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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Smooth Groove Productions Special Event: Wedding at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel

On Saturday, November 24, we had the privilege of providing the entertainment for a big wedding at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel.  We have a Live Band and DJ package combo that we offer to clients that is the best of musical worlds.  There is the undeniably classy presence that a good jazz ensemble brings to an event that elevates it another notch.  A good DJ will bring excellent MCing skills with a savvy sense of what works to get people on the dance floor and keeping them there. We have such offerings from both musically different presentations.  The live jazz band is utilized for the cocktail mixer and dinner reception.  Upon entering the reception the guests are greeted with an upbeat and swinging sound and feel of our jazz trio to establish the setting for the evening.  The DJ is present to make announcements and to provide additional recorded music when needed when the band is on a break or a transition from the cocktail mixer to the dinner portion of the program.  After the band finishes the DJ takes over from there for the rest of the festivities and dance party celebration.

Weddings are complex events that have many different program parts that are arranged in a timeline that are hopefully executed smoothly and within its time frame.  Most of the work occurs during the planning stages, which takes many months to go from the initial idea concepts to the final production of the big day.  It is vital that every conceivable detail no matter how small is accounted for in a wedding event.  When an event such as a wedding runs smoothly it is because of careful planning and much thought.  Even the most thought out situations may still incur a glitch or an unseen variable, ie., a "wild card".  Experience is a factor when such unexpected things occur and being able to react fluidly and effortlessly in the face of a challenge.  Fortunately, for this night there were no glitches or anything of a negative nature with which to deal.  It was all a smooth groove.

A couple of Seattle's finest jazz musicians were on hand and are regulars in my jazz trio: pianist John Hansen and tenor saxophonist Brian Kent. 

Brian waiting for the next note to play.

John in the Fairmont lobby.

Here's a video clip of the jazz trio in the Spanish Ballroom Foyer.  We're playing Sonny Moon For Two.

Dinner, Dancing, and Celebration!

DJ Dave Roland

DJ Dave Roland is one of the area's finest wedding dj's.  DJ Dave was involved with the musical coordination for this wedding from the very start.  Many aspects of the wedding go through the DJ.  There are select songs that must be played for almost every particular program of the reception whether it be the first dance, parent/child dances, cake cutting, garter/bouquet toss, grand entrance, and more.  There are so many details that organization is key.  DJ Dave has got it all together.  The more I work with him--and it has been many years now--the more I appreciate him.  There are so many details that one cannot imagine or know that DJ Dave like other stellar wedding dj's are aware of and thus make an event go as smoothly as it does.  DJ Dave just does an outstanding job.  He is experienced, savvy, gracious, articulate, mature, and current in his song repertoire.  I came back later to the Spanish Ballroom to check on things after I had played in The Georgian with my fellow jazz colleagues.  What I saw was a sea of people in a totally packed dance floor moving up and down to infectious dance rhythms.  All the moments, photo shoots, rituals, dinner, cake cutting, first dances lead up to this moment of unbridled celebration.  This was what it was all about!  Dancing, party and joy!  DJ Dave had them going and going and going. 

Wedding planner and coordinator Krista Herman provided day-of wedding coordination.  She kept the program at hand flowing according to the timeline and was a pleasure to work with.  Dana Schroader the wedding coordinator at The Fairmont was great to work with as well.  A big kudos to all of the banquet and catering staff for their impeccable service and attention to detail that makes The Fairmont Olympic Hotel the magnificent venue that it is.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Eric and Kristina Dammrose!

Links to more information:

Jazz in The Georgian, November 24, 2012

Last Thanksgiving weekend we had guitarists Ron Peters and Frank Seeberger at Jazz in The Georgian inside The Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

Ron Peters

Frank Seeberger

I had a wedding gig at the Fairmont Hotel on Saturday night and had Ron and Frank cover for me while I played in the Spanish Ballroom.  My jazz trio played for the cocktail mixer and dinner parts of the reception.  Our part of the gig ended at 9pm in which I came back to The Georgian to sit in with these fine guitarists.  Tenor saxophonist Brian Kent who was playing with me on the wedding gig joined us also.  We closed out the last set and had a great time.  Here's a blues tune called Bird Like.

Bird Like

Please visit our YouTube channel to see and hear more tunes with Ron Peters and Frank Seeberger as well as many videos from Jazz in The Georgian and highlights of Smooth Groove Productions special events. 

Jazz in The Georgian every Fridays and Saturday nights, 6pm-10pm at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-621-7889.

