THE 2009 PORTLAND JAZZ FESTIVAL.
You haven't forgotten that it almost didn't happen have you? Remember this scene?
A news conference at which Alaska Airlines was introduced as the sponsor that saved the festival. Not that Bill Royston would ever let you forget that (nor should he) but I thought you might have. So I reminded you. It was just a noodge.
I know this year's festival revolves around the 70th Anniversary of Blue Note Recods, and I'm all for it, even though I don't find myself pulling out a lot of vintage Blue Note and listening. I suppose it may have something to do with the didactic nature of the old-jazz-garde who refuse to move past 1964 in their taste, but I try to break through my prejudice against people who are stuck in the past.
So when it came to playing some Blue Note last Saturday night on the radio, I picked out a home-boy, trumpeter Lee Morgan of Baltimore, Maryland and as soon as the first ten seconds were over, I realized what a terminal fool I must be for discounting any of the vintage Blue Note works.
In case you've never heard Lee Morgan, here he is as a member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. That's Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt, too.
Having said that, what excites me about this year's festival happens outside the sphere of Blue Note. For my money the best musical experience of the whole Festival comes on Thursday, February 19 at what usually passes for the Roseland Theater but which that night will be turned in to what the promoters are calling
Morocco's Mater Musicians of Jajouka will perform. Multi-instrumentalist/composer/conductor Matt Butler's ad hoc infrequently-seen Everyone Orchestra will also. Opening will be everyone's favorite mysterious saxophone player Skerik who will bring a trio and add keyboardist Marco Benevento (see last week's blog).
The Everyone Orchestra's set will incorporate the Masters as well as Skerik's band. If you've never even heard of, let alone seen the EO, here's an interview I did with Matt on the radio last week:
Also playing with EO is Eric McFadden (EMT, George Clinton's P-Funk), vocalist Jans Ingber (Motet, Charlie Hunter, Norah Jones, Ivan Neville), and baritone saxophonist Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
Other Best Bets:
Don't get me wrong, there are some enormous talents coming to town. You should check out the website and you could close your eyes, and touch the screen (if your hand isn't dirty) and not go wrong. My KMHD cohort (and writing competitor) Lynn Darroch has a fine guide to the Festival on the home page.
But here are the more hidden gems.
Friday, February 20: Ben Darwish's CD release. His new album Ode to Consumerism is…is…is…is…..well you'll have to read all about what I have to say about it in the O's A&E section that day but here's a hint. I love it.
Opening for Ben is the amazing Andrew Oliver Kora Band. I'm not saying Andrew is amazing, I'm saying the band is. He is too but don't tell him I said so, I don't want him getting a big head. Ok he can, he has earned it. Anyway the Kora is a West African harp-like instrument of great beauty which AO has fallen in love with and has built a whole band around even though he doesn’t play the Kora in the band, somebody else does. They have recorded an album coming out in April which AO laid on me and I've been playing on the radio. I'll give you a taste in later weeks.
Both AO and Ben will be playing other festival related gigs around town during the run.
Friday, February 13 The Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Trombone Shorty plus Big Sam's Funky Nation at the Roseland. Just in time for Mardi Gras, you will not be able to find anything funkier than this show. Period. Big Sam used to be in the DD. Jimmy Mak's, even though I love the place, was the wrong place for them. Roseland is the right place at the right time.
Here's Big Sam and the band live in New Orleans at Voodoo Fest.
Saturday, February 14, Robert Moore and the Wildcats at the Tugboat Brewery. Even if it was just trumpeter/singer Robert Moore by himself, there would be a pack of wildcats on stage. He is one wild cat.
Sunday, February 15, Greyboy All-Stars with Bill Kreutzman (of the Dead) at the Crystal Ballroom. No, they can't out-funk the Dirty Dozen, but they're worth the ticket.
Tuesday, February 17, Portland Jazz Composers Orchestra at the Old Church. One of the signature events in the life of this emerging ensemble co-led by Andrew Oliver. (How many more mentions will he get in this?)
That is a very brief bunch of tips. I've left out a lot of others go here to find out all of the other local events.
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DAN GAYNOR A GONER
Pianist Dan Gaynor, last seen playing better than he ever has before, especially when he was backing up Nancy King has up and moved to New York!
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NIAYH AND ACOUSTIC MINDS TOURING TOGETHER
The boys on the bus and the Price twins, Amanda and Jenni aka Acoustic Minds are kicking off a tour with a show at the Fez on Wednesday, February 11. Marv Ellis is also on the gig. The bus boys took some time off after living on the bus for several months and rolling through the U.S. Here's what they wrote in January:
Right now we're writing to you from a secluded beach on the coast of Oregon where we're working on new material for our next set of shows. The Rhenburgs have been kind enough to let us use their beach cottage so we can finally rehearse - yet again the universe provides for us. The coast is cold and blustery but often completely clear without a cloud in the sky. We can look out the window of the rehearsal room to see the waves crashing not more than 50 feet away. Yesterday we attempted to conquer the sea on two inflatable rafts. Predictably, this experiment ended in numbness and smiles.
Fall tour 2008 really took a lot out of everyone, despite how great an adventure it was. We feel so lucky to have been able to see so many new places and, above all, to have met many of you! After nearly 3 1/2 months on the road we parked the Wally at Ty and Chelsea's in Portland and split up to take some much needed time off for the holidays.
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VALENTINE'S DAY MASSCRE OF LOVE
From the people who brought you the White Album Christmas show (Noah Mickens is one) there will be what they're calling, Cirque L'Amour Friday and Saturday nights, February 13 & 14. They say it will be A classic tale of love beneath the big top and a gourmet meal to share with your Valentine. Featuring Portland's finest acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, magicians, and more! …with a live musical score by the Stolen Sweets at The Bossanova Ballroom and Supper Club.
You don't need to know any more than that to buy a ticket.
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THE SPACED-OUT BALLAD OF JESSE JAMES
In case you never saw Keith Schreiner do this live (he still hasn't released a recording of it), here it is. When he does it as part of Jazztronica, it's even better, if you can believe it. Yes the video and audio suck, but it's an amazing experience to hear it performed live.
To give you some perspective, here's how it was done on Hee-Haw. Really.
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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.