Musicians infuse Sequim with sounds of smooth jazz
BlueSkyz at Nourish
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21
Where: Nourish, 101 Provence View Lane
More info: Visit, www.facebook.com/BlueSkyzJazz.
Reservations suggested: Call Nourish, at 797-1480
Something sounds different in Sequim.
Pleasant, relaxing and intimate notes are beginning to resonate among residents since a group of local musicians first collaborated in February to create a smooth jazz band, BlueSkyz.
“We realized we were all pretty good musicians on our own, but when we did our first gig together something happened and it just worked,” Lupe (Tess) Teel, vocalist for BlueSkyz, said.
Teel was led to the rest of her soon-to-be band mates by her thirst for familiar music and a place to sing. Although she and her husband had owned a house in Discovery Bay for more than 10 years, it wasn’t until two years ago that they decided to leave California.
Having sung since childhood, but with experience in classical, opera and choir, the transition to jazz and to singing solo were new to Teel.
“Jazz isn’t something I’d ever sung so I was pretty intimidated by it and I’ve always been part of an ensemble,” she said. “This was a real trust fall for me.”
But, with well-versed musicians like Jason Paul, Dave Keyte and Tom East pushing Teel to experiment with jazz and challenge her voice to try new things, she finds herself in a state on personal discovery.
“They’re pushing me to grow as an artist,” she said. “I’m learning a lot about my own talents and it’s opening new doors.”
Teel describes BlueSkyz guitarist Paul as the “foundation” of the group, as he directs a lot of the arranging. Whereas, East on the keyboard and Keyte with his electronic wind instrument “work like butter to fill in the cracks.”
The electronic wind instrument can create 100 sounds, such as the saxophone, trumpet, flute, french horn and harmonica, and thus provides Keyte with the ability to fit the mood and needs of nearly every song.
“It allows me a variety of things that I can do with the group,” Keyte said.
Together the musicians of BlueSkyz, named to reflect Sequim, produce a smooth and lingering sound.
“It’s mellow, put your feet up and relax into it kind of music,” Teel said.
The band primarily performs from “The Great American Songbook,” also known as “American Standards,” which encompass important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century.
“We play stuff that most everyone has heard before, but we
put our own stamp on it,” Teel said. “We’ll practice a song and Jason will say, ‘I like that, but let’s BlueSkyz it.’”
Members of BlueSkyz and special guest and keyboardist LeRoy Davidson, have been busy putting their spin on a variety of classics as they perfect a set for the upcoming dinner event at Nourish, a local garden-to-plate focused restaurant.
On Saturday, Nov. 21, BlueSkyz will be the featured artists, where they plan to pair their talents with those at the restaurant to create an evening worth remembering, Teel said. The creative and fluid atmosphere of Nourish with a variety of local artists’ work on display and food which is its own form of artistic expression, provides an inspiring stage for bands such as BlueSkyz.
“Nourish does a culinary performance of their own so we hope to augment that experience and enhance the whole environment,” Paul said.
Having performed at Nourish semi-regularly during its Wednesday open mic nights, those with Blueskyz recognize how plentiful musical talent is within Sequim. The large demographic of retirees allows lifelong musicians either the time to play, Teel explained, or the time to discover and “awaken” an ability to play an instrument or sing.
Because of the diversity and depth of musical talent in Sequim and surrounding areas, Paul would like to see the North Olympic Peninsula become a “musical destination,” he said, but also realizes that’s a “lofty” goal.
Public venues to perform live are becoming more limited in and around Sequim as royalty fees from agencies like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI), are becoming too expensive for local establishments to afford.
The Oasis Bar & Grill, 301 E. Washington St., one of Sequim’s few venues, hosted its last live music performance on New Year’s Eve after years of pressure from music licensing companies to pay royalties for songs being played by performers.
Teel, Davidson and other members of BlueSkyz all share a sense of respect and support of the process to protect the intellectual work of fellow musicians and songwriters, but a challenge is finding the balance between managing those rights and associated fees with affordability of local venues.
“There’s so much talent here, we just need more places to play,” Teel said.
“Music touches us in a way that spoken words just can’t,” she said. “There’s something about music that is hardwired into us and you can share it with anybody — it’s the great equalizer.”
To ensure the future of live music and creative expression, Teel finds optimism in creative solutions and grassroots efforts, like a community supported performing arts center for example.
“First, we musicians need to make enough noise to make people aware of the creativity being smothered,” she said.
As BlueSkyz continues to evolve and grow, Teel would like to see the band do more of what they’ve been doing, such as performing at dinner events, private parties, galleries and community galas.
“I think people are just getting to know us,” she said.
Beyond Nourish, BlueSkyz has performed at a variety of venues, from Pleasant Harbor Marina Resort in Brinnon and Sunland Golf & Country Club in Sequim, to Pippa’s Real Tea in Port Townsend.