Come on out!  Hope to see you all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jazz in The Georgian, November 16 and 17, 2012

This past weekend at Jazz in The Georgian featured two outstanding Pacific Northwest jazz artists: Randy Halberstadt and Milo Petersen.

Pianist Randy Halberstadt is a longtime music professor at Cornish College of the Arts, and one of the most prolific jazz pianists in Seattle.  I don't have enough room here to write all of his accomplishments so visit his website to learn more.  We had a fun time calling tunes this past Friday.  Here is a tune called There Is No Greater Love.


Guitarist Milo Petersen was in the house again Saturday night.  Here is an oldie but a goodie standard standard called Body And Soul.

Please visit our YouTube channel to see and hear more tunes with Darin Clendenin and Jay Mabin as well as many videos from Jazz in The Georgian and highlights of Smooth Groove Productions special events. 

Jazz in The Georgian every Fridays and Saturday nights, 6pm-10pm at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-621-7889.

Come on out!  Hope to see you all soon!

Live Entertainment For Any and All Occasions

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Smooth Groove Productions Event Onsite: The Museum Of Flight on 11-11-2012

This past Sunday we had the privilege to play for a special event reception at The Museum Of Flight in The Red Barn for the Boeing family.  It was a lovely event that honored Bill Boeing, Jr.  I was informed that Mr. Boeing likes Cole Porter.  We made sure to play songs from that iconic composer. 

I had the pleasure to play with some of my favorite guys are their instruments.  Brian Kent on tenor saxophone and John Hansen on keyboard.  For me it's a privilege to play with these guys.  They are so accomplished and dedicated to their craft. 



Here's a Cole Porter tune from the Great American Songbook called What Is This Thing Called Love.   

What Is This Thing Called Love

The Seattle Museum Of Flight is a great place to hold an event.  It was a pleasure to work with Alison Bailey of the museum who was our client contact.  The museum's in-house caterers McCormick & Schmick's are top notch.  I owe this gig to my friend at McCormick & Schmick's Andrea Sligar who has referred us time and time again to play events at this terrific venue.  Thank you, Andrea and Alison!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jazz in The Georgian, November 9 & 10, 2012

This week at Jazz in The Georgian featured two outstanding musicians.  On Friday night we had the amazing Darin Clendenin on keyboard.  Saturday night had the inimitable Jay Mabin on harmonica.


Darin Clendenin is recognized as one of the Northwest’s finest pianist and keyboard artists. Fluent in numerous styles of music, his stylish interpretations of everything from old classics to jazz standards, from classical to modern works enchant audiences everywhere. His performances, as well as his arranging and composing talents, are sought after for their artistry as well as their magical innovative mix of styles.
Past performances include: Opened for Herbie Hancock, Zoo Tunes Concert Series, Seattle; Mt. Hood Jazz Festival; International Jazz Festival; Du Maurier Jazz Festival; Toronto Jazz Festival; Ballard Jazz Festival; Port Townsend Jazz Festival; Rising Jazz Stars Foundation, Beverly Hills, CA; Portland Jazz Festival; Blaine Jazz Festival Clinics and Concerts; Bumbershoot, Seattle; Jazz in the Valley; and Anacortes Arts Festival.

He also has performed with numerous jazz legends, including Nancy King, Ernestine Anderson, Leroy Vinnegar, Mel Brown and Ron Steen. His work can also be heard on numerous recordings.

It's a real treat for me to play with Darin.  Here is a cut from Friday night of a tune called Simone.



Every second Saturday of each month is reserved for master harpist Jay Mabin.  He is without peer in the Pacific Northwest.  While there are some great harp players in the area such as legendary Lee Oskar, nobody plays harmonica like Jay does.  For one thing he can not only wail on a chromatic harp, he can play chromatically on a diatonic harp.  While there are many excellent harpists, there are not many harpists in abundance that are truly jazz musicians.  Improvising on complex chord changes is the musical playground for jazz musicians.  He is more akin to Toots Thielemans but Jay has a deep rooted sense of jazz history and its discography.  He is heavily influenced by jazz masters such as Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, and John Coltrane to name only a few.  Jay is one of a kind.  He is also one of the nicest fellows you'll ever meet.  

