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Mad Explosive Spontaneity

Borne out of history, cultivated by study, updated by an all-inclusive generation of young players, the new jazz movement is making unprecedented music accessible.

by Jonathan Zwickel, City Arts

monktail ten years in seattle

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Monktail Creative Music Concern – Ten Years in Seattle

SPECIAL O.P.S. Ninth Anniversary



In celebrating ten years of music and advocacy in Seattle, the Monktail Creative Music Concern will be presenting a series of concerts the weekend of 10/10/10 as well as a brief Northwest tour of their “free improvisation commando unit,” the trio SPECIAL O.P.S.


Thursday, September 23: Egan’s Ballard Jam House 1707 NW Market St, Seattle 7PM
Friday, September 24: Mississippi Pizza 3552 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 9PM
Saturday, September 25: The Jazz Station 68 W. Broadway, Eugene, OR 9PM
Sunday, September 26: The Matrix 434 NW Prindle St, Chehalis, WA 8PM
Tuesday, September 28: The Comet 922 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 9PM
Friday, October 1: Molly Maguires 610 NW 65th St, Seattle, WA 10PM


Friday, October 8: Egans Ballard Jam House1707 NW Market St, Ballard 7PM
Sunday, October 10 (10/10/10): THE JOSEPHINE 608 NW 65th St N, Ballard 7PM


Organized by founder and director John Seman, Monktail represents a breadth and depth of musical experience unmatched in the region. Ensembles as diverse as their flagship improv big band NON GRATA, the overtone choir SEATTLE HARMONIC VOICES, the celebrated funk and jazz onslaught of REPTET, the bopcore trio FLOSS and chamber oriented DEAL’S NUMBER, Beth Fleenor’s shape-shifting FIGEATER, as well as death-jazz trio SPECIAL O.P.S. all have found their home under the umbrella of Monktail.


While in Seattle, Monktail has earned top honors as an arts organization, including a 2002 Earshot Jazz Golden Ear Award for Emerging Group and a 2002 Tablet Magazine Pretty Good Artist Award, as well as 2006 Golden Ear Awards for best Outside Group (Reptet) and Concert of the Year (The Monktail Raymond Scott Project). 


Monktail Records celebrated their ninth full-length release in 2010, the second Floss long player VITAMIN A, a bold mix of free jazz, psychedelic, and electronic sounds. Other MCMC releases include three acclaimed CDs from Reptet (2008 Independent Jazz Record Finalist), and releases from Non Grata, Seattle Harmonic Voices, Deal’s Number, and Special O.P.S. Four new releases are already in the hopper for release in 2011.




Seattle based Reptet is among a diverse group of independent musicians named as a Finalist in the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards.  Their 2008 release, Chicken or Beef? (Monktail Records) is a finalist for Jazz Album of the Year.  Reptet is a genre bending band of jazz musicians based out of Seattle, WA. These six multi-instrumentalists have an expansive approach to jazz, performing original compositions that incorporate rock, ska, punk, modern classical, avant garde, eastern European folk influences and more. Their internationally acclaimed 2006 release, "Do This!" (Monktail Records) won many accolades and was chosen Jazz CD of the year by Jazziz Magazine’s Alex Gelfand. They have toured nationally and will be launching their first European tour in the summer of 2009.

The Score – Sounds Outside

By Christopher DeLaurenti



In American Music in the Twentieth Century (Schirmer Books), composer and critic Kyle Gann asserts that "a creative culture is a triangle requiring three points: individual artists, a tradition to work within and against, and a public with an adequate amount of disposable attention." Gann’s triangle should also include low-cost, innovative venues that reach out beyond that small, stalwart public who frequents obscure, out-of-the-way clubs. The Monktail Creative Music Concern’s Sounds Outside concert series is a perfect example. Its central location—Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill—as well as all-points access, and price (free), abet the serendipitous, just stumbled-upon-it discovery so essential to acquainting everyone with the avant.


I enjoyed the first of this three-concert series—featuring Degenerate Art Ensemble, Sunship, Seattle Harmonic Voices, and figeater—on a bright, sunny afternoon in June. The crowd was just the right size, with enough people to make people-watching worthwhile yet scattered enough to leave space for stretching out on the grass and listening.


At first, I sat near the running water of the reservoir and listened at a distance; the turbulent hiss of running water, laughing children, the musicians onstage, and stray bits of nearby dialogue melded into a live musique concrète. Closer to the stage, the occasional (and thankfully remote) sirens and the chalky baritone sigh of airplanes aloft in the sky fit the music snugly.


The July installment of Sounds Outside features cellist, composer, and visual artist Paul Rucker; improvising pianist Gust Burns, who brings along his battered collection of tape recorders; the Orkestar Zirkonium, which clatters like the joyous Balkan brass bands of yore; and the rowdy, out-jazz Monktail big band ensemble, Non Grata. It should be a grand time.


Sounds Outside, Sat July 14, 2007, Cal Anderson Park, 1632 11th Ave, 684-4075, 2–8 pm, free.




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Improvised Ecstasy

By Jonathan Zwickel, The Stranger’s Music Blog Line Out, July 14, 2007



Holy shit — Paul Rucker. The multi-instrumentalist band leader extracted a phenomenal performance from a who’s who of Seattle jazz and avant luminaries on Saturday. Part of Monktail Creative Music Concern’s concert series in Cal Anderson park, Rucker’s ensemble was all over the map but never off-target, consistently escalating from the abstract (trance-like thumb piano patterns, violin-vs-cello scratching) to the concise (full-blown soul-jazz crescendos). Tempestuous horns, crackling breakbeats, rubbery upright bass—the band snapped tight as Rucker stood and conducted or played electric bass or cello, giving enough room for surprises to unfold while never for a moment allowing doubt that they might not. Even as a weirdly skronking, off-tempo horn battle launched one song, there was no doubt that the number would go somewhere, and eventually it erupted into a hard-swinging lockstep groove reminiscent of Black Saint-style Mingus and the best Impulse or CTI jazz of the mid-’70s.



Really—this guy’s a monster. Even his solo cello number was hypnotizing. I want more of Paul Rucker and I want it now.



Also terrific during Saturday’s jazz-in-the-park sesh: Orkestar Zirkonium. The Balkan brass band paraded in past the wading pool—tuba belching, horns tooting, bass drum booming—and later stepped off stage to play in the grass, among the crowd. It was impossible to not get swept up because they were so damn close, and so damn good. The horn player from OZ later sat in with Rucker’s ensemble, as did Aham from Seattle hard-jazzers Industrial Revelation. There are some motherfucking PLAYERS in this town, and not just in the rock scene.



Speaking of: Why wasn’t Cal Anderson packed to the gills on Saturday? It was a beautiful afternoon, there was free music in the middle of Capitol Hill, and there were maybe 150 people there, 200 max. This isn’t gooey background jazz, either, but weird and potent and extremely soulful stuff. Wassup people? FREE MUSIC. IN THE PARK. BEER DRINKING WITH YOUR FEET IN A FOUNTAIN. SUMMERTIME. It’s elementary.



Also: a naked parade. What’s not to like?



Monktail is the only free summer jazz series in the city, and the talent is ferocious. Next month, Saturday, August 11 4, features Skerik and Wayne Horvitz, among others. Seriously. Don’t miss it.



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