Navigating the 170+ different performances that make up the Portland Jazz Festival can be a mind-bending challenge. Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled this easy rough-guide to the festival. The following are our picks for some noteworthy, and off-the-beaten path performances. Whether you’re a fan of straight-ahead Jazz, funky stuff, vocals, or avant-garde – the festival has something for everyone!
Here are our picks:
-For Straight-ahead Jazz Fans
Fri, 2/15, 7:30 @ Jimmy Mak’s – Barry Harris
Mon, 2/18, 7:30 @ Jimmy Mak’s – Gerald Wilson
Weds, 2/20, 7:30 @ Jimmy Mak’s – Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts
Fri, 2/22, 7:00 @ Newmark Theater – The Jazz Message: Celebrating Art Blakey
Fri, 2/22, 9:30 @ Winningstad Theater – Steve Kuhn Trio
-For Fans of Funky Jazz
Thurs, 2/21, 9:30 @ Winningstad Theater – Kenny Garrett
Sat, 2/23, 9:30 @ Crystal Ballroom – Galactic
Sat, 2/23, 9:30 @ Winningstad Theater – Steven Bernstein’s SexMob
-For adventurous fans
Sat, 2/23, 7:30 @ Newmark Theater – Jack Dejohnette
Tues, 2/19, 7:30 @ Lewis and Clark College – Kurt Rosenwinkel
Sat, 2/16, 9:30 @ Mission Theater – Blue Cranes and Wayne Horvitz
-For fans of Vocal Jazz
Thurs, 2/21, 7:00 @ Winningstad Theater – Patricia Barber
Sunt, 2/24, 3:00 @ Winningstad Theater – Nancy King
Sat, 2/16, 6:00 @ Classic Pianos – Wayne Horvitz
Sun, 2/17, 3:00 @ Classic Pianos – Alfredo Rodriguez
Sun, 2/17, 8:00 @ Secret Society Ballroom – Creative Music Guild Collective
Tues, 2/19, 5:00 @ Marriott Waterfront – Nicole Glover and Jon Lakey
Weds, 2/20, 9:00 @ Rogue Ales Public House – The Ocular Concern
Sat, 2/23, 1:00 @ Benson Hotel – Halie Loren
Fri-Sat, 2/22-23, 11:00 @ The ArtBar – KMHD Jam Sessions
Last week, we caught up with legendary pianist Dr. Barry Harris ahead of his appearance at the Portland Jazz Festival. The internationally acclaimed composer, teacher and Jazz theorist talked about his roots in the Detroit Jazz Scene, and his unique approach to teach and playing. Listen below:
Known primarily for playing Soul Jazz and Funk, Wilson’s gift for in-the-pocket grooves and R&B-tinged atmospherics made him a fan favorite in his heyday – and beyond. To coincide with Wilson being the spotlight artist on KMHD this week, I spoke to him about his legendary career.
I recently had a long conversation with author Derrick Bang. Derrick has written several books on Charles M. Schulz plus he’s written liner notes for CD re-issues of classic albums by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. Derrick’s newest book, “Vince Guaraldi at the Piano” — a biography of the San Francisco-based jazz pianist — was published in 2012. Derrick paid a visit to the KMHD studios to discuss this new book and the San Francisco music scene of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Raoul Van Hall host of “Jazz From The Left” Saturdays 3-6 PM
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “The Inflated Tear”
45 years ago, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Roland Kirk recorded a small masterpiece for Atlantic, entitled The Inflated Tear. Following in the wake of the very recent deaths of Coltrane, Woody Guthrie, and Che Guevara, The Inflated Tear was indeed a welcome gift, a wunderkammern, simultaneously hopeful, irreverent, jarring, and otherworldly. The Inflated Tear exerted a profound influence on my 16-year-old self, showing me all the ways jazz could be: brimming with childlike joy and abandon; seething, tearing at the seams of jazz’s more polite surface, while remaining rooted to tendrils of melody and swing.
