Sumi Tonooka Plays Jackson Street

Sumi Tonooka

Sumi Tonooka

Earlier in the year, we were very excited to hear about the Low-Income Housing Institute’s Department of Neighborhood’s grant to bring live music to Jackson Street every month. They’re now on to their fourth show, in a variety of styles, and we finally had a chance to sit down with this month’s featured artist, jazz pianist, Sumi Tonooka.

Sumi Tonooka has been in the business of composing inventive and compelling music for over 30 years and has been called a “fierce and fascinating composer and pianist” (Jazz Times), “provocative and compelling” (New York Times), and “continually inventive, original, surprising, and a total delight,” (Cuadranos de Jazz, Madrid).

A mentee of legends Mary Lou Williams and Kenny Barron, she is at home with nearly every style of jazz: bebop, swing, hard-bop and modern. Her impressive portfolio includes accolades and awards from the New York Times, Jazz Times, American Composers Orchestra and The Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University. She will be joined by Max Wood (drums) and Michael Glynn (bass) on November 22nd to delight the crowd with a full set of her own compositions as well as works by John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.

Is there something special for you in playing on Jackson Street?

Performing on Jackson Street in the Central District is special because there is a lot of jazz history here and it is on Jackson where so much great jazz took place. At one time, there were so many clubs and various venues where people like Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, and Ray Charles performed. Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington and many such jazz greats also performed here as well.

In my hometown of Philadelphia PA, we have a street similar to Jackson Street. Over in West Philly, 52nd Street had many clubs and venues during the fifties and sixties. My parents took me to see Thelonius Monk at the Aqua Lounge when I was thirteen years old for my birthday so I got a chance to experience some of that amazing renaissance.

These streets hold a lot of those vibrations and maybe making music and holding concerts in the same areas can help to bring back some of that vitality and energize the community.

You’ve played lots of great gigs in jazz venues across the world, so what makes playing a community concert in a venue like Ernestine Anderson Place, something that’s interesting to you?

Yes, I have performed in venues such as The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center but I have also performed in unusual venues such as prisons, correction centers for troubled youth and schools for kids orphaned by AID’s in Africa and even on a dirt road in a neighborhood street in Ethiopia. What makes those concerts special is that you get to witness and be a part of the healing power of music, and bring the music into new territory and share with people, some of whom may never have heard jazz before.

Ernestine Anderson Place was built by the Low Income Housing Institute which is an amazing non profit. My friend Sharon Lee is the founder and director now for over twenty years. We have been friends going all the way back to third grade in Philadelphia. Sharon is one of my heroes, she is a champion for this cause with LIHI having built something like 40 thousand+ units of housing in Seattle for homeless and low income people. Performing at Ernestine Anderson Place is exciting to me because it provides an experience that brings this community together around music which is a beautiful thing to be a part of. I am very proud and happy to be a part of this concert series. And I applaud Sharon for getting this music series off the ground!

You’ve talked about about being mentored by Mary Lou Williams and Kenny Barron— that must have been amazing!, who are you mentoring now and what’s the vibe happening today with younger players?

Having a teacher like Mary Lou Williams was amazing and Kenny Barron is my friend and mentor. These days I get to mentor younger musicians when I am teaching master classes. There is a group in Philadelphia at The Kimmel Center where I teach every year for the past four years or so called the Creative Music Program that houses some of the most talented up and coming young players in the Philly area. I have been really blown away by some of the talent and determination of these young musicians.

I have taught compositions and improvisation and bring in some of my arrangements and work hands on with these kids and it is always gratifying to be around them and share my experience with them. I also have chosen to work with a rather young rhythm section here in Seattle, my drummer Max Wood and Michael Glynn, they are both very talented and while I get a lot from them musically, I also think that they are getting something that broadens their range of experience by working with me as a leader.

What’s something you’d like to see develop in the Seattle Jazz scene?

More venues! More comraderie and community between the straight ahead scene and the experimental jazz scene— it seems somewhat divided. There is a lot of creativity and a LOT of wonderful musicians here, lots of adventurous stuff going on and I have found it to be a “incubating” phase of my creative life.

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Sumi Tonooka plays in the Living Room of Ernestine Anderson House for FREE on Saturday, November 22 at 7:30. Doors open at 7:00 PM. Open is M9, a high-engery Balkan Brass Band. See more at www.upbeatonJackson.org.

Hear a bit of her playing, right here: https://soundcloud.com/sumi-tonooka/06-track-06

Flo Ware Chalk Art Invitational

Flo Ware Chalk Art Invitational

Flo Ware Chalk Art Invitational

How are we use up all the extra chalk from Hopscotch CD? That was the question, when we dreamed up our quick next event!

A huge thanks to the families and friends that showed up today for the first “Flo Ware Chalk Art Invitational”. Everyone was invited (via our Facebook page and posters along Jackson St.) to join us in a twenty-minute timed drawing competition. This year’s theme as “Family Portrait”. We had some folks that just happened to be in the playground join in and we had families in-it-to-win-it and prepared with a sketch plan and a portrait. The preparedness really paid off, as the family won “The People’s Choice” award, getting first pick at our amazing prize table! They took home an old-fashioned Chocolate Mayonaise Cake with Divinity frosting!

