24 August 2011


It was truly lucking out to find we were staying virtually across the road from a jazz club in Seattle and not too far from the other major venue. I chose Tula’s with its interest in local Pacific Northwestern jazz. Greta Matassa was singing with a piano trio. It was a Friday night, the club was quite laid back but the street outside was buzzing with life and music with a little desperate edginess. Tula’s is in Second Ave, in Belltown, walking distance and midway between the quirky and touristy Pike Place Market and the vintage Space Needle. There a buzz in this town and a history of invention: Microsoft, Amazon, Adobe, Fedex, Boeing, Starbucks are all Seattle products. There’s water, fishing, lush country, mountains, even snow clad volcano cones in the distance rising above the smog. The local library as a major monument and the geek chic fits the claim as the most literate city in the USA.

Greta Matassa also fit the bill. She’s a lithe and flexible voice, moving intelligently and smoothly through medleys of standards on request. This is the world of steady professionalism. She told me she likes this band with its ability to play her 2,000 song repertoire at call. Certainly, she took requests and the band moved easily through tunes. A funky Baubles bangles and beads; Summertime that melded into It ain’t necessarily so as a dedication to the operatic Porgy & Bess that was then playing in Seattle; Skylark; I’m through with love; even Wouldn’t it be lovely and a Kurt Elling reference. I wasn’t surprised at the chat after the gig about keys – it’s a common topic for performers supporting singers. I also wasn’t too surprised (although I was impressed) that Greta had recently played at Dizzy’s in NYC. She has a lovely capable voice: sometimes blues-rough, sometimes jazz-mobile, sometimes scat-improvised, sometimes cabaret-present, but not forced or too obvious in its musicality. This is easy professionalism and sophisticated entertainment. Her band was similarly understated. Darin Clendenin was appropriately supportive of Greta, but could let go on fluent solos with a beautifully moderate dissonance and passing chromaticism. Bassist Clipper Anderson soloed frequently and with real fluency and tonal lyricism. Mark Ivester was supportive and unobtrusive. All the marks of seasoned professional musicians and lovely to hear. Interestingly Clipper Anderson had an Australian connection. He’d played with Jim Kelly of Crossfire in Brisbane, spoke well of Vince Jones recordings and, along with other Americans we spoke to, was wary of our wildlife.

But this is travel so it’s also a matter of talk and experiences. I’m enjoying the people. There are some obviously different conventions here: formal manners in a society of privilege and homelessness. But as one interesting if unhinged conversationalist I met quoted from Keith Richards: You go to Heaven for the climate and to Hell for the company. They say Seattle rains a lot, but it’s beautiful weather for us. Not sure what that says but I was mightily amused by the quote and I’m enjoying the company.

Greta Matassa (vocals) led a bands with Darin Clendenin (piano), Clipper Anderson (bass) and Mark Ivester (drums) at Tula’s in Seattle.

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