Monday, January 26, 2009

No Mo Jazz at the Benson, Bob Hope Turns In His Grave, Andre Williams Preaches to Sam Adams

While listening to a Don Cherry/Krysztof Penderecki album called Actions and wondering when David Ornette Cherry is coming back from his long tour and will perform at Goodfoot again….

As the mood was lifting for all of us last week, as we watched President Barack Obama take office and Bush go away, the hard facts of making a living playing music, writing or doing anything creative kept smacking us in the face.

In a Facebook exchange, bassist Dennis Caizza, one of the most comfortable and friendly guys you'd ever want to sit and talk with, and a fine bass player, put this up:

Unfortunately for us all, the Benson Hotel, after 40 years of live jazz, has cut all musicians from their budget. They gave us one day notice which means the last day is (was) this Saturday, January 24th.

It's been my fortune and honor to work with the great musicians who were in-house on Friday nights, Neil Masson, Lee Wuthernow and Jed Wilson; also Tuesdays once a month with Bill Beach.

Actually the Benson by contract was supposed to give us a month's notice before dismissal, but I guess decided to not bother. Funny, they would of made some dough for the jazz festival and if they let all know it was their last chance to boogie…

Blues player Russ Finley commented,

In just the last couple months Halibuts, Tupelo Joes, Steamers, The CI have all either ceased having music or closed altogether. Probably not all due to the smoking ban necessarily but a real eye opener for us musicians and music listeners. Aaaaaaaaaaaaccckkkkkk. There may be more I'm forgetting or don't know about as well!

I'm about to cut a CD (and get a new demo off of it) so I can start trying to get gigs again and I'm seriously wondering why I am bothering? It's kinda grim.

Greg Johnson, President of the Cascade Blues Association and maybe the most knowledgeable guy in town on the blues scene, also commented:

Halibuts only went on a hiatus with music because of the economy. Dave has booked a handful of acts for February and has intentions of more in the future. The CI, Steamers and Tupelo Joe's never took the time to report their acts to the BluesNotes. The only time they did have a listing was if the act themselves reported it. Plus Tupelo Joe's owner was not the easiest person to work with and left a bad taste with many

The situation regarding venues closing is not just specific to Portland, it is happening everywhere. Portland still offers a lot more blues than you'll find in most cities. Places close, others open. It's an on-going cycle. Lefty's in Salem will become Roxxy and will offer blues, though not exclusively. The Coyote Bar & Grill in Hillsboro is having blues acts on occasion and a handful of smaller places as well. They're out there, they just need to be discovered.

And a few days before that, a friend of mine (well, I consider him my friend) wrote me about the upcoming pay-in day saying:

I don't want to get into how lame it is that Portland has just now realizing that Music Millennium is on its way out, that NW 24th store was an ice age ago. One day ain't gonna do it. Tell your readers to go to Obama's web site, etc, and appeal for some bail out money. MM is a cultural icon and Terry does more for the music community here than anybody I see out there. Or why don't you start a web site to raise money to keep it in business. Obama showed us all what $5 donations can do. Just an outsider lookin in.

The economy is making artists of us all…when we find out (or rediscover) what it's like to do what we do for its own sake. Having said that, it is very discouraging, but somewhat less discouraging than it was before last Tuesday.

Speaking of which, how about one last musical farewell to the chimp?

Tanks In My Memory

This could be something special. Thursday night at The Goodfoot a new "improv quartet" Go Anywhere will be hitting the ground running for a fun, funky, and virtuoso night of flamboyant show-off-ery. The extra-ultra-mega Damien Erskine will be on bass, Asher Fulero on keys, Chris Mosely on guitar and Russ Kleiner on drums. EO-staple painter Lang Schwartzwald and his friend Aubrey Jangraw will be collaborating on live improvised art during the show.

Also, you will be sorry if you miss Wayne Horvitz' Sweeter Than the Day band at The Goodfoot on Saturday, January 31.

Here's a note from the road from guitarist Dan Balmer to me:

Wanted to let you know; on my world tour with Diane Schuur (13 countries, so I hope that counts), I've finally written a lot of new music which I've been rehearsing and will present tonight at Jimmy Maks, and hope to be working it into my gigs on future Mondays.

I attended the noon rally in support of Sam Adams last Friday. I wasn't asked to speak (sniff), but if I had I would have said that until or unless it is proven that Sam messed around with Mr. Breedlove before 12am on his 18th birthday, it is not a crime to think with your dick. Nor is it a crime to lie during a campaign. Should every politician who has ever lied during a campaign be held to the same standard that some are putting on Sam, there would be 95% unemployment in elective offices in the United States. Come back to work, Sam!

The most telling argument was posited by Thomas Lauderdale who read an editorial from the Oregonian concerning Bill Clinton. It pointed out that despite all of Clinton's transgressions, he should not resign. End of argument…..except to suggest to those who may be similarly infatuated that they should watch this video of Andre Williams singing his immortal song, Jail Bait….with a truncated ending...he has recorded a much longer and shocking end to that song but this'll do.

DO NOT MISS the Andre Williams documentary Agile, Mobile and Hostile: A Year with Andre Williams on Saturday night at the Northwest Filom Center's Reel Music Festival.

Please pass this blog around!!
…..and leave a COMMENT!!

Listen to my KMHD show on Saturday nights 10pm-2am. Jazz till 12 and then The Bar opens at Midnight!

You can hear my political talk show, "D'Antoni & Levine" with DC-based reporter Art Levine live on Thursdays at 2:30pm PT and then archived thereafter. Listen here.


  1. Tom, There is some positive to report on Portland venues. For example The Gotham Tavern is hosting some of Portland's finest music talent 3 nights a week. The venue changed booking managers last summer and transformed the venue from a hobbyist stage to one that is now home to many familar Portland performers.

    The regular roster includes Terry Robb, Joe McMurrian, Bohemian Folk Jazz singer Jill Trenholm,(who opened for Michael McDonald last summer) Kolvane & Kerin, Adam & Kris, Nashville singer/songwriter Melody Guy, originally from Portland who plays there when she comes back home to visit and many more. The list is impressive and there is no cover charge and reasonable drink and food prices. The Gotham is only 2 blocks from the White Eagle.

    All the usual music media list their shows. If you have not checked them out in a while they are worth looking at.

    The owners are local and supportive of local music, especially original music. They are also open to many different genres.

    There are a number of venues not far from Portland that are established and managing well during these times. You just have to look around.

    Robert Richter

  2. Hear, hear. Way to keep an ear to the ground, my man.

  3. Hi Tom,
    I like your blog - good layout and interesting info. Although it's kind of depressing to see the affects of the economy on the arts. Guess it's touching everyone. susan

  4. One of the strange perks of volunteering at the PDXjazz office is the opportunity to overhear B and crew making self congratulatory comments about themselves and then snide comments dishing various performers, press etc. Certainly could do better booking some of the local talent.


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