This year’s 8th Alaska Airlines Portland Jazz Festival Presented by U.S. Bank featured over 120 events in 30 plus venues over an 11 day period. Certainly the timing of Esperanza Spalding’s arrival less than two weeks after her Grammy coup was auspicious. She packed Portland State University with her mentor Darrell Grant in doing a series of workshops geared for music students prior to her doing community outreach as part of Grant’s curated “The Incredible Journey of Jazz” which was presented in Portland area middle schools and Congregation Beth Israel which tied into the festival’s “Bridges & Boundaries: Jewish & African Americans Playing Jazz.”
Additionally a wide array of artists (Spalding included) took part in the “Jazz Conversation” series, an annual tradition of live in-person one on one interviews between headline artists and a prominent journalist. Also two highly anticipated panels were presented, both re-inforcing the theme from the artists (Spalding, Don Byron, Anat Cohen, Grant) and community perspective featuring Cantor Bletstein, Marcus Mundy (Oregon Urban League President), Larry Miller (Portland Trail Blazers President), political commentator David Sarasohn, newscaster Ken Boddie and US Bank VP Quentin Strode. All panels and Jazz Conversations were podcasted through Oregon Music News.
Highlights from the first weekend included three pianists: a rare Portland appearance from NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, the debut of ECM artist Anat Fort and Dave Frishberg who was honored by the City of Portland as a “Portland Jazz Master.” The second weekend offered a multitude of performances: Esperanza Spalding’s “Chamber Music Society” performance which played to a capacity audience of 900 at the Newmark theatre, a return performance from Nik Bartsch and Ronin with the Blue Crane’s as an opening act at the newly renovated Alberta Rose theatre, Portland debut’s from Gerald Clayton and Grammy nominee Gregory Porter, eclectic programming tied to the theme featuring Don Byron Plays Micky Katz, The Three Cohens and the Afro Semitic Experience. Debut highlights included the first time Joshua Redman featured the trio of Eric Harland, Aaron Goldberg and Matt Penman and the first date of SF Jazz Collective doing the music of Stevie Wonder. Regina Carter and Reverse Thread, Poncho Sanchez and Maceo Parker also played admirable culminating weekend performances.
All photos here are by Fran Kaufman.