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February 27, 2011

Northern Spy Releases

Our good friends over at Northern Spy have been working hard putting out quality, experimental and avant-garde releases. Although they're not in the vein of avant-garde Jazz, they certainly bring contemporary music to that cutting edge Jazz once did and still does.

The first is a minimalist, drone if you will, collection of compositions by trumpeter/guitarist/minimalist Rhys Chatham called Outdoor Spell. The production of this album is certainly textured, and although it drones about, each of the four tracks are beautifully different in their minimalist forms.

Chatham employs layers of guitars, his own voice, and percussion to create these multi-sensory and multi-instinctual sound bites. And the composition, The Magician, contains more of a Free Jazz hat as the drums, electric guitar, and trumpet erupt into a mass of what seems to be an improvised, dissonant demonstration.

Next up, Northern Spy has debuted their Clandestine Series of audio cassette releases. Clandestine Series Cassette # One brings four tracks by the Messages, Tom Carter, Zaïmph, and Loren Connors & Margarida Garcia. Personally, this is worth the purchase just for Tom Carter's piece, August Is All. A minimalist, melodic, lonesome electric guitar piece that has been on repeat all week in my studio.

With a lot of the tracks, think Aphex Twin ambient works, but less electronic.


Check these out! They are worth the purchase for any fan of experimental music. In Northern Spy's short existence so far, they have been prolific and I think they're going to be an excellent outlet for great, under-appreciated music. Offering chances to Artists that may not otherwise be getting the exposure they need.

February 18, 2011

"At the 'Golden Circle', Stockholm" - Ornette Coleman

Last weekend I was invited to record an Object Story (like them on Facebook) at the Portland Art Museum. This is a great project that allows anyone to come in and share something that has a great story (or anything with an interesting personal attachment/history). Naturally when I did mine, improvising for short clips at a time, I left things out I meant to say and said things that weren't necessary. All in all, it was great excuse to talk about my autographed original issued Blue Note of Ornette Coleman's At the 'Golden Circle', Stockholm, Volume 2.

This dual volume Blue Note has to be one of the main reasons that I'm into avant-garde Jazz and why I have looked to Mr. Coleman as my shining light towards more great Jazz and modern concepts. I hadn't obtained these volumes until after a few years of heavy Jazz listening. I remember, when I first started collecting Jazz records I saw both volumes at Rhino Records in upstate New York. That was the first time I became aware of the name Ornette Coleman. The Reid Miles cover design really stood out. Three individuals in the foreground; behind them the desolate, white, stark looking winter woods of Scandinavia. With colorful, contrasting text that wrapped around their bodies. The cover artwork really burned into my mind. I didn't buy the albums, which might of been ok since my novice ears probably weren't ready for this trio's sound.
Fast forward about two to three years, and I'm starting to listen to Ornette's Atlantic sessions. As I'm pulled more into his trance I am able to win an eBay auction obtaining both volumes of At the 'Golden Circle'. Volume 1 a Liberty reissue, and Volume 2 an original pressing. Fast forward another year or so, and I get to meet Ornette Coleman at the 2008 Portland Jazz Festival, resulting in his signature adorning the original issued volume 2.

Every year Frank Wolff vacationed to Europe, which resulted in many sessions that were captured across the pond. This particular 1965 December brought him to frigid Stockholm. To a small cafe, called the Gyllene Cirkeln where Coleman's Trio was performing on the third and fourth of the month. You'll have to remember that 1965 was Coleman's returning year from his three year hiatus to recording. Returning with new violin and trumpet chops fresh for listeners' ears. David Izenzon and Charles Moffett made the best backdrop for him here. Of course, it's had not to compare them to Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell, but they swung, they played deep riveting lines, and completely allowed Coleman's melodic alto to shine.