Prodigiously talented and wildly idiosyncratic, qualities that were both a blessing and a curse, it is very hard to write about Kirk’s music without talking about the man. Blind from the age of two, Kirk was a marvel, playing tenor sax, flute, clarinet and long-forgotten members of the sax family—cast-off step-children like the Manzello and the Stritch, which he played simultaneously, fingering two horns while playing a third as a drone. Around his neck, stuffed into pockets, were whistles, nose flute, a section of garden hose, sirens, harmonica, a trumpaphone, a cuckoo clock, flexatone and something called a black puzzle flute. Easily written off by critics as Barnumesque gaullimaufry, Kirk was one of the 1960s most exciting performers who seemed, as Dr. Billy Taylor said, “to generate music like a dynamo creating electric energy.”
Bursting on the scene when “the New Thing” was shunning melody and shirking off time, Kirk embraced jubilant swing, waltzes you could ice skate to, time-traveling nostalgic ballads and deep blues.
Throughout the 1960s, Kirk reinvigorated jazz as both art and entertainment, weaving together a vivid sense of theater, politics and protest, humor, and an unimpeachable, heavy artistry – but it’s with The Inflated Tear, that he perfected and distilled his singular blend of tradition, freedom, pathos, and sense of play.
Stand-outs: “The Black and Crazy Blues” is a dirge that finds pianist Ron Burton and Kirk playing catch with time and space without ever betraying a hint of corn. A flute feature, “A Laugh for Rory” crackles with innocence, light and feverishly good, tickle-and-pounce drum interplay from Jimmy Hopps. On Ellington’s “Creole Love Call,” Kirk deploys his multi-horn blowing to stunning effect—uncoiling and taking things out into orbit, just enough, before landing back in the pocket. It’s a great illustration of Kirk’s diachronic love affair with the music: a nod to both his forebears and the playful, knotty shape of jazz to come.
The title track, “The Inflated Tear,” a reference to a childhood incident of over-medication that turned a young Kirk from partially to fully blind, is the prize, deeply moving and begs repeated listening. Opening with chiming shards of little instruments, flexatone, bells and Kirkian who-knows-what, silence is cleaved by a breathtakingly beautiful line like something out of the Strayhorn-Ellington canon, replete with Ron Burton’s piano-on-a-turquoise-cloud embellishments. Beauty, sadness, tension, dignity, catharsis and forgiveness are all in attendance – creating an aural snapshot of a life poised, as the poet Kirsten Rian writes, “somewhere between grief and happiness.”
Like some kind of jazz-borne ancient mariner, Kirk used music as a sextant, measuring the angles between jazz’s birth and its path into the future. Roland Kirk, who said that he could “hear the sun” and ventured that “the wind was in Bb,” could seem at times like a saxophone-and-whistle-wielding shaman or like a jazz version of the Potato Face Blind Man, Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories minstrel who sat, “salut[ing] the dawn and the morning with a mixture of reverence and laughter.” And that’s a gift worthy of thanks.
-Tim DuRoche, host of The New Thing, Mondays 9-10 PM
2012 has been one of the brightest years in terms of Jazz’s popularity in recent history. The same could be said for our own Jazz scene here in Portland. The “do it yourself” spirit of our community means that our hometown talent is equipped with the know-how and resources to make big splashes with little budgets. But there’s also something intangible about our creative capital here in the rose city, maybe it’s in the air (or the rain). Whatever the case, here are some of the albums, trends, collectives and concerts that we’ve found intriguing this year at KMHD.
