Photo depicting Delvon Lamarr wearing a statin purple-and-black jacket performing on a stage.

Seattle Jazz Fellowship Hosts Inaugural Benefit Concert With Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

by Amanda Ong

On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio will be playing at the Royal Esquire Club for the inaugural Seattle Jazz Fellowship benefit concert. The matinee show will give 100% of proceeds to the Fellowship, which was founded in 2020 on the premise of supporting the Seattle jazz community in earning a sustainable wage rather than having to rely on gigs and ticket sales for inconsistent pay.

The fellowship is in luck: The critically acclaimed Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio will headline the benefit concert. The group has issued two Billboard-charting albums and just returned from touring across Europe. With influences like 1960s organ jazz stylings, Motown, Stax Records, blues, and Jimi Hendrix-style guitar, the trio takes on improvisation, standards, and soul-jazz covers of classics. Lamarr himself is not only self-taught, as has been common for musicians throughout the history of jazz, but also comes from Seattle.

“Delvon is a very old friend, we go back a long time. I remember when he was in high school and learning how to play trumpet and the drum set, and the organ wasn’t even a thing yet for him,” Thomas Marriott, the founder of the Seattle Jazz Fellowship, said to the South Seattle Emerald. “So it’s been really incredible to watch his career grow and blossom.”

Though music was a part of his youth, Lamarr did not receive formal or traditional music training. This is quite common in jazz, where the tradition is to learn from a community of other musicians. What’s more, Lamarr learned to play jazz in the Seattle community, and through meeting and learning from local jazz talents.

The event is being held at the Royal Esquire Club, the oldest Black social club in Seattle. 

“I’m really excited that we’re able to do the event in South Seattle, and especially in a Black-owned and -operated business, I think that’s really important,” Marriott said. “It’s going to be a really unique experience for a lot of people that attend our event. It’s a very cool, very community-based kind of venue.”

The hope of the event is to raise money for the fellowship so jazz musicians can be paid in a manner similar to dancers at a ballet company or performers at the opera. As it is, local jazz musicians rely on ticket sales at the door, rarely knowing what the night’s sales will bring in. Profits for a night are often around $75 to $150, even for musicians with decades of experience. 

“There has to be a way to fund artists working, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Marriott said. “And so that’s really what the fundraiser was about, for us to be able to make some money. So we can turn that money into music, by paying musicians and paying them a fair wage, and so that it’s not quite so dependent on ticket sales.”

The fellowship already has support from a number of corporate sponsors, including Greenside Consulting and the Rainier Foundation. Now, they’re hoping for more ticket sales from their benefit concert to garner more community support and keep the Seattle jazz scene alive.

“Seattle is a city that has always had a jazz community, and it’s always been a nurturing place for young artists,” Marriott said. “And that’s going away. And if it goes away, we’re not going to have the opportunity to foster any more great talent. … And what I hoped for is that when we present music, and we’re able to pay musicians what they’re worth, and they are able to do their best work, that it will be a life-changing experience for the people who listen to that music.”

Marriott hopes more than anything else that people will show up to the benefit concert not just for the talented Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, nor even just jazz, but for the sake of community. The concert is an opportunity to come together and fortify our own bonds and talents and share a moment of music.

“The fellowship is all of us. It’s the audience. It’s the musicians,” Marriott said. “We build community by showing up for each other. … The fellowship is an opportunity and an avenue for people to participate in community as it relates to jazz, but also just as it relates to community. And I think that that’s always important.”

The concert will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Royal Esquire Club at 5016 Rainier Ave. S. Tickets are $85, with all proceeds going to the Seattle Jazz Fellowship. You can purchase tickets through their Eventbrite page.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: Delvon Lamarr grew up in Seattle and learned to play jazz by going to shows and learning from other jazz musicians in the area. Now, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio has two Billboard-charting albums and just returned from touring across Europe. (Photo: Lisa Hagen Glynn)

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