SIFF 2014: Quincy Jones, Part 3/3–An Evening with the Justin Kauflin Trio

Thursday, June 5


Before Thursday’s concert, I had never been to the Triple Door.  If you have the money, it’s a beautiful venue, though watching a show there and eating dinner will put you back $60 or more.

I got there early and saw Justin Kauflin enter the building, along with Candy, his guide dog, and another person, who led him to the door.  I was waiting for Kenji Fujishima, who was leaving for home the following day.


The stage at the Triple Door

The way the Triple Door is arranged for concerts is as follows: there are tables that people can sit around, as well as counters that snake behind these tables.  Kenji and I sat at one of the latter, which had an excellent view of the stage.  For dinner, I went with the server’s recommendation: the seven flavor beef, which is one of the few dishes that has been served since the Triple Door opened.



At roughly 7 pm, Carl Spence introduced Quincy Jones, who then introduced the trio by way of a fascinating glimpse into Seattle’s past, as he talked about the Palomar Theatre, where everyone used to play, and about talking to Toscanini after the great conductor performed at Seattle Symphony Hall.  He had visited Brazil and told Q that jazz music “will crash through the symphony halls.”

Quincy Jones introduces the trio

At work earlier that day (which had been the last day of press screenings), I had gotten the sad news from one of our lead ushers about the shooting at Seattle Pacific University.  Kauflin addressed it before his trio started playing, saying, “I hope we can bring a little positivity into the world” through their concert.


Justin Kauflin (piano), Christopher Smith (bass), Billy Williams (drums)

They then went into their first song, a new tune called “Illusive,” which features an excellent drum solo.  Kauflin took the mic after the song finished and introduced his band mates.  Williams is one of his friends from Virginia Beach (where Kauflin is from) and has been friends with Kauflin since high school, while he met Smith while trying to find gigs in New York, though Smith is originally from Milwaukee.  Finally, he introduced us to his guide dog, Candy.  He warned us that she is working, so we shouldn’t pet her afterwards, even though she may give us “the look,” because then he’ll have to tell us, “Please stop.”

The trio plays "A Day in the Life"

The Justin Kauflin Trio plays “A Day in the Life”

Here are the rest of the songs they played:

A Day in the Life

Based on the Beatles song, which Kauflin says is one of the few ones where you can tell which part is Paul’s and which part John’s.  The song opens with a piano solo, based on the opening of that song.  Off Kauflin’s first album.


Also off his first album, this song is “all about the journey” and starts with a slow piano intro.

The Nearness of You

One of Clark Terry’s favorite ballads, which has a lovely bass line in it.


A new song, which is dedicated to Billy Williams.  It begins with a bass line, then adds drums, then piano.  The measures are alternately in 6 and 5, which showcases the drumming ability of Williams.

For Clark

The rest of the trio took a break, as Kauflin played this piece for solo piano, which he had previously played after Keep On Keepin’ On the night before.  He’s been with Clark Terry now for eight years.

Heads Up

The rest of the trio came back to play this piece, which features a bass solo.  Once this song ended, Candy got up to leave, and Kauflin had to push her down a few times to get her to stay for two more songs.  This is also around the time that Kenji and I got the check for our meal.


Influenced by Vince Mendoza, who has multiple sections in a piece constantly moving forward, this song included electric keyboard with regular piano, which Kauflin played at the same time (the chords on the piano, the melody on the keyboard).  Around this point is when I received my second root beer, which I had ordered somewhere around the fourth song.  Guess they weren’t kidding when they said that faster service was available before the concert began.

Thank You, Lord

Kauflin said, “I had a wonderful time playing here, in this beautiful room, with this beautiful piano.”  He then said this song is all about gratitude, for even when things are bad, it ‘s better to find things you’re grateful for, rather than what’s not good.  Both the piano melody and the rhythm reminded me of a gospel tune, while the song went from a piano solo to a bass solo to a prominent piano line.

When he finished, he gave us his website address and then played us out with a raucous song that had my whole body moving.  I remember him really getting into the notes.  I also remember our server coming back and asking if we were ready with the check, and then hovering around us as I tried to figure out tip and tax in cash.  I ended up giving him a dollar more than I intended, which might be what they hope for when they rush you out of there (though the food was quite good, and I did eventually get my second root beer).  Other than that, I had a wonderful time throughout their roughly 90-minute set (it ended at 8:42), and I look forward to listening to Kauflin’s new album when it’s released.