-Matt Fleeger, Program Director
The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble
This wonderful 12 piece ensemble (the brainchild of pianist Andrew Oliver and saxophonist Gus Slayton) exists for one sole purpose: to further the creation of new Jazz compositions (and composers) from Portland. In 2012, the Ensemble brought audiences new music in different concert settings around the city. In 2013, they’re launching PJCE records – a label that will release one CD per month of original music performed by Portland musicians. To find out more, click here: PJCE
Ezra Weiss’ “Our Path To this Moment”
This excellent CD, featuring compositions by Portland-based pianist Ezra Weiss played by saxophonist Rob Scheps’ Big Band quickly made it’s way up the JazzWeek charts, earning critical acclaim around the world along the way. Weiss’s dramatic, lush compositions work perfectly in the big band setting here, making this a truly special home-grown project.
Esperanza Spalding’s “Radio Music Society”
This ambitious crossover release, from Portland’s most famous Jazz musician, might just be the best endorsement our scene could ever get. Spalding chose this platform to introduce the world to Thara Memory’s American Music Program, and to many other Portland-based musicians including: Janice Scroggins, Stan Bock, Renato Caranto and more. Perhaps best of all, this excellent record was able to do the impossible: gaining mainstream media attention; commercial radio airplay and landing Spalding (and some Portlanders) musical guest spots on Letterman and Leno.
Hailey Niswanger’s “The Keeper”
If you’re a regular listener to KMHD, you probably heard a lot of Hailey’s newest release – the Keeper. Comprised mainly of Niswanger’s own compositions, this record really stood out as a very serious example of a Jazz composer and saxophonist who sounds far beyond her early 20′s in terms of musical development.
Todd Bishop’s “Little Played Little Bird”
Drummer Todd Bishop released this excellent assortment of under-represented Ornette Coleman tunes with a Portland quintet (made up of Tim Wilcox, Weber Iago, Bill Athens, and Richard Cole) on Origin records early last summer. We haven’t been able to put it down since.
The Bridgetown Sextet’s “The New Old Fashioned”
The liner notes to this Portland institution’s newest disc begins: “75 years ago Jazz was a rebellious, hip, high-energy, hard-driving, untamed, unpredictable, and unapologetically joyous cult phenomenon, and on these tracks it still is.” If that doesn’t beg a listen, I don’t know what does.
John Stowell and Ulf Bandgren “Throop”
A beautiful new release from Portland’s John Stowell and his friend of many years Ulf Bandgren. Stowell is a empathic player, adept at working in the duo setting and this new release on the Seattle-based Origin record label is a real gem. The compositions here showcase the personalities of the two players, each song provides the listener with highly rewarding dynamics. A real treat for audiophiles and their systems.
The Wishermen “Drawing Purple Orbits”
This quintet became a band while studying at the prestigious Alan Jones Academy of Music (just one of the many, many excellent institutions for musical learning in Portland). They became friends, started writing and found their own terrific sound:
Curtis Salgado’s “Soul Shot”
We’re not sure what’s more amazing, the fact that Curtis Salgado did a left turn with his excellent new release (made up of deep-cut soul and R&B selections), or the fact that he beat lung cancer in time to sing at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Whatever the case, his new release on Alligator records was fun, soulful and one of our favorites of his to date.
We’re well aware that we live in a special place…but thanks to a certain TV Show, the rest of the world is learning how enticing “weird” can really be. Maybe that’s why Portland’s diverse Jazz scene inspires some of the best and brightest international Jazz musicians to plant their roots in this fertile soil. Our scene has been enriched with the addition of PSU faculty member George Colligan who has been playing with seemingly everyone around town (when he’s not touring with Jack Dejohnette). Another transplant of note is guitarist Ryan Meagher who has two excellent releases on the “Fresh Sound/New Talent” record label under his belt, and has started a Jazz Composers Jam session on Wednesday nights at Vintner’s Cellars in the Pearl district. Trumpeter Tom Barber is yet another welcomed addition to this community of players – and has been gigging around town with the PJCE and others.
