With three full length albums under their belt and a reputation throughout the Northwest, 2013 is looking like the year that Blue Cranes get the opportunity to spread their songs to the uninitiated. Having signed to East Coast indie label, Cuneiform Records, the group has a new album waiting in the wings that has already generated excited speculation and much deserved attention (take a look/listen here). They also were chosen to headline a show in collaboration with Seattle jazz innovator Wayne Horvitz during the opening weekend of the 10th Annual Portland Jazz Festival in February.
What transpired on the stage of the Mission Theater that night brought the audience a swift sighting of lightning in a bottle. Both Blue Cranes and Wayne Horvitz are innovators in terms both of how they play and write, so a collaboration seemed inevitable and long overdue. Joining the band on piano and keys, Horvitz brought an elegant experimentalism to the proceedings as he played their tunes and Blue Cranes eagerly tackled his own compositions. The audience howled out for more when all was said and done.
part of KMHD’s celebration of Public Radio Music Month
This year, the Portland Jazz Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary with one of its most diverse and ambitious line-ups to date. From Kurt Rosenwinkel to Kenny Garrett, Patricia Barber to Esperanza Spalding, Portland’s Blue Cranes to New York’s Matt Wilson – the 10-day event represented a cross section of what’s happening “now” in Jazz. And, with an array of Jazz legends including bop pianist Barry Harris, 94-year old conductor Gerald Wilson, and drummer Jack Dejohnette, (all NEA Jazz Masters) the festival certainly had its share of big names as well.
The Festival opened up with a sold out show from The Afro Cuban All-stars. Shortly after the band’s pulsating latin rhythms flooded the interior the packed house at Portland’s Aladdin Theater, the audience was up out of their seats and dancing in the isles. The show continued in this manner for two raucous hours, until the (sweaty, grinning ear to ear) audience flooded the streets of southeast Portland.
On night two, it was Portland’s own Blue Cranes with a special guest – Seattle-based composer Wayne Horvitz. With Horvitz on keys, the band worked through a set of music from their upcoming release on Cuneiform Records (due in April), and original Horvitz compositions. This was one of a handful of shows put together specifically “for Portland only” one of the festival’s new themes.
On the second Friday of the festival, another “for Portland only” show took place when 6 members of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers reunited for a performance under the musical direction of saxophonist Javon Jackson. The band worked through a range of messengers tunes, including a special rendition of Curtis Fuller’s “Alamode” which allowed the 78 year old trombonist to show off his chops a bit. Other members of the cast included Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Bobby Watson, Buster Williams, and taking the place of Art Blakey, drummer Lewis Nash.
Of course, the Portland Jazz Festival doesn’t happen in one place, it’s a city-wide happening and this year, the festival moved into a new venue for a special show. The Kurt Rosenwinkel quartet took the stage at Lewis and Clark College in front of a sold-out audience and played songs from Kurt’s new record “Star of Jupiter.” As always, Kurt’s playing was transcendent, but for me, the real magic took place between two new members of the quartet, drummer Justin Faulkner and bassist Eric Revis (both known for their playing time with Branford Marsalis).
NEA Jazz Master Jack Dejohnette delivered a set that left the sold out audience of Portland’s Newmark theater in awe of the drummer’s skill for playing, and for highlighting the players in his quartet. That quartet usually includes saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, but due to a shoulder injury, Coltrane couldn’t make the gig. Don Byron replaced Coltrane in the band (making this his third appearance at the festival) and melded seamlessly into the quartet switching between saxophone and clarinet. Pianist George Colligan delivered an exciting performance that demonstrated his fantastic abilities on electric and acoustic piano. Matthew Garrison (the son of the late Jimmy Garrison) played a 5 string electric bass augmented with effects pedals. The band moved between free improvisation and written music, but the biggest surprise of the evening was the final tune – Dejohnette’s rendition of the late Jim Pepper’s “Wichi tai to.” Pepper was a fixture in the Portland music scene and it felt as if his spirit was in the building that night.
Legendary conductor/arranger/composer Gerald Wilson led two groups at Portland’s premiere Jazz Club, Jimmy Mak’s, in the middle of the festival schedule. What was most impressive was to watch the 94 year old’s vigor as he brought out the best of an orchestra comprised of students from Portland State University and then a cadre of local professional musicians. Wilson is as sharp as a tack, and one of the best musical intellects that I’ve had the pleasure of talking to on the air.
Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts stood out as one of the most fun performances of the festival. They played two different to receptive, goading audiences at Jimmy Mak’s, and, an afternoon set at KMHD’s studios sponsored by PDX Jazz. Wilson’s ability to “interpret” what the band is doing to the audience is a rare gift in Jazz, as is his tasteful and exciting playing style. The fun these four musicians have together on stage is palpable.
The West coast premier of ACS (Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri-Lyne Carrington) was the “curtains” for the 10-day event…and these three skilled musicians ensured that the it closed on a high note. Allen’s nuanced piano technique, coupled with the tasteful drumming style of Carrington meshed excellently. Portland residents are used to watching Esperanza Spalding’s skill on stage, but her virtuousic talents were especially on display in this setting. The trio moved between standards and a few original Allen compositions. At the end of their set, they were rewarded with not one, but two – standing ovations.
As a fan, and someone on the ground floor – the 10th anniversary of the Portland Jazz Festival lived up to the hype. Almost every show was sold out, and the audiences and musicians interacted with each other in a way that demonstrated the true power and the special nature of live Jazz. This festival also demonstrated that, in a time when festivals are supposed to be in decline, how the diverse sounds of this music can be presented, and celebrated by equally diverse audiences. While the 10 days of the festival are rigorous for those of us involved, I’m always a bit sad to see them go….but there’s always next year, and for that, I cannot wait!
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
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.
Legendary drummer Roy Haynes has provided the beat on some of the most seminal Jazz recordings of all time. From John Coltrane, to Lester Young to Rahsaan Roland Kirk – he’s worked with everyone. We caught up with Haynes at his home and talked about his legacy, his spirit and his upcoming performance at the Portland Jazz Festival. You can catch Roy Haynes and his Fountain of Youth Band on Friday, February 24th at the Newmark Theater.
Dee Dee Bridgewater is one of the most highly regarded Jazz vocalists in the world, and for good reason. Her unique voice and her respect for the tradition of Jazz earned her critical acclaim over her 5 decade career. She’s also one of the most lovely human beings we’ve ever spoken to (hear for yourself in this exclusive interview). Dee Dee performs her tribute to Billie Holiday on Thursday February 23 at the Newmark Theater at 7 PM – part of the Portland Jazz Festival.
Bill Frisell is truly a musical force of nature. His prolific recording career has produced a diverse catalog of music ranging across a myriad of sub-genres. We caught up with Frisell on tour in New England and talked with him about his upcoming performances at the Portland Jazz festival. His tribute to John Lennon and steel guitarist Speedy West will take place on Friday, Feb 24th at 9:30 PM at the Crystal Ballroom and his solo performance + the 858 Quintet takes place at the Newmark Theater on Saturday, Feb 25th at 7:00 PM.
This week, we’ve got a thematic artist spotlight on KMHD – featuring all local musicians. As we work our way toward the beginning of the Portland Jazz Festival (which begins this Friday), we’ll be listening to the sounds that make Portland a special place for Jazz.
Thanks to Oregon Art Beat, who produced this special video slide show of local musicians performing at this years festival.
Navigating the 150+ 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
Mon, 2/20, 7:30 @ Jimmy Mak’s – Charles McPherson
Weds, 2/22, 8:30 @ Ivories – Chuck Israels plays Bill Evans
Fri, 2/24, 7:00 @ Newmark Theater – Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band
Sat, 2/25, 9:30 @ Art Bar – Upper Left Trio
Sun, 2/26, 3:00 @ Newmark Theater – Branford Marsalis + Joey Calderazzo
-For Fans of Funky Jazz
Fri, 2/17, 9:30 @ Nel Centro – Damian Erskine + Carlton Jackson
Sun, 2/19, 8:00 @ Blue Monk – The Quadraphonnes
Fri, 2/24, 9:30 @ Crystal Ballroom – Bill Frissell plays John Lennon
Sat, 2/25, 9:30 @ Chrystal Ballroom – Charlie Hunter + PDX Afrobeat Breakdown
-For adventurous fans
Sat, 2/18, 7:30 @ Winningstad Theater – Enrico Rava
Sun, 2/19, 7:00 @ Winningstad Theater – The Jazz Passengers
Thurs, 2/23, 8:00 @ Gallery 135 – Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble
Sat, 2/25, 3:00 @ Crystal Ballroom – Vijay Iyer + Tirtha
-For fans of Vocal Jazz
Thurs, 2/23, 7:00 @ Newmark Theater – Dee Dee Bridgewater
Sat, 2/25, 8:30 @ Touche – Kelley Shannon feat. Dick Birk
Sat, 2/18, 9:30 @ Art Bar – Better Homes and Gardens
Thurs, 2/23, 9:00 @ Rogue Brewery – Go by Train
Thurs, 2/23, 9:30 @ Art Bar – Rebecca Kilgore and Dave Frishberg
The 2012 US Bank Portland Jazz Festival presented by Alaska Airlines will be held Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 26 at venues throughout Portland. The 9th annual 11 day festival will include jazz education and outreach along with a series of concerts featuring an eclectic mix of internationally recognized and local musicians playing a wide-range of jazz styles.
