Bill’s Guide to the Portland Jazz Festival, Part One
Patrons as well as people who are not into jazz have asked me what I would go to see if were coming to the Portland Jazz Festival. Imagining that I could take a busman’s holiday for ten days in February, here’s what I think I’d do:
- February 13: After a good breakfast at Mother’s at SW 2nd and Stark, I’d walk up to the PDX Jazz Pavilion at Pioneer Courthouse Square for the Portland State University Jazz Band (12:00 PM) as the official festival opening performance. From there, move 3 blocks up Broadway to the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA) for the Terence Blanchard Jazz Conversation in The Art Bar under the main lobby rotunda (12:30 PM). At this point I’m going to be in the PCPA for most of the day. I go up the staircase to Brunish Hall for an exciting afternoon for any jazz fan. Blue Note President Bruce Lundvall and Blue Note Producer Michael Cuscuna will participate in a Jazz Conversation (2:00 PM) followed by a panel discussion moderated by author Ashley Kahn and featuring Bruce Lundvall reminiscing with two of his favorite artists, Dianne Reeves and Joe Lovano, as well as Michael Cuscuna (3:00 PM). From there it’s back down stairs to the Art Bar, which will be pouring Jazz Guy Ale! There will be two Jazz Conversations with Joe Lovano (5:00 PM) and Dianne Reeves (6:00 PM), but at some point I’ll miss something and step out for a quick dinner. I’ll want to be at the Schnitzer for Gonzalo Rubalcaba (7:30 PM) followed by Terence Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) with full orchestra. For this one, I’d get the best seats available and plan to sit in them all night. When the concert is over, there are numerous choices. I really want to see Scenes with John Stowell, Jeff Johnson and John Bishop at Rogue Public House (9:00 PM), and it’s another opportunity for a Jazz Guy Ale. I’d also like to check out the Anomalous Quintet at West Café (9:00 PM), but it’s easier to return to the Art Bar and see New Orleans-now-Portland premiere tenor sax player Devin Phillips (9:00 PM). It will be past a 12-hour first day when I make my way up Broadway past the PSU campus to SW Jackson and The Cave under the Green Onion for the first of four late night jam sessions (11:59 PM). After last call and the final note, it’s time to crash in anticipation of another long day Saturday.
- February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day! Try for a Valentine’s breakfast at The Bijou, and then off for the second day of Blue Note Jazz Conversations with Michael Cuscuna and Ashley Kahn at Brunish Hall (12:00 PM). Make time to go down to the PDX Jazz Pavilion and see a few minutes of an exciting student trumpet player, Tree Palmedo (1:30 PM), and then loop around to the Portland Art Museum to see Joe Lovano’s new 2-drum quintet Us5 preceded by the always exciting Jacky Terrasson (2:00 PM). I may sneak out before the end of Joe’s set in order to see the Blue Note conversation between Ashley Kahn and Cem Kurosman at the Art Bar (4:00 PM) followed conversations with John Scofield (5:00 PM) and Don Byron (6:00 PM). At some point I’ll sneak out for dinner, and since it’s Valentine’s Day, I’ll remember to make reservations at either the Heathman or Higgins which are both close to the PCPA. At dinner, there are difficult choices to make. I really want to enjoy Dianne Reeves with the Oregon Symphony (7:30), but that would mean missing at least the first part of John Scofield (9:30). I may slide down to the RiverPlace Hotel to see young Kate Davis or over to The Nines for Michelle Medler (both at 8:00 PM), and then be back at the Art Museum for the beginning of Scofield’s trio. After Sco, I’ll bounce back to the PCPA for the second set of the trio of John Gross, Dave Frishberg, and Charlie Doggett (9:00 PM). I’m again aware of what I’m missing like Eddie Parente at Rogue, John & Yuko Keyser at Dragon Fish, Jed Wilson at the Benson Hotel, and Robert Moore at the Tugboat, but I also hope to catch a few minutes of Bryant Allard’s quartet at The Cave before the second of the late night jam sessions (11:59 PM). I have a feeling that this will be a late night!
- February 15: Hopefully I’ll get to sleep in, and all I’ll need is coffee before being back at Brunish Hall for the final installment of Somethin’ Else: Blue Note Records @ 70 with a panel discussion involving Blue Note Cover Art with Michael Cuscuna, Ashley Kahn, Los Angeles jazz critic Josef Woodard, and several prominent graphic designers. If Blanchard’s Requiem for Katrina and Dianne Reeves with the Oregon Symphony were the major events of the first two days, most certainly the McCoy Tyner/Joe Lovano quartet is Sunday’s highlight, especially with Don Byron’s really special Ivey-Divey Trio (2:00 PM). There’ll be time for a quick dinner across the street at the Hilton’s Bistro, and then upstairs to the Hilton Pavilion Ballroom for vocalist Judi Silvano followed by the West African guitar wizard Lionel Loueke (6:30 PM). I’m then going to try and get up to the Crystal Ballroom for the Greyboy All-Stars (9:30 PM). Then again, I may not!
- February 16: Happy President’s Day! It’s also Monday, yet there are two exceptional events to choose from Monday evening. I’m really curious about Brain Chemistry for Lovers with Valerie Day, Darrell Grant, and the OHSU Brain Awareness Center at the Newmark Theater (7:30 PM), but I think I’ll go to check out Lebanese avant-garde saxophonist Christine Sehnaoui presented by Creative Music Guild (8:00 PM). In either case, I’ll plan on finishing off Monday night at the White Eagle where young guitarist Chance Hayden holds court (8:30 PM) where they’ll also have Rogue Jazz Guy Ale like all other PDX Jazz venues.
- February 17: I always try to get to at least one of the performances of The Incredible Journey of Jazz. This year I’m planning to attend the afternoon performance at SEI in N Portland. I’d love to sneak into Sherman Clay Pianos to watch some of Nancy King and Mary Kadderly’s Jazz Singing Workshop. The real highlight for Tuesday, however, is Andrew Oliver’s very exciting Portland Jazz Composer’s Ensemble at Old Church (7:30 PM).
Editor’s Note: Bill Royston is the Portland Jazz Festival‘s Artistic Director, and writes about the festival at Bill’s Beat. Stay tuned for Part Two of Bill’s Guide to the Portland Jazz Festival. The complete festival schedule can be found here.
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