Our three Central District Artist Judges, Nia Michaels, Cecelia Alvarez, and Andrea Charles awarded a total of eleven prize categories and our awesome prizes include a colossal 315-piece art set, several Jackson Commons cakes and gift certificates and a t-shirt from Central Pizza.

We thought all the drawings were inspired and really nice way to meet some new neighbors! Thanks!

Look for another chalk drawing competition as part of next year’s Hopscotch CD, happening June 6, 2015.

Hopscotch CD! August 23

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I guess it tells you something about how hard it is for volunteers to maintain a Facebook, Twitter, and blog that our biggest project of the year, Hopscotch CD is just around the corner and isn’t on our blog!

First: for the most current updates, check our facebook page at JacksonCommonsSeattle. Or follow us on Twitter @JacksonCommons.

On to the event!

Hopscotch CD!
Saturday, August 23. 9 am – 6 pm.

Join us, as we team with community volunteers to put on almost 3 miles of fun along our giant hopscotch course across the CD! Along with so many favorites along last year’s route, we’re adding a spur down to the Hiawatha Flea Market in the Jackson Place neighborhood and a spur so you can easily go check out the Ethiopian Summer Festival at Garfield Community Center.

World Record Attempt for most people playing hopscotch at once: 1 pm, Centerstone, 18th & Cherry
CDA’ Carnival: 4 pm – 8 pm, 23rd and Union.

See the route, add a garage sale or lemonade stand, volunteer to help lay the path— all at www.hopscotchcd.com.

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UpBeat On Jackson! A new Concert Series

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Thanks to a grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, LiHi’s Ernestine Anderson Place will be presenting a FREE monthly concert. Most concerts will be happening the 3rd Saturday evening of the month, except for this first one with amazing performer, Mary McBride!

What a treat to see here in the intimate space right here in the CD.

Mary McBride
Sunday, August 17th, 2014
4 to 6 pm, Doors at 3:30.

Ernestine Anderson Place
2010 S. Jackson St, Seattle WA 98144

Flash Mob Picnic? Sure!

Can you flash mob your way past neighborhood sadness?

Can you flash mob your way past neighborhood sadness?

The last couple weeks were brutal in the Central District, particularly our end, with four murders and several more shootings. Too much sadness! Too much frustration at the inability to stop the violence.

Having a picnic isn’t going to solve anything, but it does give folks a chance to get together, talk, and, if nothing else, show that we’re not going to cower behind all of the gun violence.

A lovely picnic with good conversations. As always, we’d recommend you check our Facebook page or Twitter for the latest news, freshest updates and our often, nearly-istaneous events which seldom get up on the site fast enough.

Nice casual picnic, good conversation.

Nice casual picnic, good conversation.

Jackson Street Jazz Walk!

Jackson Street Jazz Walk

Jackson Street Jazz Walk

We’re thrilled to announce the first Jackson Street Jazz Walk coming on April 5. We’ve been fortunate to be one of the mentors for the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ PACE Program. The PACE (People’s Academy of Community Engagement) Program is a nine-month course developed by the city to give future community leaders the skills and knowledge to branch out and lead their own community projects. It’s been an great learning experience for me to be a mentor, and of course, this project wouldn’t be happening without the PACE teams’ hard work. In addition, we’re excited to have the support of the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs who are funding many of the performances at the event.

Headlining the walk? We kick things off early with the Seattle Brazilian Jazz Ensemble at 4 pm at Casa Latina at 17th and Jackson, followed by the hot Afro-Cuban sounds of Bembe Olele at 5:30.

Over at the LiHi Ernestine Anderson House at 20th and Jackson, we’re still lining up some opening bands, however, you’ll definitely want to catch the 19-piece big band, Jazz Underground if you like the music from the Swing Years! They take the stage at 6:30 and will play two sets.

We’ll be posting a complete schedule as we get closer to the event and providing a map with the many locations of the bands, the food specials, and the art. Well, the art is going to be pretty obvious: it’s at Pratt! It’s Pratt’s One Hot Night, Spring style! So not only can you come to Jackson Street to listen to free music, but you there will be tours and demonstrations in Pratt’s many art studios, food trucks and more!

Check out our facebook page for more details and the latest updates at JacksonCommonsSeattle.

Pictures from the Festival of Lights!

A much overdue post with some wonderful pictures from the 2013 Festival of Lights!

It rained! It was cold! It was a lot of work!

And it was, once again, a bit of neighborhood magic right in the middle of our park. So sweet.

A huge thank you to the Central Seattle Drug Free Communities Coalition for funding this year’s Festival. The City of Seattle Parks Department helped us so much with staff and permits to make this happen.
Volunteers from both sides of the park got organized for latern-making, umbrella wiring, baking cookies, folding bags, setting up bags, singing, performing, and finally picking up over a mile of bags in a cold, terrible rain.

We also thank Darigold for donating the hot chocolate and Caffe Appassionato for the coffee that helped keep everyone warm.

Social Media takes time, and alas, it’s something this volunteer has been really strapped on for several months. So as always, the newest, freshest and fastest neighborhood news is found at JacksonCommonsSeattle on Facebook or on Twitter at JacksonCommons.