History of PDX Jazz & Portland Jazz Festival

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PDX Jazz is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing world class jazz to the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the year and with the annual PDX Jazz Festival in February our mission is to inspire, educate and develop future jazz audiences for generations to come.

Your generous contributions and sponsorship helps PDX Jazz as it strives to curate events throughout the year, and in bringing you the critically acclaimed Portland Jazz Festival in February.

In 2011 PDX Jazz @ The Mission became a monthly series focused on exclusive tribute programs by Portland artists including Ramsey Embick: A Tribute to Joe Zawinul, The Bridge Quartet: Crossing Into The Monkasphere, Dan Balmer: “Far Wes” A Tribute to Wes Montgomery, George Colligan: “Hands On”: A Tribute to Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, and two John Coltrane tributes by Devon Phillips.

The monthly series has also featured acclaimed nationally and internationally recognized artists such as Tin Hat, In The Country, Cuong Vu, Nik Bartsch Ronin, Miquel Zenon, Cyrille Aimee, Amina Figarova, among others.

After the conclusion of the 2012 festival, PDX Jazz began a partnership with Portland’s most prestigious jazz club, Jimmy Mak’s. PDX Jazz @ Jimmy Mak’s presents emerging and established national artists through routing opportunities while artists are touring the west coast.  PDX Jazz has presented Thelonious Monk Competition Winner bassist Ben Williams, singer Tierney Sutton, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Matthew Shipp, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, harmonica player Grégoire Maret, and the famed Clayton Brothers.

Every February, The Portland Jazz Festival kicks off its celebration of jazz, Black History Month, and the City of Portland, Oregon. We celebrate Black History Month with a series of jazz education and outreach programs that extend into Portland’s schools and community centers. Throughout the Festival schedule, there are dozens of ways to experience jazz, through performances, both paid and free, lectures, films, exhibitions and jam sessions.


2004 | In its first year, Portland Jazz Festival was awarded the Portland Oregon Visitors Association’s President’s Award in acknowledgment of its innovation in cultural tourism.

2005 | Presented the North American premiere of Andy Narell & Calypsociation, a Paris based 16-piece steel drum orchestra on February 19 which was recorded by National Public Radio (NPR) and was broadcasted to over 100 affiliates throughout North America, April 2005. Native American musician Jim Pepper best known for his composition Witchi-Tai-To, was honored on a program supported by the efforts of Jack Berry, the program’s MC. The show also coincided with an announced partnership with Portland State University, which was in part due to the 2005 senate resolution honoring the life and achievements of the acclaimed altoist.

2006 | Coordinated NOLA 2 PDX in partnership with Azumano Travel and Mercy Corps. After Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, NOLA2PDX provided travel, housing, donated instruments and work opportunities to musicians from New Orleans.

2007 | Produced Crystal Silence: The History of ECM Records, a series of lectures, panel discussions, Jazz Conversations, and performances featuring Chick Corea & Gary Burton, Charles Lloyd, and the North American premier of the Trygve Seim ensemble.

2008 | Portland Jazz Festival this year started with Ornette Coleman and ended with Cecil Taylor presenting movements in avant garde with the theme of  The Shape of Jazz to Come.  Artistic Director Bill Royston nominated as Jazz Producer of the Year by Jazz Journalists Association.

2009 | Portland Jazz Festival presented the north American celebration of the Somethin’ Else: Blue Note Records at 70.  Blue Note Records—one of the world’s most legendary labels celebrated the 70th anniversary of the label’s founding by Alfred Lion, as well as the 25th anniversary of the its re-launch in 1984 under then President Bruce Lundvall. The Festival featured performances from Blue Note’s past and present roster, as well as panel discussions about the label’s legacy with Bruce Lundvall, Michael Cuscuna, and various jazz artists, writers and historians. Bill Royston is again nominated as Jazz Producer of the Year by Jazz Journalists Association.

2010 | The Festival focused on new Norwegian and Scandanavian music, and called itself  Is Jazz dead, or has it moved to a new address? It showcased U.S. premieres by Trygve Seim and Frode Haltli, Christian Wallumrod, and In The Country.

2011 | This year Bridges and Boundaries introduced a modern twist on a historical collaboration between African American and Jewish musicians.  The first integrated jazz band evolved when Benny Goodman, a Jew, hired guitarist Charlie Christian. Later, when Charlie Parker formed his classic jazz quintet, he invited Jewish trumpeter Red Rodney to join his band. This year’s festival featured Dave Frishberg, The Three Cohen’s, Randy Weston, Regina Carter,  and Joshua Redman, just to name a few; plus Portland Jazz Festival’s new Artistic & Community Ambassador Esperanza Spalding.

2012 | For Portland Only, the Festival kicked off with Esperanza Spalding emotionally introducing her former teacher, this year’s Portland Jazz Master, Thara Memory, in a sold out program titled “Artfully Miles,” which boasted over two dozen student and professional musicians, and two spoken word griots. This festival put a strong focus on local artists interacting with headliners Branford Marsalis/Joey Calderazzo, Roy Haynes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Bill Frisell, Charlie Hunter, Vijay Iyer with Prasanna and Nitin Mitt, Enrico Rava, The Jazz Passengers, and Garth Fagan Dance through various concerts,  guest appearances and outreach/educational programs. Various performances were curated and performed only for Portland audiences.