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Terence Blanchard, photo by Henry Adebonojo

2019 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival presents Terence Blanchard E-Collective & 2019 Portland Jazz Master Darrell Grant

February 28 | 7:30 pm

- $29.50 – $49.50
Revolution Hall

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Since top-tier jazz and multiple GRAMMY® Award-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard embarked on his solo recording career with his eponymous Columbia Records album in 1991, the New Orleans-born and based artist has traveled many paths musically, including delivering adventurous and provocative acoustic jazz outings of original material, composing over 50 soundtracks and even, in 2013, debuting Champion: An Opera in Jazz. He has also, in the spirit of his onetime membership in the jazz school of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, mentored several musicians in his bands who have gone on to have significant recording careers of their own including Lionel Loueke, Aaron Parks, Kendrick Scott and one of his current band members Fabian Almazan). As a leader and co-leader (significantly four albums early in his career with fellow Crescent City artist, saxophonist Donald Harrison), Blanchard has recorded more than 30 albums that often defied genres, yet were still critically acclaimed. But for his latest Blue Note Records album, Breathless, Blanchard powerfully and playfully journeys into another jazz realm with his quintet The E-Collective — an exciting zone of grooved fusion teeming with funk, R&B and blues colors.
Darrell Grant has risen from his introduction to audiences as the pianist in vocalist Betty Carter’s trio to an internationally-recognized performer, composer, and educator who channels the power of music to create community, sustainability, and social justice. Grant has performed with a wide array of jazz luminaries including Frank Morgan, Tony Williams, Brian Blade, Esperanza Spalding, and Nicholas Payton.
His 1994 New York Times Top 10 Jazz Album Black Art will be the subject of interest for his festival program Black Art Revisited featuring Eric Gruber and Tyson Stubelek. This 25th anniversary set will focus on the material that Grant first recorded with Christian McBride, Brian Blade and Wallace Roney that led NEA Jazz Master Nat Hentoff to write in the liner notes, “Darrell Grant is his own category, and this disc illuminates his singularity with particular force and space. That truth stays in the mind long after the music stops.”
Grant who is a tenured professor in music at Portland State where he also directs the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute. The pianist/composer was inducted into the Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame in 2009, and in 2017, Grant received a Northwest Regional Emmy for his composition in the Oregon Public Broadcasting special “Jazz Town.” He was recently named a Portland Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association for his advocacy of the art form and now joins an illustrious fraternity of Portland Jazz Master’s including: Mel Brown, Charley Gray, Wayne Thompson, the band Oregon, Nancy King, Dave Frishberg and Art Abrams.
States Artistic Director Don Lucoff, “Darrell has given our festival a depth of programming that is always remarkably fresh, collaborative and exceedingly personal. Just last festival his poignant solo tribute to one of his main mentors, Geri Allen gave the audience yet another glimpse into his innovative artistry. We welcome Darrell into the 2019 class of Portland Jazz Master and look forward to many more masterful experiences in the future.”
Read a Q&A with Darrell Grant and Don Lucoff:
Q: Taking a moment to reflect on your colleagues who previously were honored as Portland Jazz Masters — Mel Brown, Thara Memory, Dave Frishberg, Nancy King, Charley Gray, Wayne Thompson, the band Oregon and Art Abrams — what is most apparent?

I would say that these musicians embody the essence of Portland as a jazz town. Individually and collectively they are emblematic of the artistry, individuality, and generosity that make our musical community so special. I’m sure I am not alone in being inspired by their musical gifts – the erudite songwriting and sparkling piano-playing of Dave Frishberg, Nancy King’s stratospheric flights of improvisation, and Oregon’s pioneering blend of musical cultures. Each of them have influenced my musical path, as they have so many others. I am also inspired by their contributions to community – the legacy of education represented by Thara Memory and my PSU colleague Charlie Gray, the advocacy and service to the art form of Wayne Thompson and Art Abrams, and the musical bedrock of Mel Brown, who is still my model for the way a jazz artist can inspire a whole city. It is an honor to be considered in the company of these torchbearers, who have done so much to make Portland a world-class jazz city.

Q: Portland as a community is rich in many ways, how has that nurtured the ecology of jazz since you arrived here?

Something that made a great impression on me moving to Portland from New York City was the deep web of connections in this community. With so few degrees of separation, Portland encourages its artists to contribute not only as performers, but as citizens and leaders. Our shared belief in the value of place, people, and quality of life makes Portland a dynamic incubator for ideas and a great place to start things. It also creates fertile ground for artists, artisans, and creative people of all stripes. We also have an incredible wealth of young musical talent and a community of jazz artists committed to nurturing the next generation. That culture of support is another part of what makes our jazz ecology thrive.

Q: I have lovingly referred to you as Portland’s Billy Taylor of Jazz, the first artist I met and worked with when I arrived in New York in 1984 to work in publicity. You spent serious time in New York, did our paths cross and was he an influence on you?

I never met Dr. Billy Taylor. I think it is fair to say, however that he is one of my most significant role models and inspirations. In addition to his indisputable place in the jazz piano pantheon, Dr. Taylor was versatile, articulate, and scholarly. A composer, a builder, an activist, and above all, a communicator, for me he was a shining example of the broad impact that a committed artist can have in the world. For me he stands as a reminder of the importance of saying yes – yes to doing many things, and doing them well; yes to being yourself, and following your own unique path; and yes to always giving back.

Q: You have led many projects, received numerous commissions and composers grants but Black Art has serious history for you and now you are celebrating that history. Articulate what is special about the recording and revisiting this music in 2019?

When I look back at Black Art from this vantage point, the first thing that strikes me is how young we all were. I was 31 when we recorded the CD. Wallace Roney was 33. Brian Blade was 23. Christian McBride was 20. I don’t think I fully appreciated what a special opportunity it was to be able to make music with those three singular musicians. In hindsight, the confluence of youthful creative energy and opportunity in New York City in the 90’s made for one of jazz’ golden ages. As my first CD under my own name, I hoped Black Art would be a meaningful addition to that conversation.  Having the CD be so well received was incredibly gratifying, and also launched me on a wonderful artistic trajectory as I continued to find my place in the jazz landscape. Revisiting the music after 25 years, with the perspective that comes from age and life experience, is fascinating. i’m interested to see elements of my musical voice that remain intact from that time, as well as to add some touches that reflect where my music has gone in the interim.

Q: What have you looked most forward to in your sabbatical year away from Portland State University? Family time, writing, traveling?

This sabbatical year is turning out to be a time for exploring new directions. I feel fortunate to be engaged in some meaningful collaborative projects. Singer/songwriter Edna Vazquez and I are composing a song cycle based on letters written by refugee mothers from Central America incarcerated at the US border.  I’m working with slam poet Anis Mojgani on a chamber opera about gentrification in Portland’s Albina neighborhood. I’m also happy to have more time for performing – with my MJ New Quartet, my trio with Eric Gruber & Tyson Stubelek, and my Territory Ensemble. Travel also figures largely into this year. My wife and I are planning a two-week trip to Italy and Greece with our son. And I was recently invited to perform my Ruby Bridges Suite at the Smithsonian African-American History Museum this coming June.