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival
The Cathedral Park Jazz fest was on death’s door before a group of citizens, musicians and organizers swooped in to save it this year. The result was a renewed festival with an emphasis on local performers (well curated by the talented Mary Sue Tobin) that drew some of the largest crowds in recent history. We can’t wait to see what the festival has cooked up for this year! Here’s a little snapshot from this summer’s festival:
PDX Jazz at the Mission
PDX Jazz, the sponsoring organization of the Portland Jazz Festival, has stepped up their game this year in a major way, bringing international talent to town through their series at McMenamin’s Mission Theater year-round. Audiences have been treated to performances by Miguel Zenon, Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, Cuong Vu, Tin Hat trio, In the Country and many more. They’ve augmented this series with local players presenting special material designed particularly for the concerts. In 2013, the festival (Feb 14-24) celebrates its 10th anniversary with the biggest Portland Jazz festival to date.
Compiling a top ten list for an entire year can be a difficult task, mostly because of the omissions one must make. For KMHD’s top ten list, I polled key members of the KMHD staff that play new releases on their programs. I also took into account our JazzWeek charts from the past year, to identify albums that received the most airplay on the station. Finally, I looked for records that were diverse, well-thought out, and listenable the whole way through. We sincerely hope that you’ll take time to seek out and listen to some of these special records – and that you’ll support the artists who put work into creating and producing these stellar new releases.
-Matt Fleeger, Program Director
Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon: the New York Sessions
A wonderful album from this Jazz master, who only seems to get better/more refined with age (he’s now 81). Jamal’s trio (Herlin Riley, Reggie Veal) Is augmented with the latin percussion of Manolo Badrena, making for a wonderfully dense rhythmic back-end to the sparse playing and carefully chosen notes of one of Jazz’s living legends. The material here will be familiar to fans of post-war Jazz standards, including wonderful interpretations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie tunes.
Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society
Esperanza Spalding’s “Radio Music Society” (her fourth CD as a leader) is the most fully-realized vision of crossover Jazz that I’ve heard all year. Each song on the record could stand alone as a radio single, and perhaps that was the intent from this young musical genius. Spalding’s voice and bass-playing are in top form throughout the disc – and she brings friends from her musical upbringing (in Portland and beyond) along for the ride. The deluxe package includes a DVD with well-executed videos for each of the 12 songs, making this a particularly ambitious project.
3 Cohens – Family
The 3 Cohen siblings (Yuval, Anat, Avishai) showcase their abilities for songwriting, playing and passionate improvisation on this swinging, hard-driving release. Guest vocalist Jon Hendricks joins the band for a couple of tunes – making this album a diverse, and solid, listen the whole way through. There’s something special about listening to three musicians who have spent their entire lives playing together – and the three Cohens demonstrate that familial bond perfectly on this release.
Rob Mazurek’s Pulsar Quartet – Stellar Pulsations
Rob Mazurek’s cornet produces a cool, sophisticated sound and wonderful melodic lyricism on the newest effort from his pulsar quartet. Deep, subdued textures abound here – with bright flourishes from the Chicagoan’s horn. The album evokes the feeling of late 50′s cool jazz, but not in a dated manner. This record sounds as fresh and “now” as anything out there today. Here, the listener is taken on a journey of other-worldly moods reminiscent of late period John Coltrane or “Kind of Blue” era Miles Davis.
Trio Subtonic – I’ll Meet You There Tomorrow
Portland’s own Trio Subtonic (Galen Clark, Bill Athens, Jesse Brooke) released their second effort as a band this past winter. Here, the listener will find funky, groove-oriented sounds, acoustic ballads, and gospel-tinged instrumentals. Trio Subtonic’s “populist” take on Jazz means that just about everybody digs what they’re doing. Best of all, this record is “designed” well, making for a diverse listening experience from beginning till end. Trio Subtonic is just one of the many Portland Jazz groups that makes this city a special place to live.
Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective – Roots Before Branches
Latin rhythms meet the sounds of Afrobeat on this latest release from Puerto Rican drummer Henry Cole. Call it a new form of Latin-fusion, or as Cole puts it: “If I had been a Puerto Rican musician playing a few centuries ago, I would have the same kinds of influences: African, indigenous, European.” Whatever the description, the music contained within Roots Before Branches is upbeat, fresh and, most of all, very fun.
Christian Scott – Christian Atunde Adjuah
Trumpeter Christian Scott put out his most personal (and lengthy) recording to date when he released Christian Atunde Adjuah – a double disc set on Concord Records earlier this year. The sound of Scott’s quartet: brooding, dark, and angular – provides a perfect platform for his introspective songwriting. Much of the inspiration here comes from events in Scott’s life, his childhood growing up in New Orleans factors heavily here.
Neil Cowley Trio – The Face of Mount Molehill
London based piano player Neil Cowley brings the pop-centric sounds of the UK Jazz scene to fast-paced instrumentals and well-orchestrated tunes augmented with string ensemble. You could describe the sound here as “indie-Jazz” but there are classical influences at work as well. And, while parts of the record have the feeling of “film music” but not in the repetitive, boring sense – this is a very well conceived effort, from start to finish.
Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio – Across the Imaginary Divide
A terrific collaboration here between a wonderful piano trio and the banjo player who has forged new boundaries for an instrument that has been returning to favor as of late. The blue sounds of Across the Imaginary Divide are at times quiet, melodic and simple. Fleck stays out of the way of this accomplished piano player’s sound, complimenting it, and adding rhythm and melody to a phenomenal CD.
Matt Ulery – By a Little Light
2012 has been the year of the double disc. Bassist Matt Ulery’s By A Little Light melds Jazz with classical, americana, folk and post-rock, bringing forth a wholly unique sound. The moods change seamlessly, moving between somber, reflective pieces, balladry and bright melody. There are instrumentals, haunting vocals, and textural soundscapes that beg for repeated listens on this wonderfully creative new album.
All of us at KMHD were saddened to hear of the passing of Dave Brubeck (Dec 6, 1920-Dec 5, 2012) earlier this morning. We’ll be celebrating his career and life through a special memorial spotlight this week. We hope you’ll be able to tune in and enjoy some of his wonderful music with us this week.
As an added bonus, please enjoy this interview with Mr. Brubeck from 1995 with KMHD’s Raoul Van Hall.
-Matt Fleeger, Program Director
Listening to the music of Dave Brubeck and his original quartet during my youth was my first exposure to jazz. His music has been extremely influential on my tastes in jazz, and later became the foundation of my jazz radio programs.
R: What were your earliest musical influences?
D: I had classical from my mother. Jazz from my older brother Henry. Another brother, Howard, played things like Gershwin and a lot of the classics. My father was a rodeo roper and manager of a cattle ranch so I heard a lot of cowboy music. My father was born not too far from here In Susanville, and his father had a lot to do with the development of this part of the world. So you can see I come from a diverse background. Being raised in the town I was raised in California, you weren’t hearing some music at a university you know. You were actually hearing Portuguese music once a year at a Portuguese parade, you heard Mexican music, Spanish music, German music, French, so that I write from my background In California. A lot of my music, whether it’s classical or Jazz was from by background. Also, I think that the European composers that have lived through the ages use the folk music of their own culture. The same thing with myself, except that I have many different cultures to draw on. If you think of who’s going to live on in America, you’ve got to think of Gershwin, Charles Ives, Bernstein and the guys that use the jazz idiom, which Is really the strongest influence In our culture.
R: When you look back at your body of work, what are your favorite songs, your favorite album?
D: There’s so many that it’s hard to know. There’s over a hundred LPs, where it’s mostly my music. Then there’s ten big sacred works, there’s three ballets, then there’s pieces for orchestra, pieces for two
pianos and solo piano. You’d have to look at a lot of different kinds of music.
