Joe Maita

February 18, 2016

Fortunate for Sonny Fortune

“Last night at Jimmy Mak’s I was fortunate to witness the great Sonny Fortune play with his quartet.  He was an absolute favorite of mine during the 1970’s and this was my first experience ever seeing him play live.  He didn’t disappoint — in fact he amazed!  His 10 minute version of “Caravan” will be a highlight of the Festival.  It was also wonderful to see our new Board member Pancho Savery introduce the band in his own unique style.  During his introduction he let anyone concerned about being deported by “The Donald” that they could avoid such a fate by becoming a “Citizen of Jazzlandia!”  He then proceeded to recite a short poem from Toni Morrison’s novel “Jazz” in honor of her 83rd birthday.  Charles Lloyd tonight!”
December 29, 2015

Remembering David Lifton

It is with a very heavy heart that I write of the sudden passing of one of our most cherished volunteers, David Lifton. I didn’t know David nearly well enough, and only long enough to know he was enjoying his new-found retirement after a long career as a teacher in Portland Public Schools, and that for 30 years he hosted “Jazz in the Afternoon” on alternate Wednesdays on KBOO and also serving for a time as program director. David came to us recently when he heard about our “Jazz in the Schools” program, volunteering to help me teach children our jazz history program.  He eagerly participated in the classrooms of Astor Middle School and Rosa Parks Elementary, demonstrating great intelligence about the subject matter and kindness with the children. Just two weeks ago we visited Astor and talked with the students about their work, and looked forward to teaching together […]
December 10, 2015

A note from the Board President on “The Spirit of Coltrane”

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 […]
November 25, 2015

A Thanksgiving Message from the Board President

On behalf of everyone at PDX Jazz, I would like to wish our readers a Happy Thanksgiving. We are grateful to our wonderful staff and volunteers, and to our members, sponsors, musicians, venues, and ticket buyers who support our efforts to bring jazz music to Portland. Hope to see you around town soon! Check out Charlie Parker playing “Carvin’ the Bird” (c. 1946). – Joe Maita, PDX Jazz Board President  
November 24, 2015

Jazz in the Schools

Since September, we have been privileged to present our Jazz in the Schools program to several Portland Public Schools, among them Da Vinci, Sellwood and Astor Middle Schools, and Rosa Parks Elementary. In December we will work with students at Beaumont Middle School, and in January the Lincoln photography students will take part. During our presentation, the students learn about artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, they listen to music, and watch a video or two. In the process, they learn how jazz as a popular music impacted American civilization at the height of the 20th century while discovering its connection to art and culture, culminating in inspiration for creating their own original art while listening to the music. To help them get started, we shared with them several examples of art created for jazz record album covers — everything from photography to fine art to graphic […]
September 30, 2015

A Moment in Time — Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, 1947

In November, 1946, at the height of his popularity, Dizzy Gillespie took his big band out on the road, and in 1947 hired Ella Fitzgerald to tour the South. According to Ella’s biographer Stuart Nicholson, she had been added to this tour in response to Gillespie’s Hepsations tour in 1945, whose groundbreaking sound “had confused and confounded the southerners,” and because Ella could “create balance after the unrelieved diet of bop…The Gillespie band saw Ella as a former swing era star, light-years removed from what they were doing, a palliative to help their music go down with the public.” Even with Ella, however, things could be challenging. The audience would “listen, stand around and applaud,” band member Howard Johnson said,” and try and pretend they dug it. I think they appreciated the artistry of Dizzy because marvelous technique was involved. But the music wasn’t really danceable.” Tenor saxophonist James Moody […]
August 17, 2015

PDX Jazz Volunteer & Trumpet Builder – Heather Sessler

If you have come to a PDX Jazz event recently, you have probably seen or met Heather Sessler. A dependable and welcome presence as a volunteer, she is, as our Marketing and Development Manager Keith Imper describes her, “capable of helping us anywhere we ask.” Her employer, Northeast Portland’s world renowned trumpet manufacturer Monette Trumpets, must feel the same way, because in a short period of time, Heather has become an employee whose duties are essential to the company’s success. Founded by David Monette thirty-two years ago, Monette assembles the world’s finest trumpets and mouthpieces. While Wynton Marsalis is their most famous client (shop foreman Dean Willoughby estimates they have made at least 20 trumpets for him), their clientele also includes jazz artists Terence Blanchard, Ron Miles, and countless trumpeters performing in some of the world’s finest classical ensembles. A trombonist who at one time played trumpet in pit orchestras […]