Last night was a very enriching, important evening for PDX Jazz and for those in the audience of over 200 at the Alberta Abbey. The music performance – “The Spirit of Coltrane – From Birmingham to PDX” was a spectacular, emotional appreciation of John Coltrane by four of Portland’s finest musicians – Darrell Grant, Devin Phillips, Alan Jones and Jonathan Lakey. It was a powerful and brilliant ensemble…Portland is so lucky to have such amazing musicians in our midst who are willing and able to take on such challenging (and risky) artistic repertoire, and to succeed at a high level. Thanks to the members of the quartet for their devotion to making the evening so memorable and rewarding.
I was also extremely proud of our organization for our role in presenting a panel discussion prior to the music. Titled “Birmingham to PDX,” the panel was moderated by former Oregonian critic Marty Hughley (whose work is so badly missed), and included Grant – who in addition to being a great pianist is also Professor of Jazz Studies at PSU – as well as Reed College Department of English Chair Pancho Savery, poet and journalist Renee Mitchell Clark, and musician and educator Carlton Jackson. Their discussion centered on the relationship of jazz music to politics and its musicians’ role and responsibility (both current and historic) in reacting artistically and intellectually to challenging socio-political and economic issues, with Coltrane’s response to the 1963 Birmingham church bombing as the primary example. This was an extremely high-level discussion that had the audience’s attention and provoked many post-panel conversations. Our community deserves this kind of intellectual experience, and given jazz music’s complexity and its prominent place in the events of American civilization during the 20th century, there is much more to discuss. PDX Jazz is determined to present more of these conversations in the future. Stay tuned!
(above) “From Birmingham to PDX” discussion panel featuring Carlton Jackson, Darrell Grant, Renee Mitchell Clark, Pancho Savery, and Marty Hughley.