R: I’ve been listening a lot lately to your Blues Roots album where you worked with Gerry Mulligan.
Did you enjoy that collaboration, and do you anticipate working with him again?
D: Well, we’re still friends, and we had quite a few years where we were together. We started as young musicians In what they used to call the “Cool Jazz” period. We both had our own quartets, so you never
know what will happen next. I think we had a few good years there. That’s a good album.
R: You’ve played for every president since President Kennedy. How did you get Into the presidential loop playing In the White House?
D: Pierre Salinger used to work for the Chronicle in San Francisco, and he used to come in almost every night after work to a nightclub where I was playing. Pierre, as a young man, was almost a professional Classical pianist; he’s a very bright guy. So when he started working with Kennedy, and being that we knew each other from San Francisco, that’s how it started.
R: This is probably an unfair question, but which was your favorite president to play for?
D: Well…the most human really was Nixon. He’s a warm guy, and he always took the time to come over and talk to us. Some of the other presidents would just thank you. I remember President Reagan saying, “I have to make the rounds of the room, but I would like to say goodnight to you personally. Go stand over by that door because that’s the door that I’m going to leave by.” The quartet walked over there and he came over and talked to us for about ten minutes about how he always loved jazz and he used It on his Big Band series that he did with Ford Motor Company. And he went into his background as a radio announcer. Nancy was a big jazz fan, and when we played for Reagan and Gorbachev, they took so much pride that they had invited us there and that the Russians really liked us … you can see it in the book. They were very friendly. Other presidents you just had different Impressions of. One that I really didn’t like as a president was Nixon, yet he made one of the most wonderful speeches. He gave a party for Duke Ellington at the White House and Nixon said, “We’ve entertained our first Duke in the White House.” And he said “In this room we’ve gone full circle because Mr. Ellington’s father was a waiter in this room.”
R: So I guess you are the house band for the White House?
D: (laughing) I don’t know. We’ve just been invited back to Washington. We’re trying to work it out. We do appear there a lot.
R: You mentioned your trip to Moscow back in 1988. What was it like to play for Gorbachev?
Was he familiar with your music?
D: Yeh, and his interpreter had most of my albums I Many of the people high up In the Communist Party listened to my albums illegally and bought them, I guess through diplomatic pouches from Washington. Our last album is the first one to be recorded In Russia and put out in conjunction with Melodia, their state-owned label, and the California label called Concord Jazz. We had a lot of nice things happen.
R: That must have been an incredible trip. What is your impression of what’s been happening politically in Russia?
D: Well, you see we were there at a real turn with everything that was going on in ’87 and ’88, and so we were very impressed. We couldn’t believe what was happening!
R: Jazz seems to be enjoying a renaissance on commercial radio stations these days. Why do you think that’s happening all of a sudden?
D: Well like I said earlier, we are truly the American art form that in many ways has kept us ahead of the world in ways that people don’t even begin to understand. The very movement for freedom that’s going on all over the world, If you’re going to pick one art form, you couldn’t pick one more democratic than jazz. Every day the drum beat from my Take the A Train went around the world on the Voice of America, and then went on to the Ellington version.
R: What do you think It takes to be a truly great jazz musician?
D: The most training you have to really express yourself as a musician is in jazz. I mean you’ve got to know things that a classical composer knows, but you also have to put it out immediately on stage in front of an audience, you’re not in your room hiding. I’ve done both, and I can tell you that the knowledge that goes into the great jazz performances of somebody like George Shearing or Oscar Peterson are more amazing to me than almost any composer. If Mozart were alive today I’d want to hear him improvise. I wouldn’t want to hear another symphony! You could hire him to improvise. In the days before classical music got into all written music, Beethoven and Bach improvised in church every Sunday. So what the jazz musician is really doing Is keeping alive the greatest part of what I think classical music is. My mother was a very good classical pianist. And she didn’t understand why I wanted to play jazz until she heard Art Tatum play, and then she understood. You get someone around George Shearing and they’ll go away on their knees. Jazz musicians have to have a tremendous knowledge of composition and classical music to understand how much a George Shearing has right at his fingertips that a president of a college of music who studied all his life may never have. Pow! These people have it. Like a Mozart had it, or a Shearing has it, or an Art Tatum. Then you stop talking about jazz or classical. You’re talking about genius. You can’t say where it comes from. It comes from a great string of DNA or from God.
