PDX Jazz, the presenting organization of the Portland Jazz Festival, began operations in 2003 in preparation of the inaugural 2004 Jazz Festival. The proposed annual event was awarded a three-year city government grant with co-founder and partner Travel Portland (formally POVA). The Festival’s mandate was established as a cultural tourism initiative to celebrate February’s Black History Month by highlighting a series of jazz education and outreach programs that would extend into Portland’s schools and community centers.
The Festival began to schedule dozens of ways to experience jazz through free and paid performances, lectures, films, exhibitions and jam sessions. From the organization’s beginning, education and outreach were established as a core mission in developing the next generation of jazz audiences. The Incredible Journey of Jazz, developed by Darrell Grant and Lynn Darroch, established the Festival’s educational programming mission, focusing on middle school students through an illuminating multi-media presentation boasting historical narration and performance. The engaging Jazz Conversation series and Jazz in the Schools art exhibit joined the IJOJ as complimentary initiatives.
With a multitude of headliners presented – the festival has stretched out to 12 days over two weekends and programmed shows in nearly every performance venue in Portland.
The Portland Jazz Master
The Portland Jazz Master is a designation recognizing a regional artist or other jazz community member for their work and contributions to jazz in the Portland region. The Jazz Master nominee may be in any career phase, allowing PDX Jazz on some years to recognize and support upcoming talent, and in others to honor those who have been staples in the region’s jazz community for many years. Portland has a wealth of artists whose resonance in the community is truly outstanding and deserving of recognition.
The Portland Jazz Master designation was initiated in 2011, that year honoring Dave Frishberg. The following years recipients included: Thara Memory (2012), Nancy King (2013), Oregon (2014), Wayne Thompson (2015), Charles Gray (2016), Mel Brown (2017), Art Abrams (2018) and Darrell Grant (2019). With the inception of the McClendon-Makarounis Award for Jazz Advocacy in 2017, PDX Jazz then decided that the Portland Jazz Master recognition be solely presented to musicians, thus two separate awards are given annually for artist and community advocacy accomplishments.
The McClendon/Makarounis Award
The McClendon/Makarounis Award in Excellence for Support of Jazz is given each year to a member of the Portland community who has made significant contributions to the prosperity, preservation, and advancement of jazz music and culture in Portland.
This award was originally named in honor of Bill McClendon, who established one of the first Portland jazz clubs on N Williams Avenue, presenting such luminaries as Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane. McClendon also presented the first racially integrated concert in downtown Portland, served as an Oregonian columnist focusing regularly on civil rights issues, and co-founded and taught within the initial African American Studies program at Reed College.
Recipients include Wayne Thompson, Bea Eidsness, Jim Pepper, Bob Dietsche, Akbar DePriest, the family of Jimmy Makarounis, Marcia Hocker and Commissioner Nick Fish.
The PDX Jazz Programming Committee decides on the nominees and ultimately selects the Jazz Master, and the McClendon-Makarounis Award for Jazz Advocacy is a PDX Jazz board initiative.