Okay, y’all. There’s too many amazing musicians in my life to shout-out. This post features snapshots of three individuals whose work is unique and important and extraordinary. None of them know each other, but they are connected in their unbridled passion and incontestable talent. They each write music about topics important to them: justice and equality, racial and political divides. And for each, their music serves as a method of delivery, and a powerful way to share their truth with the world.
Joe, violinist, is a musical revelation! He is strikingly charismatic, with an irresistible on-stage demeanor. His music is incandescent and creative, drawing from his classical background and incorporating/influenced by jazz, pop, and indie rock. Joe’s shows have have a through-line of fabulous music-making, but are much more than just concerts–they are works of art, dynamic & alive pieces of work that breathe and expand. Joe takes concert-goers on a musical journey through song and story, often weaving in performers across different artistic disciplines to help tell tales of injustice and immigration, culture and heritage. Dancers, lighting designers, painters, rappers—all have a place at the vibrant and inclusive table that Joe sets.
In many ways, Joe’s already “made it big.” He’s opened for Bernie Sanders and YoYo Ma, he’s played on a nationally-broadcast NPR show, and he just last month sold out a show at Alberta Theater. When he’s out from underneath the shiny lights, Joe is incredibly likeable: humble, hilarious, intellectual, sincere. He’s currently curating a monthly open mic at Cafe in the Pearl, and passionate about helping bolster and build kinship and community in the local PDX music scene. He’s certainly brightening my part of the city.
Laryssa has a voice that could win over the toughest critic, and melt the hardest-hardened heart. The first time I heard a melody rise from her lips, I found myself wide-eyed and swooning. She’s active in the Portland music scene, regularly playing gigs in venues around the city, and partnering with other brilliant musicians for shows that sparkle with talent and stunning sets.
It’s easy to get carried away by Laryssa’s impressive vocal chords, but I also want to bring attention to her fantastic songwriting abilities. When she feels outrage with our current political climate, she transfers this fierce energy into lyrics that protest wrongs, call out grievances, poke and prod at absurdity, and give voice to her outrage. When she’s incensed by the cultural narrative, she does her part to rewrite it—channeling the best activist songstresses of history (I hear Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell, to name a couple greats). She’s made a number of music videos to pair with recent tracks, which are strong representations of Laryssa’s capacity to air truths (both personal and societal). In whatever topic she’s covering, she compels listeners to engage with the stories she tells. That a voice with such honey and sweetness can proclaim such unapologetic strength perfectly exemplifies Laryssa’s magnetic spirit. When using her voice, Laryssa truly wields a weapon of empowerment.
Chaz is a wildly creative man that quite literally strides to the beat of his own drums. His work is innovative and provocative; his lyrics are woven wisely & wizardly. This past year, he recruited a number of stellar Seattle musicians to support him in a recording project, the result of which is a brilliant collection of songs under the EP titled ConunDrum. He describes his work aptly as “celebral and rhythmic,” and shared this in a recent interview:
Whether creating or receiving, I love when a piece of art grabs my attention such that I forget about everything else for that moment. I strive to create and share that feeling.
Chaz’s musical origins are as an accomplished drummer—he spent several years spending several hours a day at his drum set. He also spent his childhood growing up in a household filled with music (his dad is a talented pianist), surrounded by a plethora of instruments, musicians, and soundscapes. He’s a voracious listener, with a diverse musical palate, and his current electronic productions convey his intense awareness of how sounds interplay.
As he cultivates his skill as producer and engineer, I hear a deepened sensitivity to the textures of sounds and silence; he layers beats with harmony and melody. His lyrics are high-brow, poetic, provocative. His attunement to the rhythm—of both song and words—adds another dimension of artistry and allure. Through both lush soundscapes and sparse productions, there is an intimacy, rawness, and realness to Chaz’s productions and delivery that’s striking and compelling. Chaz is just beginning to foray into the realm of performance in his Seattle home, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store in upcoming months and years.