Arts and Entertainment

All that jazz: Annual music fest raises money for K-12 marine science education

Jay Thomas blows trumpet and flugelhorn for Jazz Coalescence. The Coalescence performs at the annual Jazz at the Labs, June 19 at U.W. Friday Harbor Labs.  - James Krall / Journal 2007
Jay Thomas blows trumpet and flugelhorn for Jazz Coalescence. The Coalescence performs at the annual Jazz at the Labs, June 19 at U.W. Friday Harbor Labs.
— image credit: James Krall / Journal 2007

In the past, Jazz at the Labs has coincided with the summer kick-off weekend in June.

This year, the jazz concert stands alone, but with a dynamic lineup that will draw jazz lovers to the U.W. Friday Harbor Labs Dining Hall.

The 10th annual Jazz at the Labs is June 19, featuring dinner and performances by the San Juan Jazz Quintet and Seattle-based Jazz Coalescence.

The concert was initiated as a fund-raiser for the Labs’ Science Outreach Program. Bob Schwartzberg, the lab’s director of development at the time, describes how the quintet’s Dennis Willows first raised the issue of more education-related fund-raising.

“I had just started working at the Labs, and Dennis and some other

folks sat down with me and said we need to find a way to fund the Science Outreach Program.”

With more than 30 years of experience in co-ordinating fund-raisers, Schwartzberg began to put together the concert. Given that Schwartzberg knew a number of people in the science field who were also jazz musicians, Willows among others, Jazz at the Labs quickly formed as the concept.

Schwartzberg worked closely with Ron Howell, who is CEO and president of the Washington Research Foundation and a musician in the band Chimera. It was the San Juan Jazz Quintet and Chimera that performed at that 2001 debut show.

Four years down the line, and Howell passed his band and his organization onto Chris Amemiya. Amemiya was a U.W. scientist and fronts the band Jazz Coalescence. Thus, in 2004, the Jazz Quintet and Coalescence hit the stage in a partnership that has lasted ever since.

As a pair, the two groups offer a diversity of styles, each following a different take on jazz.

“It’s a different sort of music,” says Amemiya, comparing the Quintet and the Coalescence. Schwartzberg agrees.

“(The Quintet) will play a lot of Bossa Nova, soft jazz. And Chris and his band play more progressive, more contemporary, (and) blend different facets of jazz and fusion.”

Schwartzberg says the evening is equivalent to “a jazz festival in one night.”

This year will have a special touch: celebrity master of ceremonies Dick Stein. Stein has been a jazz host on NPR’s KPLU 88.5 radio show since 1992. With a lot of jazz-related experiences — writing and directing 100 episodes of “Jazz Kitchen,” and three episodes of “Jimmy Jazzoid” comedies — Stein will add his expert touch to the evening.

Schwartzberg adds that those who attend do not need to know anything about jazz.

“It’s for people who enjoy music and good food, and to support a good cause and have a pleasant evening without going all the way to Seattle.”

The event is cosponsored by a number of local businesses and residents, including Friday Harbor Drug, Carolyn Haugen, Dr. Susan Kiraly of Spring Street Dentistry, Chita Miller, Charles Richardson, Roche Harbor Resort, San Juan Propane, Alex Shapiro, and San Juan Vineyards.

“We’re all committed to the K-12 program at the Labs and are convinced it’s a great way to help young people get ignited by marine sciences,” Willow says, summing up the most important aspect to the concert.

Fund-raising never sounded so good.

At A Glance
— What: 10th annual Jazz at the Labs.
— When: June 19, 6 p.m.
— Where: U.W. Friday Harbor Labs dining hall.
— Tickets: Dinner and music, $30. Music only (beginning at 7:30 p.m.), $15.
— Call: 378-2165, ext. 0.
— FYI: Proceeds benefit the Labs’ K-12 outreach program.

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