PDX Jazz

February 28, 2016

A Knife is to Cut – by Pancho Savery

In Book I of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes use of the function argument. He argues that humans, like other things, have a function, and that true happiness comes when one exercises one’s function. For Aristotle, humans’ function is to think rationally, just as a knife’s function is to cut. Brian Blade had his knife sharpened as he played at Revolution Hall with the Fellowship Band and cut the place up. The last time he was in town, last October, also at Revolution Hall, he was in the company of Wayne Shorter, and he played so fiercely that at one point one of his sticks went flying into the audience. Although he managed to keep control of them this time, he was no less sharp. Two things have always impressed me about Blade’s playing, his enormous energy and the joy with which he plays. He always has a smile on his face, and his joy infects both the […]
February 24, 2016

one, two, three, WE FOUR – by Deborah Demoss Smith

When it comes to listening to the epitome of authentic jazz, Sunday February 21st at the Winningstad Theatre proved to be a high note. WE FOUR – featuring saxophonist Javon Jackson, bassist Corcoran Holt, and jazz legends pianist George Cables and drummer Jimmy Cobb – delivered a “now, that’s jazz!” performance. The audience obviously concurred as I heard no sighs of boredom and saw no one leave early. Immediately after the concert, Javon headed to the Moda Center to play “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Trailblazers’ game. The solo national anthem scored another PDX JAZZ high. Standing beside me were three young men. I heard one resignedly say, “Oh, another saxophone.” At the tune’s conclusion, they stood there with mouths open and moist eyes. (Jazz rules!) Before we exited the building, Javon was stopped more than once from audience members thanking him for his ballad-rendition. Outside, a recent military […]
February 20, 2016

Fortner’s Keys – by Deborah Demoss Smith (Board Member)

Have y’all ever been to a concert having not heard the artist perform before and hoping you’d leave glad you’d come?  That was my experience on the opening night of the festival, Thursday, Feb. 18th at Classic Pianos. New Orleans-born 29-year-old pianist/composer Sullivan Fortner’s key strokes and music selection offered a more wiser and experienced jazz man than his age may suggest. The room was full and Solly put a spell, with solid jazz standards and cool originals, on the very receptive audience. Earlier in the day, he and I had an easy-going jazz conversation at the nearly-full 220-seat PSU Lincoln Recital Hall.  Hope to see him back in P-town soon.
February 20, 2016

The Zen Master – by Pancho Savery (board member)

It was like being in a Japanese garden. Charles Lloyd was a Zen master on the saxophone, and listening to him was sublime. What was even more amazing was watching Lloyd listening to his young musicians. He gave them a huge amount of space and they rose to the occasion. He walked around the stage pausing at each instrument, listening and encouraging them to “Play, Play!” And eventually he would go back to the front, pick up his horn, and like the original Zen master Lester Young played it sideways. There were times when an audience would normally have applauded, but they didn’t because they didn’t want to break the mood, so in the moment were the audience with the musicians. They ended with Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” and we were back in church. A lot of times when musicians are young they attempt to show how good they are […]
February 18, 2015

Four Questions with Somi

Get to know Portland Jazz Festival poster girl, Somi, before her performance tonight at the Newmark Theatre opening for Bebel Gilberto. 1. What jazz song would you play for someone unfamiliar with jazz? Why? Somi: Perhaps “My Favorite Things”. I grew up in love with the film ‘Sound of Music’. Years later, I heard Coltrane’s version of the song and it helped me understand how much jazz has always been a part of popular American culture and the freedom that the genre offers both the artist and the listener. Raindrops on roses! 2. Do you have any pre-show rituals? Somi: Meditation and a prayer. 3. Keep Portland Weird — what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen in Portland? Somi: It will be my first time in Portland, so let the weirdness begin! 4. When did you first fall in love with jazz? Somi: The first time I heard Ella Fitzgerald.  I was 17 and she was singing […]
February 11, 2015
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Five Questions with Frank Catalano

1. What jazz song would you play for someone unfamiliar with jazz? Why? Frank: Eddie Harris – Cold Duck Time. I actually had the opportunity to perform it with Eddie Harris at the Green Mill in Chicago 20 years ago. Not only do I have special personal memories associated with the song but it is impossible for any person with a pulse to not pat their foot and get into it. 2. Do you have any pre-show rituals? Frank: I don’t have any rituals like my OCD friends do, but with flying around a bunch, the key work on the saxophone can get out of wack so I like to make sure I have a chance to play thru my horn a bit before performing as well as play testing reeds. 3. Keep Portland Weird — what’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen in Portland? Frank: My wife is a small […]