Power of Place Episode #39 | A Seattle Songbook – Dick Coolen

Join us in this episode for a radiant musical memoir by pianist Dick Coolen.

Long before the city’s reputation as an international tech hub, Seattle achieved a globally relevant jazz culture. Here, bands who gathered in the basements of churches, modest homes, and schools…produced the likes of Ray Charles, Ernestine Anderson, and Quincy Jones. Reared in this milieu, our guest’s stories celebrate a free-range childhood in Seattle’s redlined Central District and the big band, bebop, and early rock and roll rhythms that filled its avenues.

Dick recounts jamming at Joe Brazil’s Black Academy of Music; of blowing baritone sax at Birdland on Madison. He savors memories of touring with Ike Cole and of collaborating with Dizzy Gillespie; of backing underground drag shows with showtunes; and of visits to a well-regarded violin maker at the Fisher Studios Building. Over the course of his jazz journey which eventually brought him to Port Orchard, Dick footed the family bills by working no fewer than 44 non-musical occupations—from paperboy to firefighter to brick mason.

Dick Coolen’s humility and commitment—qualities he attributes to his working class and Roman Catholic upbringing—offer lessons from an inspired life grounded in community and refined through the life-giving power of music.

"And that’s what life is... They throw you(♪short musical phrase♪). And you say, What can I do with that? And you can make it(♪extended musical phrase♪)... And it comes out right." - Dick Coolen

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Jamie Winshall and to the continued success of his son Daniel.

Here is Dick & Edward recording in the studio at Jack Straw Cultural Center, January 2023: