Connie Han. Courtesy photo.

As with all live jazz, Connie Han’s audiences should expect the unexpected. “Part of being a jazz musician is accepting variance in every performance,” Han said. “It’s different every time because the band chemistry and improvisational arcs vary from night to night.”

Han considers the piano to be an ideal instrument for this unpredictability. “To me, the piano is the most versatile instrument of all,” she said. “It’s fully capable as both a percussion instrument as well as a lush, full orchestra.”

But Han didn’t start out with the looseness of jazz. “My mother, a classical pianist and instructor, taught me piano at five years old,” she said. “Fortunately, I developed a strong technical foundation early on so when I decided to pursue jazz as a professional career at age 14, it was possible for me to focus purely on becoming a better jazz musician.”

She looked to her top predecessors in jazz for guidance. “I poured all of my energy into learning how to improvise authentically,” she said, “by expanding my sense of rhythm and harmony, learning repertoire, and transcribing greats such as McCoy Tyner, Kenny Kirkland, Mulgrew Miller, and Hank Jones.”

Han also studied at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts with her mentor, Bill Wysaske, who has also become a member of her trio. “Bill Wysaske collaborates with me frequently in composition, arranging, and overall artistic concept in the trio’s sound,” she said. “We also share a common goal to take creative risks every time we play.”

These goals are also shared by her third trio member, Ivan Taylor. “We all share a deep reverence for the jazz tradition,” she said. “It is an immense joy to collaborate with people who not only support and understand your musical aesthetic, but work proactively to translate it into tangible art.”

Having the support of fellow musicians has helped Han deal with the challenges of developing a career in music. “It is important to not only have your musicianship together, but also a vision and business strategy to execute that vision,” she said. “As an artist, having conviction in your values despite pressure from outside influences is necessary in surviving this industry. In addition to that conviction, it’s essential to develop diplomacy and communication skills to communicate those values professionally.”

Above all, Han emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and practice. “Learning hard truths about what you need to work on is essential to getting better,” she said, “rather than working off a cookie-cutter template of ‘how to play jazz.’”

Han endeavors to work on every weakness she discovers in her skills on the piano. “The sheer range I have in orchestrating around a single melody is so vast,” she said. “It’s an endless sonic playground quite literally right at my fingertips.”

Here in Seattle, Han is hoping to cultivate an audience that appreciates jazz. “As always with every venue I play, I focus first and foremost on creating the best possible music and delivering a great show,” she said. “I plan on doing the same at Triple Door!”

Connie Han plays on August 12 at the Triple Door, 216 Union Street, Seattle.

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