or pdebarros@seattletimes.com

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