R: What are you listening to these days?
D: I really don’t get much time to listen these days because I’m always involved with my next project. My favorite composer is Bach. And right next to Bach I’d put Art Tatum, the great American jazz pianist. And Ellington.
R: The introduction of the compact disc seems to be helping some people rediscover your music. Do you enjoy hearing your recordings on CD?
D: Yeah, they’re re-releasing almost everything. They’re going all the way back to the old 78’s before tape. I’m amazed at the quality, especially the old acetate recordings sound fantastic. They sound even better than when we first recorded them.
R: What is your recollection of the song Take Five?
D: Well that’s 1958, written while we were still in California. It was written in Oakland, California up on the hills overlooking San Francisco Bay. The two things that are in Take Five were brought to rehearsal; It wasn’t a piece and the quartet put it together and we gave the credit to Paul Desmond. I had told the guys that I wanted to do an album called Time Out where we start using different time signatures. I wanted to really make a breakthrough album.
R: Strange Meadowlark still sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. What can you ten me about that song’s origin?
D: The Meadowlark call is right in that melody. I just built a melody around that birdcall. A lot of my tunes come from nature. Lots of birdcalls.
R: Blue Rondo A La Turk has always been one of my personal favorites. What is the origin of that piece?
D: That’s been recorded, in 80 many ways allover the world. You know AI Jarreau put words to it. He got the Grammy Award for that. There’s even a bird call that’s the exact notes of Blue Rondo A La Turk. One day I was down at my pond–I have a little pond with an island in it–I often go down there and write. I heard all these birds singing Blue Rondo, so I went back down to the house and I got my youngest son and my wife, and I said come down and sit on the island with me, I want you to hear something. And they started laughing and they said that all of the birds are singing Blue Rondo. I have a friend that studies bird calls, and I told him about It. and he said “you’re absolutely right. It’s the exact rhythm in 9/8 of Blue Rondo A La Turk.”
R: What was your most memorable performance?
D: Well, it’s hard to say. But I would say that when I wrote the music for the Pope that was performed at Candlestick Park, that was way up there. And playing for Gorbachev and the Reagan summit, that was was up there too.
R: When you first started your professional career, did you think that you’d still be at it all these years later?
D: Who knew I’d be alive? When I was twenty-one I didn’t think I’d be alive to see twenty-two-you know what I mean?
-Raoul Van Hall, host of “Jazz From the Left,” Saturdays 3-6 PM
Editor’s Note: “Takin’ Five With” is a monthly feature in KMHD’s monthly e-newsletter, JazzNotes. Each month, Deborah DeMoss Smith (host of the Bridge on Tuesdays from 10-Noon) catches up with a different artist of note. To subscribe to KMHD’s JazzNote, just click the link on our homepage. -MF
A potent trombonist, composer, educator and record producer, New Orleans jazz man Delfeayo Marsalis, of the famed Marsalis family, recently performed in Portland. Between sets, he sat down to take five with Deborah, host of KMHD’s Tuesday AM Edition of The Bridge.
1. What would a parade be without the trombone, especially in New Orleans? Without the trombone parades would be shallow bunches of nothingness, people walking around wondering why they’re not in a good mood, why they’re not grooving, and where exactly is that slide trombone that lets you know that everything is going to be all right.
