Portland Jazz Festival Preview

Originally published in Earshot Jazz February 2014

The 2014 Portland Jazz Festival offers a bonanza of 50 shows at 15 venues over 11 days. This much music can overwhelm most fans so here are 5 different paths through the programming that focus on specific themes. Tickets and more information are available at portlandjazzfestival.org.



Solo Piano

If you prefer solo artists performing on a top flight piano in an intimate setting, check this schedule out. I confess that this is my favorite slice of the festival. Award winning Juilliard graduate Aaron Diehl will likely perform some of his ragtime interpretations. Toshiko Akiyoshi plans to honor the 40th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s passing with “Sophisticated Lady.” Dan Tepfer will play Bach’s Goldberg Variations with each movement followed by a related improvisation. Janice Scroggins will draw on her wide ranging repertoire to match her spontaneous mood. Geoffrey Keezer will share some tracks from his latest solo recording Heart of the Piano.

Artist
Date, Time
Venue
Aaron Diehl
02/22 3:00 pm
Classic Pianos
Toshiko Akiyoshi
02/23 5:00 pm
Classic Pianos
Dan Tepfer: Goldberg Variations/Variations
02/26 7:00 pm
Classic Pianos
Janice Scroggins
03/01 3:00 pm
Classic Pianos
Geoffrey Keezer
03/02 3:00 pm
Classic Pianos

Big Stars

If you like to hear internationally touring artists in formal auditoriums, try this on for size. This program includes piano perfectionists from around the world – Brazilian Eliane Elias, American Ahmad Jamal (a.k.a. Fritz Russell Jones), Chinese Toshiko Akiyoshi and Norwegian Tord Gustavsen. Add bristling ensembles with drummer Brian Blade, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Bobby Watson and guitarist Pat Metheny and there is absolutely no low point on this schedule. As of the deadline for this article, the festival was also adding public conversations with festival artists for audiences to learn more.

Artist
Date, Time
Venue
Eliane Elias
02/20 7:00 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band
02/20 9:30 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Ahmad Jamal
02/21 7:00 pm
Newmark Theatre
Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio with Lew Tabackin
02/22 9:30 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Tord Gustavsen Quartet
02/25 7:30 pm
Mission Theater
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
02/28 7:30 pm
Arlene Schnitzer Hall
Bobby Watson & Horizon 30th Anniversary and James Carter Organ Trio
03/01 7:30 pm
Newmark Theatre
Pat Metheny Unity Group
03/02 7:30 pm
Newmark Theatre

Listen Locally

If you want your theater listening experience to include artists with a connection to the Pacific Northwest, try this set of performances. Darrell Grant is a chart topping pianist and Portland State University professor who will perform his new Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Commission. Seattle trombonist Julian Priester joins Mwandishi band mates Buster Williams and Bennie Maupin along with PSU Assistant Professor George Colligan. Portland’s Dave Frishberg will wend his songwriting wit with Bob Dorough. Home town hero Esperanza Spalding will mix her young Grammy winning talent with leading jazz statesmen. Glen Moore and Ralph Towner reunite the band Oregon from their college days, joined by Portland double reed expert Paul McCandless, who joined the band in 1970.  The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble harvests their grassroots effort to build and sustain local talent. Portland born Andrew Oliver joins Portland resident Mark DiFlorio along with Seattle’s Chad McCullough and Brady Millard-Kish in the Kora Band. We are fortunate to have such talented artists call the Northwest home.

Artist
Date, Time
Venue
Darrell Grant’s “The Territory” with Joe Locke
02/21 9:30 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Buster Williams “Something More” w/ opening performance by C├ęcile McLorin Salvant
02/22 7:00 pm
Newmark Theatre
Dave Frishberg & Bob Dorough: “Who’s On First”
02/23 3:00 pm
Winningstad Theatre
Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding & Leo Genovese
02/23 7:30 pm
Newmark Theatre
Oregon featuring Glen Moore, Ralph Towner, Paul McCandless and Mark Walker
02/24 7:30 pm
Evans Auditorium
Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Records Showcase Presented by Dan Duval
02/28 8:00 pm
Mission Theater
The Kora Band
03/01 9:30 pm
Mission Theater

On the Scene

If you prefer to hear music from big name artists in a club setting, follow this list. Pianos bookend this lineup, starting with Kenny Werner and closing with Helen Sung. The first time I heard Kenny Werner, he was performing with Portland saxophonist Jim Pepper. This time he brings his “effortless mastery” in trio format. Next, you won’t want to miss the Yellowjackets with their new bassist – Jaco Pastorius’ son Felix. Saxophonist Bob Mintzer takes up residence with the Yellowjackets, a student big band and then a night of performing his own work with educators. Newcomer saxophonist Grace Kelly follows and Houston pianist Helen Sung caps the festival shows.

Artist
Date, Time
Venue
Kenny Werner Trio
02/22 7:00 pm
Jimmy Mak's
Kenny Werner Trio
02/22 9:30 pm
Jimmy Mak's
Yellowjackets
02/24 7:00 pm
Jimmy Mak's
Yellowjackets
02/24 9:30 pm
Jimmy Mak's
The PDX Jazz All-Star Student Big Band conducted by Bob Mintzer
02/25 7:00 pm
Jimmy Mak's
The PDX Jazz Educators Septet with Bob Mintzer
02/25 9:30 pm
Jimmy Mak's
Grace Kelly Quartet
02/26 7:00 pm
Jimmy Mak's
Helen Sung Quartet
02/27 8:00 pm
Jimmy Mak's

Free Bird

If you don’t want to pay for a ticket and like to move around, here’s your itinerary. By the way, this is one of the coolest ways to show your love to the Portland scene. You can hear some of the city’s best talent and at the same time demonstrate to the local businesses that the community includes an audience for live music.

Artist
Date, Time
Venue
Dave Captein & Greg Goebel
02/21 4:00 pm
Hilton Executive Tower
Gordon Lee Duo
02/21 6:00 pm
Hotel Monaco
Reggie Houston’s Box of Chocolates
02/21 7:00 pm
Aloft Hotel
Ezra Weiss & Shirley Nanette
02/21 8:00 pm
Riverplace Hotel
John Stowell
02/22 5:00 pm
The Mark Spencer Hotel
PSU Student Trio with Jon Lakey
02/22 6:00 pm
Hotel Monaco
Dan Balmer Trio
02/22 7:00 pm
Aloft Hotel
Marilyn Keller with George Mitchell
02/22 8:00 pm
The Benson
Greg Goebel Trio
02/23 11:00 am
Hotel Modera
David Evans & Todd Strait
02/25 5:00 pm
Marriott Waterfront
John Gross & Cameron Morgan
02/27 5:00 pm
Marriott Waterfront
Soul Jazz with Jarrod Lawson, Chance Hayden & Reinhardt Melz
02/27 9:00 pm
Hotel Modera
Nicole Glover & Jonathan Lakey
02/28 4:00 pm
Hilton Executive Tower
Ryan Meagher
02/28 5:00 pm
The Mark Spencer Hotel
Larry Nobori & Larry Munson
02/28 8:00 pm
Riverplace Hotel
Naomi LaViolette & Tim Ellis
03/01 8:00 pm
The Benson

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