After a decade in New York, drummer Matt Jorgensen needed a change of scenery. His timing couldn't have been better. Returning to Seattle in 2002, Jorgensen not only established a reputation as a versatile sideman throughout the West Coast; he also helped operate a record label that was starting to receive attention. "The attraction of moving back to Seattle was being able to stay in one town and really have more of a home base," he said.
Jorgensen, 39, moved to New York in 1992. He attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, studied privately with Carl Allen and Kenny Washington, and played countless gigs. He also met and married his wife, Rebecca.
The early 200s marked the end of an era in jazz, according to Jorgensen. By the, he recalled, a significant number of prominent musicians from the 1950s and '60s had died or had stopped performing. "I feel really lucky that I got to see Max Roach [perform] live a number of times," he said, adding: "I got to have lunch with him, and he played my drums."
"I got to meet Arthur Taylor and see Arthur Taylor play, he continued. "I gave Elvin Jones a ride in my car. I became friendly with Joe Chambers. My time in New York was really like finishing school.
Jorgensen and John Bishop, another Seattle drummer, began Origin Records in 1997 as a means to document their own work, in addition to the music of their friends and peers in the Pacific Northwest. It has developed into an imprint whose catalog includes 340 albums, many featuring nationally recognized artists. After producing a series of bookings at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, the two established the Ballard Jazz Festival in 2003, a five-day event showcasing regional and national artists.
"We're basically about as far away from [Los Angeles] and New York as you can get," Jorgensen said. "In the late '90s, no one was going to give us a record deal. So we decided to just do it ourselves and see what would happen."
Jorgensen's six albums on Origin include his most recent, Tattooed By Passion (2010). He describes his recordings with his former band, 451, as an amalgam of rock and free-jazz. Trumpet player Thomas Marriott's Human Spirit (2011) featured Jorgensen and saxophonist Mark Taylor, a member of Jorgensen's 451 group. The lineup coalesced into a working band that adopted its moniker from the album. The three musicians have recorded albums for Origin, and also appear on releases throughout the label's catalog. The group had planned to record a live album in October at Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival, with pianist Orrin Evans and bassist Essiet Essiet. (The first album features organ player Gary Versace.)
The band's ever-changing rhythm section is no accident. Jorgensen enjoys performing with a variety of musicians, including Eric Alexander, Corey Christiansen, Tim Ries' Rolling Stones Project, Stanley Jordan and Ian Hendrickson-Smith (formerly of the Dap-Kings). "I always try to approach any given musical setting I'm in [by playing] that music, not necessarily [playing] my vibe," Jorgensen said. "Dissecting the history of the music and being able to cover a lot of different gigs and being able to play a lot of different music in the appropriate way--that, to me, is what's inspiring right now.