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Portland Jazz Festival: A Celebration of ECM

Dr. John

In Washington D.C., straightahead jazz festivals come and go. An important if now forgotten international jazz festival in 1962 unfortunately only lasted one year, and the Kool Jazz Festival played here for only a few years in the early 1980s. There were the short-lived but fondly remembered Cap City Jazz, Jazz Arts, and World Jazz Festivals, and the longer running East Coast Jazz Festival, which still takes place just outside of DC but lacks the bigger marquee names and is geared toward student competitions. Last year, impresario Charlie Fishman filled the cultural void by successfully launching the first annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. This year the festival returned, once again with an emphasis on mainstream and international jazz at venues all over town.

With more than fifty performances in a four-day period there was no way to catch everything, but the NEA Jazz Masters Concert was a can’t miss opportunity to hear both drummer Roy Haynes leading his Fountain of Youth Band and Paquito D’Rivera fronting the United Nation Orchestra. Haynes, who at 81 plays with the verve and dynamism of someone half his age, was especially strong on a hip arrangement of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” with sticks clacking like a flamenco dancer’s heels. A tightly coiled “Trinkle Tinkle” featured dramatic stop-time breaks, with Coltrane-inspired stacked chord statements from saxophonist Jaleel Shaw. Emerging from the wings with his serious game face on, an unannounced Roy Hargrove joined in on flugelhorn, unleashing several climactic choruses on Charlie Parker’s “Segment.”

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