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Friday, June 28, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Erik Lacitis

These Kids Get The Blues -- Teenagers (And Younger) Go Onstage And Let The Music Roll

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

In any city, you can find the little unpublicized events and places that make it special: that friendly cafe; that annual neighborhood summer celebration; that community center that's a haven for kids.

When you talk about the "livability" of a city, it is really these little special things you're talking about.

On a recent Tuesday evening I was at a restaurant, watching one such event. Ironically, it was mostly suburbanites who had found out about it and filled the Scarlet Tree at 65th and Roosevelt. One of these nights, Seattleites should check out what's in their back yard.

What the suburbanites are going to see is kids, some in elementary school, getting up on a stage and performing with a real, live professional blues band.

Because there is a 3-foot divider between the stage and the lounge, and because the kids perform from 7 until 8:30 in the evening, the event isn't taking place during "nightclub hours" and so doesn't invoke the wrath of the Liquor Control Board.

What happens is that the restaurant side of the Scarlet Tree fills up with families ordering burgers, and the kids go onstage and play boogie-woogie piano, or guitar, or sing.

Hey, they can play

And the thing is, the kids are good. In the lounge, the adults who know about the blues nod in appreciation. That is pretty good harmonica-playing coming from that teenage boy, whose name happens to be Julian Iacobazzi, of Carnation.

Or up on stage, someone such as Marissa Higgins, 18, of Kirkland, might be singing a blues standard. She started singing at age 4, putting her head underwater in the bathtub, singing, "la-la-la-la," listening to what notes she could make.

Or it might be someone much younger, such as Larson Haakenstad, 10, another Kirkland kid.

They put their names on a sign-up sheet and wait to be called on stage. Larson looks a little nervous, waiting to perform his original composition. But the band is patient, and soon Larson is belting out a song about something familiar, his cat:

"I've got a cat, Canada was where she was born, She likes to chase toys, But she's been warned, You've got to go outside, Not on the rug inside . . ."

Of course, nothing special happens without one individual doing much of the work. The blues jam night at the Scarlet Tree is taking place because of Annieville Wooden, 36, who fell in love with blues music when she was a kid, and never gave it up.

Wooden grew up in Los Angeles. Then, in her teen years, her father returned to his roots in Grants Pass, Ore. She was 5 when she became entranced by one of those little electric organ pianos. That was about when she saw Little Richard play the piano on "American Bandstand." That was it.

By age 9 she was playing in a church, by age 14 she was a member of a band that played in bars. When she wasn't onstage, she had to be escorted outside the joints.

In Grants Pass there weren't a lot of blues records available. Wooden would badger her mom to take her to garage sales, where she'd look for old albums with jazzy covers, figuring they probably contained blues tunes. She often was right.

Eventually, Wooden came to Seattle, where she earned a music degree at the Cornish College of the Arts. Then she had to figure out what to do with her degree.

Keeping their day jobs

It isn't for the money that, at age 36, you still make music your life. When playing, each of the five members of the Voodoo Roosters band, led by Wooden, earns $50 a night.

That's why they have day job, whether as a graphics artist or in marketing. Wooden teaches the piano, and it is many of her Eastside students who are taking part in the Tuesday night blues jams.

"She brightened it up. She made me want to play," Simona Hughes, 17, of Bothell, tells me about Annieville Wooden's enthusiasm. Simona plans to study oceanography or some science field in college.

Simona also will be able to regale her colleagues with some pretty mean piano blues, and tell them about that joint in the Roosevelt District.

Yeah, Simona might remember, I remember coming into Seattle on Tuesday nights. It all happened at this little 99-person capacity restaurant, and it was pretty special.

Erik Lacitis' column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. His phone number is 464-2237. His e-mail address is: elac-new@seatimes.com

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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