Remember the Beatles` song, `Blackbird` ` that wistful yet somehow hopeful little ditty about healing and resurgence?
Well, when BlueStreet Jazz Voices community vocal jazz ensemble adapts it for one of their soloists at an upcoming Seattle show, that playful lyric will have been transformed into a more complex, thoughtful, and even dissonant question.
That`s the domain of jazz.
That is also the advantage of having versatile performers and dedicated musicians who play their hearts out, according to Paul Frankel, a vocalist in the group and managing director of the ensemble.
With a core group of eight people, including musical director Ken Wilson, and accompanist Andy Carr, Frankel put BlueStreet Jazz Voices together from a conversation in his living room in 2001 and got them in front of an audience for the first time in 2002.
Moreover, people are starting to notice. Their next performance at Tula`s Nightclub in Seattle will no doubt be a packed house and their return engagement in May 2007 to The Triple Door will surely draw a crowd.
`Most vocal ensembles are classical and most are academicians,` said Frankel, reflecting on the uniqueness of BlueStreet in an interview with JTNews.
`We all have regular jobs but we are a very close community and we`re all dear friends. Singing is a very intimate thing and we come and sing with all of our hearts.`
The community ensemble began rehearsing in 2001 after narrowing the field of 30 who came to audition to 20 performers. Since then, BlueStreet Voices keeps a yearly schedule that includes performances around the Northwest and a commitment to community outreach.
They play a couple of times a year to a capacity crowd in the activity room at The Summit on First Hill, a Jewish retirement home in Seattle. The seniors there cannot wait for the group to return.
`They were utterly enchanting, professional and fantastic,` raved Trudi Arshon-Rosenbaum, community relations and marketing director at The Summit. `They played to us and our audience played back to them. The residents were totally enthralled.`
BlueStreet is a diverse and eclectic group of musicians whose ages range from those in their 20s to members in their 60s. All have day jobs ` some in advertising, others, like Frankel, work at Boeing. Whether they are engineers or bankers, they have the music in common.
Wilson, who is also the chair of the music department at Bellevue Community College, helped build the group`s repertoire of music. He has swapped out some of the more traditional jazz standards and harmonies on their song list for more complex rhythms and harmonies that are very accurate and very technical. In addition, they can now feature more soloists.
`I`m programming more challenging music now than in the past,` said Wilson. `We`ve become a lot more particular.`
He can`t help but feel proud of how far they`ve come so quickly.
`I see the personality of the group as unique,` said Wilson. `It`s a community group. They are people who love jazz and people who love music. There are probably only a dozen community jazz ensembles in the country. To have them sound as good as they do is quite exciting.`
The Tula`s show will include various jazz selections including `You`d Be So Nice to Come Home To` and `Pick Yourself Up.`
In the smaller, more intimate venue, Wilson said the group can perform more complex and sophisticated pieces that feature many of their soloists performing songs like that new rendition of `Blackbird.`
`The `Blackbird` we`re doing is harmonic in nature but has much more dissonance and the energy of youth speaking out. It ends with a complexity that doesn`t resolve,` he said. `There is also a unique fusion arrangement of `I Can See Clearly Now` that has a really intense harmonic sound yet it is simple in terms of concept.`
BlueStreet performs in what Frankel called an `ambient` microphone style, where four microphones are staged to amplify the whole ensemble. The group has grown to just under 25 musicians.
Karen Peck, one of the founding members of BlueStreet, has been singing in the classical style throughout her college career and then as a member of the Rainier Chorale. She now sings first soprano in the Chorale, but occupies a second soprano position in the ensemble. She`s quickly warming up to the jazz genre.
`I do P.R. and marketing all day but we all love to perform,` said Peck. `Our hobby is music. We need this as a creative outlet.`
Peck loves the intimacy of performing in community venues like The Summit but is excitedly anticipating their next show.
`The show at Tula`s will be a really good showcase of what the group can do together,` added Peck. `You`ll hear eight ensemble pieces and also some solo pieces.`
Two days later, the group will be performing with two other jazz ensembles at BCC.
`We`re putting together a new demo CD,` said Frankel. `In the future, we`d like to record and do some jazz festivals.`
BlueStreet Jazz Voices is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. They are supported by grants, dues and ticket sales.