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Portland Jazz Festival

Joe Lovano

If a visitor to this year’s Portland Jazz Festival hadn’t been privy to the behind-the-scenes drama already, it didn’t take long to hear the tale. As intrepid director Bill Royston repeatedly explained in concert introductions and everywhere he could, this festival nearly succumbed when a major donor pulled out last September, but was rescued by generous 11th-hour corporate largesse from Alaska/Horizon Airlines. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer, smarter festival.

This is a festival, in short, that came back from the brink of collapse, back from the void where well-intentioned but finance-toppled cultural ventures end up. No doubt, new realities in the economic downtime will see many more casualties in the cultural wars. But in 2009, this fine, well-organized and well-designed festival has prevailed, and just in time to host an official birthday tribute to Blue Note Records in its 70th year.

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