Listen. The ghost of Billie Holiday lives on in Langley.
Langley’s Ashingdon Manor bed-and-breakfast will become a Whidbey jazz venue at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 26 when Langley author Molly Larson Cook and Portland, Ore., jazz guitarist John Stowell present “An Intimate Evening of Words and Jazz.” It will be based on Cook’s jazz novel, “Listen.”
Cook’s novel was published in 2003 and includes a girl singer from Idaho, a cozy club in Manhattan, the spirit of Billie Holiday and a love story that refuses to end.
Jazz vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, a frequent guest with “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross, called “Listen” a gem of a book.
“I felt compelled to follow Jewel Hailey on the journey in search of her voice and her truth,” Kilgore said of Cook’s main character.
And if you are going to read a jazz novel on stage, the music better move you. Stowell was Cook’s first choice.
Cook named Stowell her “writing muse” and described him as a dedicated and terrific musician who plays all over the world.
“John has long been my model for the kind of commitment and dedication required to succeed at making any kind of art, including writing,” Cook said.
“We did a similar evening in Portland a few years ago,” Cook said.
“And we’ve been waiting for the opportunity to work together here on Whidbey. As Charlie Parker would have said, ‘Now’s the time.’”
Cook, who is known around town as the owner of the Skylark Writing Studio at Bayview Corner, said now she would have to ask Stowell to play the great jazz standard, “Skylark.”
Stowell is well-known in the Northwest as well as in national and international jazz circles for his unique and intimate guitar style and for the master classes he conducts.
He’s had an impressive career, playing with accomplished musicians such as Paul Horn, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, Mundell Lowe and Seattle drummer, John Bishop.
Stowell is a familiar face at Seattle clubs like Jazz Alley, Tula’s and the Triple Door. He has been described as a unique jazz guitarist influenced as much by pianists and horn players as he is by guitarists. His original take on harmony, chords and improvisation sets him apart, and other guitarists are among Stowell’s biggest fans.
“In the age of mediocrity and clones, John Stowell’s uniqueness and originality are a breath of fresh air. I love playing with him,” Horn said.
Djangofest 2007 headliner Larry Coryell is equally enamored of Stowell and his unique approach to the guitar.
“John Stowell plays jazz, but he doesn’t use any of the clichés; he has an incredible originality. John is a master creator,” Coryell said.
Cook is anxious to share the stage with him for the benefit of island audiences.
But like Stowell’s fellow musicians, Cook is particularly impressed with Stowell’s integrity as an artist and sees him as an example of what artists should strive for in the creative process.
“John’s been the first reader of all my novels. This was particularly important to me with ‘Listen,’ much of which I wrote sitting in jazz clubs listening to the music,” Cook said.
She met and interviewed Stowell in 1994 for an article on jazz she was writing while living in the Willamette Valley. It was Stowell’s dedication to the craft, the sustained energy that comes with commitment and practice, that she said reminds her to get back on track when she needs inspiration to sit down and write.
And as a performer, it seems Cook knew she would do well if she asked Stowell to accompany her as she reads “Listen.”
As jazz guitar great Herb Ellis said of him, “More guitarists would play like John Stowell if they knew how.”
The evening will be the first in a series of Skylark Writing Studio events hosted by Ashingdon Manor owners Bay and Daniel Ginder.
“It’s a beautiful location with its great room and the gardens,” Cook said. “Their interest in hosting our events is a gift and plans for other Skylark evenings are already in the works.”
“An Intimate Evening of Words and Jazz” will open at
7 p.m. with an opportunity for guests to relax and enjoy the grounds and some refreshments. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will last about an hour, with time for conversation later.
Reservations are not required but are appreciated. A suggested donation for the evening is $10 per person which includes refreshments.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Island Arts Council to support literary arts scholarships.
To reserve a spot call Cook at Skylark Writing Studio,
321-1910 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.