Playing with Jay for the last two and half years has been a wonderful revelation.  I think we arguably have one of the most unique musical acoustic combinations you will encounter: harmonica and string bass.  Often we've been told that on first impression the sound of such a duo doesn't seem like it would play out well in theory.  But, after a tune or two, such notions are dispelled.  There is a whole lot of music going on between the two of us.  Here is a take from Saturday night of an old George Gershwin classic called Summertime.


Please visit our YouTube channel to see and hear more tunes with Darin Clendenin and Jay Mabin as well as many videos from Jazz in The Georgian and highlights of Smooth Groove Productions special events. 

Jazz in The Georgian every Fridays and Saturday nights, 6pm-10pm at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-621-7889.

Come on out!  Hope to see you all soon!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jazz in The Georgian, November 2 and 3, 2012

This past weekend at Jazz in The Georgian, we had two very fine pianists featured: John Hansen and Ryan Burns.

John Hansen kicked off the weekend this past Friday night.  He is a great bop pianist in the tradition of Barry Harris, Bud Powell, Tommy Flanagan, and Mulgrew Miller.  John's playing is heavily rooted in a hard sense of swing.  Hard bop.  Hard swing.  His phrasing and lines are always imbued with a distinct hard swinging feel that is always in the pocket of the groove and with impeccable meter.  It's always a great time to play with John because he plays at such a high level consistently that demands respect.  I have to always "bring it" when he is in the house.  John's playing is rooted in the tradition of the bop era, yet he is always striving to find expression as a modern jazz musician.  Here's a clip from the gig of a fun standard called It Could Happen To You.


On Saturday night we had the excellent pianist Ryan Burns.  Ryan has a much more lighter touch in his approach.  His phrasing is nimble and has a playful like quality that is almost facetious.  Yet, his level of technical chops reveals the seriousness of his playing and a deep musicality.  Ryan is a very versatile musician.  You can see him play with some of the best jazz musicians in the region, and also play non-jazz type gigs easily.  He even plays bass in a Led Zepplin tribute band!  Ryan has played in my New Year's Eve band at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel for the last seven years in a row.  That's a gig that requires a lot of changing musical gears.  Ryan sounded great the other night.  What struck me on this night was that he was ready to play.  He always is as a professional player will be, but some nights are better than others and I thought that he really brought it this night.  Ryan also has a music school where he teaches called the Burien School Of Music.  We had several excellent video cuts from this night.  Please visit our YouTube channel to see and hear them.  Here are a couple videos of two stylistically different tunes.  Enjoy!

Stella By Starlight

Little Sunflower

Please visit our YouTube channel to see and hear more tunes with John Hansen and Ryan Burns as well as many videos from Jazz in The Georgian and highlights of Smooth Groove Productions special events. 

Jazz in The Georgian every Fridays and Saturday nights, 6pm-10pm at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101, 206-621-7889.

Come on out!  Hope to see you all soon!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jazz in The Georgian, October 26-27

This past weekend at Jazz in The Georgian at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, we had two outstanding players: guitarist Frank Seeberger and pianist Reuel Lubag.

Frank joined me last Friday night.  He is one of the most in-demand guitarists in the area.  Frank has the ability to play a wide variety of musical genres.  Whether he is playing straight ahead jazz or bop, he can also wail on hard rock, funk, heavy metal (in his much younger days), and Motown/R&B styles.  Frank is also a music teacher in the Seattle school district.  Here is a cut from our gig of a tune called Beatrice.

On Saturday night we had stellar pianist Reuel Lubag in the house.  Reuel is someone whom I have always known around the jazz music circles for years but seldom crossed paths.  We did one gig together a few years back as sidemen on a big band gig.  I was very excited to finally get to play with Reuel in a more focused context together.  This night was a great opportunity to spend a full gig of playing together in depth as a jazz duo.  We explored lots of musical ground.  It was really fun to call some tunes I haven't played in a long time.  It's always a pleasure to play with cats that know many tunes.  Here's a song called Alone Together.

Please visit my YouTube channel to see and hear more tunes with Frank and Reuel as well as many videos from Jazz in The Georgian and highlights of Smooth Groove Productions special events. 

Jazz in The Georgian every Fridays and Saturday nights, 6pm-10pm at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, Seattle, WA 98101. 

Come on out!  Hope to see you all soon!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jazz in The Georgian, October 19-20, 2012

This past weekend at Jazz in Georgian in The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, we had a mini jazz guitar fest: Ron Peters and Milo Petersen.

 On Friday night guitarist Ron Peters made his debut in The Georgian with me.  Ron has lived in Seattle since 1994.  At one point in the late seventies, he played guitar with super vocal jazz group Manhattan Transfer.  Here is a video from our session of a jazz blues tune called Tenor Madness.

