Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good Portland Jazz Festival Shows, Bad Festival Vibes, Marching All Over Town, Cycling Thru the Snow,

While wearing my Zulu 100th Anniversary Mardi Gras beads, a kind gift from Jonathan and Tanya Scott who run the Orleans Candle Company and who threw a great Mardi Gras party last Saturday…they cooked for days…and gave away the food!

Ran into Lisa Lepine and Tom Hale and the incomparable Spud Berry (who was on a hunt for a turntable). There's almost nobody I'd rather get an email from than Spud.

Here's me and Tanya:


I'm making the mistake of trying to write this on Mardi Gras Day. I'll seeya tomorrow.

Now it's tomorrow. Time flies when you're wearing Mardi Gras beads. No, I didn't have to show anybody anything to get them.

In my head, I'm here:

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Well, almost. Before I get to the wonderful music I heard last week, I have to say that since Bill Royston and Co. apparently hate my guts or just discount me completely as a jazz writer, TV producer/reporter and DJ I have to pay to get in to any events, unless I go through the musicians themselves. The festival has refused to send me media releases even when I've asked to receive them…even when I was at Oregon Art Beat. I never understood why they ignored Art Beat.

Despite my obvious visibility in the scene and my many friendships with musicians and club owners and promoters…and even after having interviewed Royston for PDX Magazine a couple of years ago…they seem to think I don't exist…or they hate my guts. Either way, I don't react well to disrespect. I'm Italian, remember?

Having said that, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I hit three thrilling shows.

1. The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble

The Old Church was the scene of yet another example of the current coming-of-age of the generation of Portland jazz musicians formerly referrred to as "young." I tried to put a stop to that last week in my A&E piece on the new Ben Darwish album (which does not appear on the paper's website, for some reason).

The point is that people like Ben (who is not in PJCE) and co-leaders Andrew Oliver and Gus Slayton need not be called "young" anymore. Not because they're old (mostly under 30) but because they have crossed the line into the arena where they can be judged with everyone else.

The evening was filled with original compositions by this tight-knit community of like-minded players. Not all the pieces were written by folks playing in the ensemble. The group onstage comprised:

On trumpet: Mike Hankins, Paul Mazzio (who killed) and Tree Palmedo
Andy MC'd, conducted and played piano
On reeds: Gus Slayton, Mary Sue Tobin, Willie Matheis and Mieke Bruggerman
Trombones: John Moak,Lars Campbell & Doug Peebles, bass trombone
Kyle williams guitar
Bill Athens, bass
Kevin Van Geem, drums
Galen Clark organ

They played:
The Arctic Messenger by Dan Duval
The Sandwich Maker by Eric Allen
Et Tu, Tutu? by Andrew Durkin who also conducted.
Right land Turns Right Ahead by Oliver
A Crack In the Wall by Ken Ollis
Contanece by Chris Mosely and arranged by Oliver
Lodgepole Pine (It'll Be Alright) by Kyle Williams
Crane by Reed Wallsmith
Someday Mt Heart Will Find a Home by Sam Howard

This was a very important gig in the musical life of this town. Perhaps more important than all the Blue Note gigs you could ever imagine. You should google every single name above…and go out and hear them!

Here's something funny that one of the band members found online on someone's blog after the Kora Band show. It's not a bad thing to google yourself.

During intercession XX and I had the requisite “girl talk” - we decided that we wanted to have a son like the keyboardist (the grinning curly-haired cute boy is like an adorable puppy - he stirs up all your maternal instinct), marry the bassist (he looks like “good husband material” - despite his Spock haircut - plus I am a sucker for dimples), have a dramatic, intensely romantic, but ultimately failed, love affair (before the marriage of course) with the kora player (he looks like the tragically artistic type, even though he reminds me of Joe in Lipstick Jungle), have the drummer as your best guy friend, and… we don’t know what to do with the trumpet player. Not that we would ever even go up the stage to talk to any of them, but it was harmless fun to let loose for once and “objectify” guys.

2. Master Musicians of Jajouka, Everyone Orchestra, Skerik with Marco Benevento at Roseland.

Intoxicating in every sense of the word. You mean you didn't see the people swimming in the air on Burnside after the show? Was I dreaming? Was I swimming? If music is supposed to take you out of one reality and into another…..

Here are the MMJ:

3. Ben Darwish Trio and the Andrew Oliver Kora Band at Jimmy Mak's.

This wasn't really a Portland Jazz Festival event. Apparently Jimmy doesn't need to be in Royston's big tent. If you noticed only one JM's event was listed in the PJF lineup. Word has it that Jimmy is still waiting for Royston to throw him a national act during the festival. Otherwise, Jimmy doesn't need it. He had his best January ever ever EVER. And I don't just mean in the new club, I mean ever. And in this economy.

