Musician creates music inspired by hidden histories

Vashon Allied Arts and the Friends of Mukai have joined forces to bring “Panama Hotel Jazz” by the Steve Griggs Ensemble to the island at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Heron. The event is the first performance in VAA’s Jazz Series.

Steve Griggs and his ensemble will play at the Blue Heron on Saturday.

Steve Griggs and his ensemble will play at the Blue Heron on Saturday.

Vashon Allied Arts and the Friends of Mukai have joined forces to bring “Panama Hotel Jazz” by the Steve Griggs Ensemble to the island at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Heron. The event is the first performance in VAA’s Jazz Series.

Inspired by James Ford’s best-selling novel “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” jazz musician Steve Griggs wrote a set of music for the historic Panama Hotel in Seattle’s International District

The 103-year-old building became a prominent safe haven for storing personal items belonging to incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. To date, some of the items remain unclaimed and can be viewed through a window into the hotel’s basement.

In Ford’s novel, a Seattle jazz musician, Oscar Holden, writes an imaginary song he calls “Alley Cat Strut.” Grigg will perform his composition of this fictional song as part of the multi-media program that combines narration, original compositions, archival photographs and video.

Some of Vashon’s Japanese-American community will join the Steve Griggs Ensemble to share memories of their experiences during this difficult historical time.

Based in Seattle, the Steve Griggs Ensemble includes trumpeter Jay Thomas, saxophonist Steve Griggs, vibraphonist Susan Pascal, guitarist Milo Petersen and bassist Phil Sparks.

The ensemble recorded an album with the music for “The Panama Hotel Jazz,” which subsequently won an ASCAP Chamber Music America award. The project also received a grant from the National Park Service Japanese Confinement Sites Program as a way to preserve the history of Japanese American internment.

A grant from King County 4Culture funded Griggs’ research into what the musician calls Seattle’s hidden histories as well as his work composing music for the project.

Tickets are $18 for VAA members, students and seniors and $22 for general admission. Tickets are available at the Blue Heron and www.vashonalliedarts.org.

 

 


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