Among this year’s headliners are esteemed saxophonist Branford Marsalis and the prolific pianist Joey Calderazzo, playing songs off their latest album, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy; legendary drummer and NEA Jazz Master Roy Haynes, who has played with some of the most decorated names in jazz over the past 60 years and continues to “Snap Crackle at 86″ and GRAMMY® Award winning singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, who will return to Portland (she last played the festival in 2006) performing the timeless songs of Billie Holiday. The revered Seattle based guitarist Bill Frisell, in a two-night program titled “For Portland Only,” will perform in four divergent settings, the first evening, paying tribute to the works of pedal steel guitarist, Wesley Webb “Speedy” West and guitarist, fiddle player and producer, Jimmy Bryant as well as pop icon John Lennon.
Frisell’s second evening will turn to the ethereal, boasting his classically sublime 858 Quartet and a captivating solo opening set. Seminal Portland trumpeter and educator Thara Memory will be honored as this year’s Portland Jazz Master and will open the festival with ambitious large scale ensembles inspired by the music of Miles Davis.
Guitar phenom Charlie Hunter will perform a program titled Solo Jam as part of the Portland Jam Band Marathon, an evening devoted to regionally based jam bands. The celebrated New York Times “jazz album of the year” composer-pianist Vijay Iyer will be joined by India based guitar-composer Prasanna and tabla player Nitin Mitta. They comprise Tirtha in an east meets west program titled “From New York to Tamil Nadu.”
Additionally, the influential Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava and his quintet Tribes will feature a program of introspective-tinged songs spanning Rava’s celebrated ECM recording legacy in a show entitled A Jazz Pilgrim. New York downtown compatriots of actor/musician John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards, The Jazz Passengers, will play songs off their first album in 12 years, Reunion.
White Bird Dance will present Griot New York in partnership with the Festival. This is a highley anticipated and legendary collaboration between the Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wynton Marsalis and celebrated sculptor Martin Puryear. The pre-recorded three-part composition uses jazz to render the history and feeling of a city, and the emotional references connected to styles and rhythmic grooves. The preceding evening on February 21 on Fat Tuesday, the festival will celebrate Mardi Gras @ The Mission with a PDX flavored roux. ”From India to Italy and returning home to PDX via New York City, this year’s festival maintains a longstanding tradition of embracing jazz as an evolving and fast changing global art form,” states managing director Don Lucoff.
This year’s festival was programmed by Lucoff after the retirement of founding artistic director Bill Royston last spring. Lucoff concludes, “Royston re-wrote the rules for programming in the U.S. by giving audiences unsurpassed thematic presentations that resonated around the world.” This year’s festival will put a strong focus on local artists interacting with the arriving headliners through various outreach and educational programs, along with surprises to be announced in the future.
Complete concert schedule:
Friday February 17, 7:30pm, Winningstad Theater Thara Memory
Saturday February 18, 7:30pm, Winningstad Theater Enrico Rava’s Tribe
Sunday February 19, 7:00pm, Winningstad Theater The Jazz Passengers
Tuesday February 21, 7:30pm, Mission Theater Mardi Gras @ The Mission
Wednesday February 22, 7:30pm, Arlene Schnitzer Hall Garth Fagan Dance
Thursday February 23, 7:00pm, Newmark Theatre Dee Dee Bridgewater
Friday February 24, 7:00pm, Newmark Theatre Roy Haynes Quartet
Friday February 24, 9:30pm, Crystal Ballroom Bill Frisell -Tribute to John Lennon
Saturday February 25, 3:00pm, Crystal Ballroom Vijay Iyer, Prasanna, Nitin Mitta
Saturday February 25, 7:00pm, Newmark Theatre Bill Frisell solo & the 858 Quartet
Saturday February 25, 9:30pm, Crystal Ballroom Charlie Hunter
Sunday February 26, 3:00, Newmark Theater Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo Duo
KMHD is the official media sponsor of the Portland Jazz Festival