By Irfan Shariff
Northwest Asian Weekly
Chris Icasiano has been playing the drums since he was 8 years old. He would practice for hours each day, playing along to the classics and favorites of his parents, such as the Beatles, Bing Crosby, and Chicago.
Icasiano traces his love for music to his parents and Filipino American family. “Growing up, we always had large family functions, where there would always be tons of singing, dancing, music, and eventually live music,” he said. Icasiano and his brother would later provide the live music portion of family events.
“I soaked up all the music that I heard around the house as a kid,” he said. Growing up in Redmond, Wash., in the 1990s, he was also exposed to the grunge scene and other popular music.
He would play along to that, too, but his musical odyssey would lead him toward modern jazz and improvisational music.
While enrolled at the University of Washington (UW), he studied music under Cuong Vu, a Grammy Award-winning trumpeter. Vu is an associate professor and chair of the Jazz Studies program at UW. Born in Vietnam, Vu is widely recognized as a leader in modern jazz. To Icasiano, Vu became more than just a teacher. He became a mentor, and eventually a peer.
With keyboardist Aaron Otheim, a college friend of Icasiano’s, and saxophonist Greg Sinibaldi, Vu (trumpet) and Icasiano (drums) formed Burn List in 2012. Their self-titled debut will release on May 14.
“We had been toying with the idea for a while because we knew that we all wanted to play together,” said Icasiano. “This group is unique because…it excludes the traditional role of a bass player.”
Most jazz quartets comprise a horn instrument, a chord (e.g., a guitar or piano), and a bass instrument, such as the double bass and the drums.
“We thought that we would be able to create a totally unique and individual sound that reinvented the functionality of the jazz rhythm section,” which is made up of just the drums and the keyboard, he said.
The quartet is also unique because it brings together two distinct generations of Seattle musicians. Vu and Sinibaldi are music veterans and role models who inspired, taught, and produced artists, such as Icasiano and Otheim. They call their music “eclectic, genre-crossing, current, and original.”
Burn List is “a musical exploration of the deeply personal experiences of the band’s members,” according to the band’s biography. The album is produced by Table & Chairs, which Icasiano helped establish in 2011.
“Table & Chairs functions differently than a regular record label,” he said. “We are essentially a volunteer collective and the income from record sales goes almost entirely back to the artist.
“Its origination was largely the brainchild of many of us that went to school together,” he said.
Otheim is also a part of this collective, which also blossomed from the Racer Sessions at Café Racer in the University District, where Icasiano, Otheim, and other music students met every Sunday to create a new improvisational music scene.
“Drew Keriakedes gave us Sunday nights to do whatever we wanted,” he said. “It was later that he was killed in the shooting at Racer on May 30, 2012. We owe a lot to him.” Keriakedes was a well-known local folk musician and regular at at Café Racer.
That year, Table & Chairs produced the “Constellation” concert that won the Earshot Jazz Concert of the Year Award. In 2013, they won the same award for a performance at Benaroya Hall. They represent 12 bands and have produced 17 albums.
“We needed to band together to start making our own musical opportunities,” said Icasiano. “We created this label to have an avenue to start building a support system for the young musicians in the area.” (end)
Burn List will be celebrating its album release on Wednesday, May 14, 8 p.m. at Chapel Performance Space in Good Shepherd Center, located at 4649 Sunnyside Ave N. Donations of $20 include admission and a CD.
To learn more about Burn List and Table & Chairs, visit http://www.tableandchairsmusic.com.
To learn more about the Racer Sessions at Cafe Racer, visit http://racersessions.com.
Irfan Shariff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.