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Portland Jazz Festival

In five short years, the Portland Jazz Festival has miraculously jockeyed its way into the short list of American festivals worth heeding closely. The recipe for success-if it can be called that-is actually deceptively simple: take a programming agenda that is balanced, savvy and adventurous by degrees, an attractive, cooperative and workable (plus walkable) city, and keep a grip on quality control. It also takes a director with stubborn vision, and director Bill Royston seems to have the right stuff. The buzz continues to grow.

For the power-packed first weekend of the 10-day 2008 model, the festival boasted a pair of sometimes-elusive avant-jazz icons, Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, respectively. Naturally enough, the festival grabbed as its maxim the phrase “the shape of jazz to come,” from Coleman’s prophetic 1959 album title.

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