Jim O’Halloran’s Special Event Jazz Concert at Bradner Gardens, Seattle, Washington
Saturday, August 12, 2023 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Picture, if you will, a smallish, but masterfully designed P-Patch Garden with meandering rows of planter boxes of colorful vegetables and an open meadow area. My husband Don and I schlep our lawn chairs, picnic dinner and cold drinks to a spot on the lawn up front in the shade, and hunker down for a relaxing evening of music and culture.
Jim O’Halloran, chairman of Subud Seattle, band leader, and resident professional flautist bustles about overseeing the set-up for a full cadre of seven musicians and three poets, massive compared to previous concerts that featured four or five performers.
The occasion? Bradner Gardens is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its P-Patch Program and of course invited Jim and his band to perform – this marks his 19th year performing in this jade gem perched atop a hill located a stone’s throw from Lake Washington. The other occasion is more personal: Jim is launching his latest jazz CD recording session on Monday, August 14th . Jim is delighted to have the support of SICA-USA as well as Seattle Neighborhood Matching Funds, and makes no bones about announcing this well-deserved windfall several times throughout the evening, grinning ear-to-ear. He also beamingly acknowledges the cultural support of his Subud Brothers and Sisters, and indeed a healthy share of the 85 people lounging on the lawn, are from Subud Seattle!
The mystery and allure of music is that the meaning constantly changes – and live music makes everything better! – to quote from Jim O’Halloran’s website. His music consists of compositions that Jim receives during Latihan, compositions by fellow band members, and a cover of a Coltraine tune. An omnipresent aura of impish improvising permeates the evening, led by Jim signaling various musicians with a playful nod of his head whenever it’s time for them to take the lead; then they toss the jaunty jazz riff back at Jim in a playful game of call and response. Everyone performing is having the time of their lives, which spills over into the audience in a tsunami of joy. During a highlight of one of these jazz riffs, two hummingbirds rise and fall in a tandem dance in time to the pervasive Latin beat.
The element of improv becomes abundantly clear when poets are welcomed onto the stage. The music the band offers is not mere accompaniment to the recited poetry, but an extension of the call/response motif they play throughout the evening. First up is poet Greg Bem dressed in a shocking chartreuse hoody with a green mask, playfully intoning a warning against The Cosmic Green Man. Here the music is staccato, abrupt, atonal, and interwoven stanza-by-stanza into Greg’s delivery of his poem. Paul Nelson recites FLEXIBLE MIND, a series of meditations from his book Cascadian Zen, Volume 1 – and this time the call and response music is more lyrical, subtle, and upliftingly spiritual. The final poet, Lorna Dee Cervantes, recites from her collection of haikus April on Olympia, with references to the pandemic – and here the musical interludes are more serious and haunting. Lorna rides the waves of the cascading music, fully capturing the rhythms of her haikus with her movement.
Jim’s lyrical flute playing is augmented by a classical violinist, Irene Mitri, whose skill is both lyrical and jaunty. The percussionist Denny Stern exalts on the conga drums and jingling-bells and is the only person onstage grinning more than Jim! Victor Little on bass provides solid underpinnings to the music’s flights of fancy. Gary Shutes on trombone provides more than his fair-share of funk and flare. Jacques Willis on drums launches riffs of toe-tapping rhythm; and Alex Chadsey is enthusiastically playful on the keyboard. This was a stellar event: the perfect confluence of culture and comradery in an intimate setting under balmy clear skies. Music-in-the-Park never had it so good!