Anyway, doing the Object Story was a great excuse to revisit this duo of albums. And I highly encourage anyone interested in Ornette to get these recordings and listen to them on repeat. It's quite the transitional sound in Coleman's career. Not as boogie-ing and whimsical as his early stuff, a bit more contemplative for a contemplative European audience and just as gripping.
1965 Recorded, 1966 Released - Blue Note.
Ornette Coleman - alto saxophone, violin, trumpet; David Izenzon - bass; Charles Moffett - drums.

European Echos
from Volume 1

February 11, 2011

Portland Jazz Fest Upcoming Acts

February has always been a month of tons of PDX Jazz posts. The Portland Jazz Festival is stones throw away on the calendar and all shows still have tickets available except for the Esperanza Spalding event.

My recommendations for must see performances would be Don Byron and Joshua Redman -- the son of the great Dewey Redmen. Here's some info about the upcoming performers:


Thursday, February 24 - 7:30pm - Newmark Theater

He's been to the festival before and now the conservatory trained social critic and activist brings Plays Mickey Katz, the groundbreaking and virtuosic ensemble that spearheaded the Klezmer revival dedicated to the great Mickey Katz, musical pioneer, humorist, and musical director for Spike Jones.


Friday, February 25 - 8:30pm - Alberta Rose Theater

Swiss/Zen/Funk best describes the highly theatrical, Zurich based Nik Bartsch's Ronin. He will perform with the invigorating Blue Cranes, whose recent release, Observatories, was named as one of the best jazz releases out of Portland this year by local critics.


Friday, February 25 - 9:30pm - Crystal Ballroom

Poncho Sanchez's music would best be described as a kaleidoscopic swirl of some of the hottest colors to emerge from either side of the border. The Grammy Award winning conquero will perform with his sizzling rhythmic ensemble to get the party started.


Saturday, February 26 - 2:00pm - Crystal Ballroom

The 3 Cohen siblings- Anat (clarinet), Avishai (trumpet), and Yuval (sax), express lyrical tone qualities of the swing era with a post-Coltrane fervor and a flair for Near-East Mediterranean folk, cross-referenced with Afro-Latin rhythms. The Afro-Semitic Experience is an off-shoot of the creative work of African-American pianist Warren Byrd and Jewish-American bassist David Chevan.


Saturday, February 26 - 7:30pm - Newmark Theater

A Portland Jazz Festival favorite, this will mark their premiere performance of SFJAZZ Collective Plays Stevie Wonder. They will be feted by an elite octet: Miguel Zenon, Robin Eubanks, Avishai Cohen, Edward Simon, Matt Penman, Stefon Harris, Eric Harland, and Mark Turner.


Saturday, February 26 - 9:30pm - Crystal Ballroom

Violinist Regina Carter traveled through Africa to research and record an album of indigenous folk music. Her latest E1 Music release, Reverse Thread, fuses this folk medium juxtaposed with a contemporary feel while remaining true to the past.


Sunday, February 27 - 2:00pm - Newmark Theater

It's been 20 years since Joshua Redman broke through by winning the famed Monk Competition and he has not looked back since. Redman had a remarkable tenure with The SF Jazz Collective and on this occasion, a special quartet comprised of Aaron Goldberg, Matt Penman and Eric Harland.


Sunday, February 27 - 7:30pm - Crystal Ballroom

Who better than Maceo Parker to close the festival! He's synonymous with funky music and best known for his tenure with James Brown. He's the living, breathing pulse which connects the history of Funk in one golden thread.

You can purchase your tickets by calling 503-228-JAZZ (5299) or visiting the PDX Jazz office at 133 SW 2nd Ave., Suite 420.

February 5, 2011

Rogue Announces Release of Jazz Guy Ale

Ah, it's nice when my two passions mix together. Although, as a huge beer geek -- like most beer geeks -- I'm not a huge fan of Rogue. I do appreciate their willingness to support PDX Jazz and step up each year. In the eighth year of the festival, Rogue offers their eighth consecutive limited bottling of Jazz Guy Ale, another alias for their American Amber Ale.