Last Saturday night superb jazz musician Milo Petersen played guitar.  Milo has been a regular of Jazz in The Georgian for the past several years.  A multi-instrumentalist on guitar and as well as drums, he is one of those rare individuals that can play both instruments equally well and at a high level of professionalism and accomplishment.  Milo frequently plays at Jazz Alley whenever the legendary jazz blues singer and pianist Mose Allison comes through town whom he has played drums for over 12 years.  Milo is a jazz musician steeped in reverence for those who laid the foundation and roots of jazz music.  His playing is a passionate expression of such tradition.  Here is a video of a Miles Davis tune called Solar.

25th Anniversary Celebration Event for CKC Structural Engineers

On Thursday, October 18 we had the privilege of being a part of CKC Structural Engineers' 25th Anniversary celebration at Escala Towers in downtown Seattle.  CKC is an acronym that stands for Cary Kopczynski & Company, which is the name of the owner of this structural engineering firm.  The location where the festivities took place at the luxury condo high rise Escala Towers was built by this very company.  This was a grand affair that saw over 300 people in attendance many of whom were clients past and present of this prominent company.  Our role for this celebration was to provide live jazz music continuously throughout the entire event.  For many of the events we do, we are called upon to provide that special ambient touch that is upbeat and festive yet not intrusive to conversation volume. 

We had a great assembly of outstanding jazz musicians on hand: John Hansen on piano, Brian Kent on tenor sax, and myself on bass to form the jazz trio.  The duo that performed during our breaks was Paul Anastasio on violin and Steve Nowak on guitar. 

A special event is a complex undertaking and its success is made possible by many people.  I would like to express my thanks to Barbara Breckenfeld, CKC's marketing manager who was wonderful to work with and who undertook the overall planning of the event.  Carol Dole and Rebecca Dietz of Well Done Events provided event planning assistance to Barbara, Cary, and their staff.  All were instrumental in contributing to make everything run as smoothly as can be.  Thanks to the Escala Tower staff who were very helpful.  And a very special thanks to Cary Kopczynski who had told me that they vetted many musical acts and after doing so personally chose us to be the designated musical ensemble for their very special anniversary celebration.  We were very honored and grateful to be a part of such a terrific event!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


My name is Emmanuel del Casal.  I am the owner of Smooth Groove Productions.  It is an entertainment agency.  I provide my clients with qualified professional live entertainers and acts for their special events.  The types of events we supply entertainment for are weddings, corporate functions, holiday parties, celebrations, grand openings, product launches, conventions, cocktail mixers, dinner receptions, anniversaries, any and all special occasions.

I began my company in June of 1999.  I was actually in another small business at the time called Sound America Bank Drafting.  This was a business service primarily to other small business owners.  I had a service in which I offered other business owners the ability to draft their customers' bank accounts on a regular basis to procure payments from their customers, ie., automatic payments.  It was a paper version of EFT, which is electronic funds transfer.  I dabbled in this business for about two years.  When I first started out as a small business owner, one of the first things I did was to join the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.  I wanted to network and try to get accounts, but also saddle up to an organization that has notoriety and credibility.  I joined other organizations such as BNI for weekly meetings, networking, and trading referrals.

Before I go further I will back up a little and offer some background of myself.  I am a professional bassist/musician.  My first paid gig as a musician was when I was nineteen years old in my first band.  I was a freshman in college.  I think I got paid $50.  This was in 1985.  I played gigs while at the University of Washington.  I played gigs throughout my college time.  I left the UW after 1989.  I was in the School of Architecture but realized that that was not where my heart was.   I majored in jazz studies in the music department upon leaving architecture.  I didn't finish that degree as I started too late in majoring in music.  You want to declare a music major no later than your sophomore year.  I declared it as a fifth year senior.  By then I would have had to go for another three years of school to get a BA in music.  I was burnt out on school by that point and just wanted to play music professionally.  Eight years to attain a BA in music is not worth it in my opinion.  So I left college and have never looked back. 

