Jazz at the Panama Hotel

The Panama Hotel, Photo ©Stephen Griggs
The Panama Hotel, Photo ©Stephen Griggs
Sax at the Panama Hotel, Photo ©Stephen Griggs
Sax at the Panama Hotel, Photo ©Stephen Griggs

Panama Hotel Jazz: Historic Site(s) Specific Performance

Saturday, August 2, 10, 17, 24

Saturday, September 7, 14, 21

2:00 pm  at 605 ½ S. Main, Seattle

We welcome musician Stephen Griggs. who will present a series of performances at the Panama Hotel in August and September as part of 4Culture’s Historic Site(s) Specific program. For Historic Site(s) Specific, artists and performers collaborate with historic sites throughout King County to propose projects that take place at the site, providing a new way to experience the past as it endures in the present through installation, performance and interpretation. 


What does a fictional 1940’s recording by Seattle jazz pianist sound like? That is a question I pondered while proposing a 4Culture Historic Site Specific grant for Seattle’s Panama Hotel. The hotel and a song “The Alley Cat Strut” are featured in Jamie Ford’s historical novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Now my job is to invent this music and perform it in the hotel’s tea room.

The hotel’s basement still contains unclaimed belongings from Japanese American families deported to the Puyallup Fairgrounds and later to Jerome, Idaho. Following the Pearl Harbor bombing, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to declare areas of the United States as military zones, denying civil rights and due process to people of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens.

I became fascinated with stories of this dislocated community and the people who shared the neighborhood surrounding the Japanese-owned Panama Hotel. Feelings of loyalty, distrust, hope, and despair can open portals for compassion. Humane treatment of government enemies during war endures as a concern for citizens today.

Please join me for a program of new music and narration in the Panama Hotel Tea Room (605 ½ S. Main) at 2:00p.m. Saturdays – August 3, 10, 17, 24 and September 7, 14, 21. The ensemble will include trumpeter Jay Thomas, vibraphonist Susan Pascal, guitarist Milo Peterson, and bassist Phil Sparks. Pianist Deems Tsutakawa will be one of several featured guests. The program is free and open to the public but seating is limited.


More information is available on the Panama Hotel Jazz website.

To contact Stephen Griggs email or call 206 523.4983

To learn more about the Site Specific Program visit the new website. Applications for both Historic Sites and Historic Site(s) Specific Project Proposals are now open.