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February 27, 2013

Jazz Message Received

So this happened last Friday...
PDX Jazz's 2013 Portland Jazz Festival brought our modest city a collective of Jazz Messenger alumni.  With musical direction by Javon Jackson, The Jazz Message: Celebrating Art Blakey performed swinging hard bop classics from the historical repertoire that Art Blakey blessed Jazz fans with since the mid-twentieth century. We gazed, clapped, tapped our toes, and danced in our seats to the chops of Javon Jackson (ts), Eddie Henderson (tr), Bobby Watson (as), George Cables (p), Buster Williams (b), Lewis Nash (d), and long time veteran Curtis Fuller (tb).

These are tunes that allowed me fall in love with Jazz, and these guys f***in nailed it!  Their soloing was spot in, timing was impeccable, and the ensemble parts were powerful.  Art Blakey, wherever he might be, would be delighted to know that this music lives on.  Set list highlights were Fuller's "À la Mode," Benny Golson compositions "Along Came Betty" & "Blues March,"  Wayne Shorter's "One by One," Bobby Timmons' "Moanin," and an encore performance of Dizzy Gillespie's bebop classic "A Night in Tunisia."  Like any great Jazz musician, these guys pulled from the past while still making it their own.  This was particularly evident in "Moanin" where we heard licks and phrasing appropriated from the original recording.  Still, their decisions during those moments in time were unique to that evening.

Lewis Nash was powerful on the drums and had no problem filling the big shoes of Art Blakey.  His backing licks at the end of measures and phrases complemented each soloist with ease, and his solo right before kicking it into "Blues March" left me wanting more.  Needless to say, he crushed it on stage.  Another soloist highlight for me was Bobby Watson.  His range extended to every nook and cranny of that alto sax.  He shined on fast tempoed, swinging tunes as well as his soulful playing on a ballad number.

This is the music that made me fall in love with Jazz.  The album Moanin' is one of most important pieces of mid-twentieth century music (not just Jazz), it laid that groundwork for hard bop in the 1960s, and is probably one of the most recognized Blue Note releases. The fact that I was able to witness 3/6s, or one half, of the music from Moanin' by musicians who have graduated from Art Blakey's Hard Bop Academy was a special occurrence for me.  A memory that won't be forgotten. 

February 21, 2013

The Jazz Message

Free For All by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers on Grooveshark
"If nobody has anything to say about the departed, I'd like to say a few words about Jazz!" - Art Blakey*
The 2013 Portland Jazz Festival is in full swing with the closing headliners this weekend.  If you've been following PDX Jazz on Facebook then you've seen the excellent coverage of events.  Each show having significant turnouts. Tickets still remain for tomorrow night's The Jazz Message; Tribute to Art Blakey featuring Musical Director Javon Jackson (ts), Bobby Watson (as), Curtis Fuller (tb), Eddie Henderson (tr), George Cables (p), Buster Williams (b), Lewis Nash (d).  Which can be purchased here.

Immediately I wanted to jump on this show.  Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers we're the third tier that really had me taking Jazz seriously.  First it was Mingus, then Monk, and third was the Messengers.  In fact, the very first book on Jazz I read cover to cover was Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen of Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers by Alan Goldsher.  This book is a journey that profiles the greats that went in and out of The Jazz Messengers.  Containing stories and anecdotes that brought enlightenment to many of their recordings or performances through nearly a half century on the scene.
That's what I have going on tomorrow night and if you haven't gotten out to any Portland Jazz Festival events then this is the one for you.  Following the Jazz Message I'll be continuing my Jazz journey with a nightcap at The Blue Monk to catch Battle Hymns and Gardens.


*Quoted from Visions of Jazz by Gary Giddens.  p. 368, c. 40, Art Blakey (Jazz Messenger).  Which further sited the quote from Jazz Anecdotes by Bill Crow. 

February 7, 2013

2013 Portland Jazz Fest

It's almost that time...  Almost that time where the city of Portland dedicates nearly half a month to Jazz music.  The 2013 U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival Presented by Alaska Airlines kicks off in one week.  You can take part in a city wide celebration of America's great musical art form.  There are plenty of free events along with ticketed ones, as well as educational and outreach programs.  You can view a full schedule here.

Now in its tenth year, the Portland Jazz Festival has continued to bring worthy headliners and local musicians together in the name of Jazz.  An eclectic showcase of Jazz happenings around Portland keep it exciting year after year.   You can find many events taking place in restaurants or pubs, smaller venues, and larger concert halls. 

Also take note that Battle Hymns and Gardens will be performing February 22 at The Blue Monk.  I'll be there for a nightcap after The Jazz Message event (Curtis Fuller, Bobby Watson, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Buster Williams, Lewis Nash, and Javon Jackson) at the Newmark Theater.  And it's worth noting that you can sample a handful of unmastered takes for BHaG's upcoming debut album on their website