2. Your influences include trombonists J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller, but you can only choose one to sit down to talk and play with. Which one would you choose? I would ask Mr. Johnson to sit down with Mr. Fuller and play with him, and I’d observe. Because whenever you’re around two people, and one has studied with the other — yet has his own unique sound — it’s interesting to find what he was learning. So what I’d ask Curtis would be something different that what Curtis would ask J.J., so I’d ask them to recreate their methodology.
3. Has being a record producer affected how you record your own music? I find I’m not as able to relax playing as much as I’d like in the studio, ’cause I’m always thinking about the final product. I remember Branford saying one time, “Boy, how great it would be to go to a concert and not be a musician, where you could hear the most awful stuff and love it to death and say, ‘Oh, this is so great!’” So sometimes I wish I didn’t have a producer’s ear, ’cause I’m hearing every single thing and I’m ready to stop the tape, and I’m thinking how I’m going to fix this and any little thing. Sometimes I realize how fortunate my brothers [Branford, Wynton, Jason] and my dad [Ellis] and the individuals I produced were that I was there for them and I could tell them that everything was cool — except we need to fix these two bars there — and not having someone else do that.
4. New Orleans music is really about joy, isn’t it? Celebration! Par-tee! We use any excuse to have a good time down there in New Orleans. It probably started with the Second Line, with the idea that you bury someone, but they’re going on to a better place, so you want to celebrate the time that you had to spend with them. It’s really a great tradition and I think more people around the world would benefit from being respectful in mourning but also being able to accept what the reality is.
5. What makes you so quirky? What do you mean? I’m not quirky at all (laughs). But you know it’s taken awhile to just let it fly all the time. I have a younger brother who has autism named Mboya and because of his inabilities to learn I’ve dedicated a lot of my time working with younger people, The Uptown Music Theater [founded in 2000 by Delfeayo] and I’ve volunteered with Children’s Hospital over the years. I think it’s always important to be around youngsters and try to inspire them — then they inspire me!
Bonus! 6. What are some of the misconceptions about you and your brothers? I would say many don’t understand how everything in my family has worked and the kind of impact I’ve had because I’m a record producer. Wynton is most well-known and Branford is well known after that, but when Wynton makes his records, even now though I don’t work for him anymore, he’s not thinking what does Terrence Blanchard think or Nicholas Payton or any of these guys, he’s wondering what does Delfeayo think. Because I set the bar high as for as the production quality. It took me a long time to realize to the degree which my brothers relied on me. I was the little brother, so I helped them out; but not so long ago that I realized that they were really looking to me and trusting my judgment on a lot of things, so some interesting information on how my family works.
For the full edition of November’s JazzNotes click here.
PDX Jazz, the sponsoring organization of the Portland Jazz Festival is bringing in several live performances to roll-out the line-up for the 2013 Festival. This year marks the Festival’s 10th anniversary, and they’ll be showcasing 3 different international Jazz acts in the month of October.
October 15th – Matthew Shipp trio @ Jimmy Mak’s
Matthew Shipp’s innovative playing will be on full display at Jimmy Mak’s. This is a rare appearance for the pianist in Portland. He’s been a collaborator with saxophonist David S. Ware, as well as indie-rock and electronic artists throughout his career.
October 18th – Nik Bartch’s Ronin @ the Mission Theater
The “zen-funk” stylings of Nik Bartch’s quintet, Ronin is possibly one of the most interesting and genre-bending in all of Jazz. Their meditative music evolves in performance before the audiences eyes, making for an especially enjoyable live experience – one not to be missed.
October 23 – Gregoire Maret @ Jimmy Mak’s
Swiss-born Harmonica player Gregoire Maret is the real deal. A seasoned player, he’s spent time with Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller among other legends of Jazz. He brings his quartet to Portland on the 23rd.
October 25th – Delfeayo Marsalis @ Jimmy Mak’s
Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis (one of the four Marsalis brothers) is a terrific player who holds true to the Jazz traditions of the early part of the 20th century. He brings his quintet to Jimmy Mak’s on October the 25th.