A year and a half ago a Rifftides report on the conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators included this paragraph:
It is impossible to predict the course of an artist’s career, but here’s a name to file away: Logan Strosahl. He is a sixteen-year-old alto saxophonist with the Roosevelt High School Jazz Band from Seattle, Washington. Strosahl has the energy of five sixteen-year-olds, rhythm that wells up from somewhere inside him, technique, harmonic daring with knowledge to support it and–that most precious jazz commodity–individuality. If he learns to control the whirlwind and allow space into his improvising, my guess is that you’ll be hearing from Logan Strosahl.
I heard Strosahl again last winter in a student adjudication at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho. For his appearance before the judges, he did not choose pushover pieces with easy harmonic structures; he played Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” Strosahl won a top evaluation, and response as close to an ovation as anyone is likely to get from an audience mainly composed of educators and competitors. For a short biography, click here.
Last night at The Seasons Summer Festival in a concert billed as The Future of Jazz, I heard Strosahl again, not in the anxiety-inducing circumstance of an academic exercise but in a full-fledged gig. Leading a band called the Playtonic Quartet, in an hour’s performance he accomplished–at greater length and in greater depth–everything that prompted my enthusiasm for him in New York. With a rhythm section notable for its sensitivity and responsiveness, Strosahl showed that he has grown. Like Strosahl, bassist Jeff Picker is a national award winner in student music events and about to enter the Manhattan School of Music. Strosahl is off to the New England Conversatory in Boston, where, I predict, he will quickly gain notice when he takes time from his composition studies to jam in the city’s clubs. Pianist Victor Noriega and drummer Chris Icasiano, bright lights in the young adult division of Seattle’s jazz scene, were impressive in support and in solo.
Evidence of Strosahl’s increasing maturity included the opening up of space in his solos; pauses that allowed his ideas breathing room and emphasized the melodic and rhythmic content, including humor, in his choruses. His improvised lines have logic, continuity and originality, with a fine edge of freedom and wildness. His mastery of the saxophone and of harmony evidently allow him to play any idea that comes into his head. Tall and slender, with wide shoulders, he cannot repress the urge to stay in motion. Strosahl moved about the stage in movements between jerking and gliding, pausing to listen intently to his bandmates, uttering syllables of encouragement or approval, then resuming his ballet, often while playing, a thick crop of dark hair flopping over his forehead.
His time feeling is so strong that on a couple of occasions when someone in the rhythm section drifted almost imperceptibly out of plumb, all it took was two or three perfectly placed quarter notes from Strosahl to get things back on course. That is a technique well known to seasoned horn players, evidence of natural leadership in one so young. His improvisation on “It Could Happen to You” was, simply, one of the most satisfying solos I have heard in years. He showed judgment in program construction, with a balance between original compositions and standards to which the audience could relate. In his announcements, he was brief, good natured and informative, if a bit rushed in his delivery.
Strosahl is the son of Pat Strosahl, the driving force behind his family’s conversion of The Seasons from a church into one of the finest performance halls in the west. If this was a case of fatherly favoritism, it was one that could give nepotism a good name.