PDX Jazz Blog

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 […]
November 23, 2015

Coltrane Supreme

The next PDX Jazz concert is happening in a couple of weeks, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone here in our organization that we are all very much looking forward to it. In case you haven’t heard about it, our next concert is entitled “The Spirit of Coltrane”, which is the finale for the PDX Jazz Fall 2015 season that takes place Wednesday, December 9. The date chosen for this event was quite deliberate as this was the date that Coltrane recorded his much-revered magnum opus, “A Love Supreme” back in 1964. The album is a single suite divided up into four segments – “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm.” The Love Supreme suite is known as being inspired by many spiritual texts that Coltrane had been interested in around this time period, including the Bhagavad Gita and Kabbalah. The result is a very stirring and emotionally profound […]
November 20, 2015

Fire Walk With Me: Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot

I must say, Portland has a wonderful library system in place here. While perusing the CD collection at the Belmont branch, I happened upon a copy of “Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot”. I put this on the deck at the PDX Jazz office a few afternoons ago while our board president Joe Maita was in the office, and he instantly recognized it as Eric Dolphy – a testament not just to Joe’s extensive knowledge of jazz players, but also a testament to what a unique and remarkable style that Dolphy had that makes his work easy to recognize. “Eric Dolphy at The Five Spot” is a tremendous live set featuring Dolphy on alto sax, Booker Little on trumpet, Mal Waldron on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. This LP is the first of two records issued of Eric Dolphy and company performing live at the […]
November 18, 2015

In Review: The Brad Mehldau Trio

Hope this week has been good for you so far. Please allow me to introduce myself – my name is Gary and I have been appointed the new Box Office Manager for PDX Jazz. As an avid supporter of the performing arts and a personal jazz fan, I am excited about this career opportunity and look forward to help put on many great jazz concerts and grow this organization for years to come. As many of you know, most recently we brought The Brad Mehldau Trio to Portland this past Saturday. The show took place at The Aladdin Theater – an old movie house turned concert venue with wonderful acoustics and a great staff. KOIN-TV news anchor and PDX Jazz board member Ken Boddie was the guest emcee for the evening and introduced the nearly sold out house to the band to kick off the night. Supported by standup bass […]
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 […]
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

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 […]