I declared my choice to become a professional musician in April of 1990.  I remember doing that.  I was out of school for the first time in my life and working a job at SeaTac airport driving a shuttle van from one of the hotels and parking lots around there.  I told myself that I would have a go at making a living as a musician.  I quit that job and dove into the working music scene in Seattle.  I landed gigs here and there and by years end I got a gig playing in a Top-40 band touring Air Force bases in Alaska and all over Asia.  That was my first road experience and it was great.  When you're 24-25 that's a terrific time to travel and play around.  And that I did.  Cut to several years later and I was at a crossroads when I was almost 30.  I was in an original band that I had put my blood, sweat, and tears into for over two years.  That band did a "Spinal Tap" and folded.  I found myself without the thing that was driving my passion everyday for the past couple years.  I didn't have gigs lined up and I was in a position where I had to make money--quickly.  I also did not have too many other skill sets to be marketable for a decent job.  I found a job at a temp agency as an office administration worker.  I answered phones, did reception work, and my coworkers were mainly young girls just out of high school.  I was 30 and pretty much everyone on the staff was a 18-19 year old girl.  It was humbling to say the least.  But, I did a good job and eventually caught the eye of another business owner who hired me for his escrow company.  I was an escrow assistant a year and a half or so.  I could have had a career in the escrow business.  If I had stayed I would have been an escrow officer eventually and made some bigger bucks.  It was at this time that I had an opportunity to get into small business as a sole proprietor.  And that's when I started Sound America Bank Drafting.  My father came across this business opportunity to become a licensee of a bank drafting company.  He was impressed because it was a personal computer operated business.  He tried his best to steer me into the scientific fields as he is a PhD Chemical Engineer, but being the artistic musician person that I was it was not to be.  So, in an attempt to get me into something with potential and financial payoff, he paid for the license to sell bank drafting services. 

So, back to the Chamber of Commerce that I joined and BNI referrals networking organization.  I tried to sell my services.  I immersed myself into the world of bank drafting.  However, during that whole time, a quiet voice in back of my head was asking, maybe we could be getting some gigs out of this.  And then it hit me.  I had the classic epiphany!  The light bulb in the thought bubble came above my head.  I realized that the sales and marketing principles were basically the same, but the products were different.  Whether one is selling insurance, carpet cleaning, janitorial services, accounting services, financial investment services, chiropractor services, catering services, or music services the sales and marketing hustle is basically the same.  At all these networking functions I was attending there were dozens of different businesses representing countless different products and services.  It dawned upon me that music is a service and that I could go about doing the same things that each and every business owner was doing at these meetings trying to get customers.  So, I turned on a dime and immediately switched my business to what it is now: Smooth Groove Productions, an entertainment agency that supplies clients with professional entertainment.  I took out a loan and hired a graphic designer to create my logo and marketing materials.  By the holiday season I was booking my first gigs as a business owner and bandleader.  I had found a way to make a viable living as a musician/agent.

As of this date I have been in business for over 13 years.  During that time I have had two daughters with my wife of 17 years.  I could not do this business without the support of my wife.  She is the constant breadwinner as she is the Director of Housekeeping at The Fairmont Olympic Hotel where she has been employed for 27 years.  During my time as a small business owner I have gone through two major recessions and the crash of 2008 in which recovery is still not in sight for a great many people.  Fortunately, I have had the backbone of family to weather such storms.  I have had the great fortune to be a regular performer with my band at The Olympic Hotel over a span of ten years.  When the Olympic Hotel was managed by the Four Seasons Hotels I caught the last two years of that time and played in The Garden Court, which was the hotel nightclub/restaurant for many years.  When the hotel changed hands and became The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, music discontinued in The Garden Court permanently becoming a banquet room for private events.  There was a lull in live musical entertainment other than the solo pianist in The Terrace lounge for 2004.  In 2005 the executive management looked to bring back live music in The Georgian restaurant.  At first we tried a jazz quartet with vocalist for one night, but it was too much for a fine dining room that wasn't used to such live music in many years.  The music was scaled back to a duo, myself and a guitarist at first only on Saturdays, and then eventually every Friday and Saturday.  After a while I let the guitarist go and opened up the seat to rotate a different player on a given night.  It has been an incredible run playing with some of Seattle's finest jazz musicians on piano and guitar as well as a jazz harmonica extraordinaire who plays once a month. 

I will be featuring these highly accomplished musicians in this blog.  I have been videotaping almost all my gigs at the hotel for the past several months and posting videos on my YouTube channel.  I will be spotlighting some of Seattle's finest musicians with whom I have the privilege to play.  I will also highlight events that Smooth Groove Productions has a hand in.  This blog for all intents and purposes will be an ongoing documentation of my business within the special events industry as well as a journal of my life as a professional bassist/musician.