Take THAT all you journalists who turn your nose up at jazz. Also, KMHD has had an increaese of TEN THOUSAND LISTENERS over the past year.

One reason for all this is the explosion of great new bands like Ben's and all of Andrew's. I'll be writing about his Kora band in the paper, and also later on here as we get closer to their album relesase. I can't wait to hear them at the new Mississippi Studios when that happens.


I got an email from a prominent Portland musician who wanted to remain anonymous. The person had serious complaints about Bill Royston. Another musician also emailed me in a similar vein. Everywhere I go I hear the same thing. I am not repriting any of them because I have not given the subject enough investigative time. Investigavitve reporters get paid. I do not get paid for this. If somebody wants to pay me to investigate the finances of Royston or the festival, please come forward.

I won't be repeating unproven alligations here, no matter how much I feel they're right-on in my gut.

I know I teased more last time but the subject is too important for a cursory look. Sorry to disappoint you but even I have standards.

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First of all, Malcolm Rollick is female. See?


Second of all she's getting ready to tour. Not unusual until you find out she's going out for eight months alone on a bicycle. Her kickoff gig is on Sunday, March 1 at the Alberta St. Public House.

She says, She's not an athlete, just a kid who knows how to take her time. She'll be on the road for eight months, seeing the sights and sharing her own uncommon breed of indie-folk with whoever crosses her path. Come see her off, catch some tunes, and get inspired.

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Both of Portland's famed marching bands, March Fourth and the Lions of Batucada have wonderful upcoming gigs. It's March Fourth's 6th birthday and they've gone back to the Bossanova Ballroom for a series of five shows in four days beginning on Sunday, March 1 and ending on Wednesday, March 4 with a show which includes The Loyd Family Players from Oakland, Portland's Russian Chervona and DJ Global Ruckus.
Find out more about it here.

The Lions are having their Carnaval show on Saturday, February 28 at the Crystal Ballroom. They'll be in full costume and will alternate sets with Grupo Saveiro from Brazil via NYC.

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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.

Email me at


  1. "I won't be repeating unproven alligations [sic] here, no matter how much I feel they're right-on in my gut."

    Come on, Tom. You just MADE unproven allegations here – you're implying that there's something fishy with Bill Royston's and/or the Festival's finances. I'm not a Royston supporter and I have approximately zero interest in the Festival, but what you're doing here is irresponsible – you're raising questions about someone's character without having to encumber yourself with pesky quotes and documentation. Meanwhile you complain that you're not taken seriously enough as a journalist to receive press passes to local events.


    There are two issues here. One is that Royston has not seen fit to recognize me as a music journalist. Those who have been in Portland long enough, know that I was the ONLY TV journalist making stories about jazz musicians during the 5 years I was at Oregon Art Beat and that from the time I got here in 1997, I have been writing in print about being a DJ on the only jazz station in town.

    The fact that he also ignored Art Beat in the early days of the festival has nothing to do with me, it has to do more with how they did their job in reaching out to media. Art Beat was the only TV show in Oregon doing jazz stories...and in depth ones at that. Many were over 10 minutes long.

    The second and very separate issue is how the festival is perceived in the community of musicians here. Many times, musicians have sought me out with complaints about Royston, but prefer to remain anonymous because they're afraid they'll be blackballed. As one wrote to me after I received his unsolicited email bitterly complaining about Royston, and wanted to put it in this blog, "I have to work in this town." He wasn't alone in his complaints or his desire for anonymity.

    This isn't the first time I've written about Royston. I will state, as I have stated several times in the past in this blog when it was in, He has a superb knowledge of jazz and should be praised for boldly and successfully bringing to Portland great artists that would have otherwise never come here.

    Perhaps if "Anonymous" had more interest in the festival, he'd understand the sense of dissatisfaction the musicians have expressed to me.

    I have not alleged anything illegal, let there be no mistake about that. Some of this goes back to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, which pretty much went out of business under Royston's leadership.

    So as far as being taken seriously as a music journalist, I'll let my body of work take care of that. As far as the real story of the PJF, that remains a story that will be told at some point in the future.

    I will continue to support the musicians, in and out of the festival. When the festival comes around next year, I'll be plugging my picks to see as I always do. It's the musicians who are most important, not promoters, or publicists or agents.

    And I know I have their respect.


Talk to me.