It seems like they're ditching the unique bottle designs for each festival. Originally they offered a bottle with a musician, and each year the instrument played changed on the illustration. Starting last year and continuing this year, PDX Jazz Artistic Director, Bill Royston, has been the subject of choice. This makes sense and matches the rest of Rogue's identity. Usually the characters featured on their bottles are actual individuals involved with Rogue, or the story behind the beer contents. So why not continue that tradition with Bill Royston? It's great for Bill, he deserves the credit and is indeed Portland's Jazz Guy.

In any hopes, I will buy a couple bottles of the handsome serigraphed Jazz Guy Ale bottles offering my support to the festival. Look for bottles available at Rogue Pubs and Portland Jazz Festival events.

Also to note, Rogue Ales will be hosting three nights of live Jazz at their Portland Public House & Distillery. Check out PDX Jazz for scheduling and ticket information.

February 1, 2011

PDX Jazz Fest Receives Two NEA Grants

Great News! The 2011 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival Presented by US Bank has received two grants by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). A much prestigious honor, the PDX Jazz fest received the Jazz Masters Live grant and the Challenge America Fast-Track grant.

It's no easy feat to gain grants from the NEA, and I applaud PDX Jazz for showcasing some of the finest International Jazz up in our little pocket here. And I'm glad to see them getting this huge recognition on a national level.
Press Release:

The 2011 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival Presented by US Bank has received two NEA grants. PDX Jazz has been awarded a Jazz Masters Live grant and Challenge America Fast-Track grant.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) created the Jazz Masters Live grant to help bring outstanding jazz musicians, writers, producers, and scholars to communities across the nation through NEA Jazz Masters Live. In cooperation with Arts Midwest, these NEA Jazz Masters Live grants support performance and educational activities featuring NEA Jazz Masters, recipients of the nation's highest honor in jazz. The program celebrates these living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz and offers audiences the unique opportunity to share the artists' expertise in performances, master classes, clinics, lectures, and short term residencies. "Live interactions between musicians and audiences are essential to jazz," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.

NEA Jazz Master and acclaimed pianist, Randy Weston, will open the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival on February 18 at the Winningstad Theatre with an evening of solo jazz piano. He will also lead a workshop for Portland State University students and participate in the festival's "Jazz Conversation" series, hosted by Marty Hughley. Weston will be appearing in support of his most recent album, The Story Teller, available through Motema Music, and his recently released autobiography, African Rhythms, available through Duke University Press.

The Challenge America Fast-Track grant offers support primarily to small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to under-served populations -- those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. This category, as an essential component of the Arts Endowment's goal of providing wide access to artistic excellence, supports local projects that can have significant effects within communities.

Portland Jazz Festival, the first major international jazz festival on the annual global jazz calendar, attracts an audience from a large geographical area, serving a population that does not routinely have access to internationally acclaimed jazz artists without traveling to Seattle or San Francisco. With the Challenge America Fast-Track grant, Portland Jazz Festival will connect more directly to the immediate community it serves, and reach out specifically to minority populations within the greater Portland Metropolitan area. One of the main goals in obtaining these grants is to create a festival that not only showcases today's masters, but also connects the Portland community to jazz as a vibrant, living, changing music that is as relevant today as ever, creating an atmosphere that supports the art form year round.

The National Endowment for the Arts has supported jazz artists and organizations since 1969, providing millions of dollars in grants and awards. In 2004, the NEA significantly expanded its NEA Jazz Masters program and in 2005 created the NEA Jazz Masters Initiative, a comprehensive program of jazz support that includes the NEA Jazz Masters Award; radio programming featuring NEA Jazz Masters; educational resources through the NEA Jazz in the Schools program produced by the Arts Endowment in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center; and publications and reports.

For more information on NEA Jazz Masters, please visit neajazzmasters.org

The Jazz Fest is just around the corner (2/18-2/27) so get to www.pdxjazz.com to start planning your itinerary. You can purchase your tickets by calling 503-228-JAZZ (5299) or visiting the PDX Jazz office at 133 SW 2nd Ave., Suite 420.

I'd also like to point out the redesign of their webpage. Looking sharp!