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Weekend MusicWatch: All that Jazz Fest and more

By Brett Campbell
February 20, 2014
Darrell Grant and Hamilton Cheifetz join a host of other jazz and classical musicians in "The Territory."

Darrell Grant and Hamilton Cheifetz join a host of other jazz and classical musicians in “The Territory.”

The big music news in Oregon this weekend is the opening of the Portland Jazz Festival. While the state’s harmonic convergence of top-level performers from around the country throws the spotlight on certifiably fab Big Names like Marsalis and Metheny, it also provides welcome peripheral illumination for our increasingly intriguing homegrown jazz scene and many of those shows are free or otherwise much more affordable than the star showcases, many of which (Ahmad Jamal, Spring Quartet, Eliane Elias, Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band) are sold out anyway. We won’t discuss the latter here no use tantalizing readers with paens to performers they can’t see. We can’t list every show here, but suffice it to say, just about every performer on the schedule is worth seeing, from Toshiko Akiyoshi to Kenny Werner. For more info (including whether tickets remain) on the jazz festival shows below, be sure to check the PDXJazz website, and if you can’t catch one of the recognizable names, give one of the locals a try; you might be surprised at the quality of some of Oregon’s own.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Friday, Secret Society Ballroom. $10-$12. Five premieres of new works by some of Portland’s young jazz lions, all inspired by Bonneville Dam.

Darrell Grant’s “The Territory” Friday, Winningstad Theatre, Portland. $29-$39. This reprise of last summer’s Chamber Music Northwest debut of jazz pianist, composer and Portland State University music prof Darrell Grant’s nine-part musical evocation of Oregon’s history, “The Territory,” touches on the Missoula Floods, Chief Joseph’s surrender, the World War II internment of Japanese-Oregonians, and other landmark events in Oregon history, and also some equally meaningful if lesser known people, places and moments. This PDXJazz showcase will be performed by local jazz and classical stars including cellist Hamilton Cheifetz and singer Marilyn Keller, plus one of jazz’s greatest vibraphonists, Joe Locke.

Buster Williams, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Saturday, Newmark Theatre, $28-$58. One of jazz’s pre-eminent bassists, who’s also made some impressive albums as a leader over a five-decade career, Williams joins his colleagues on Herbie Hancock’s classic electric space-funk-jazz Mwandishi recordings (still some of my favorite ’70s jazz), trombonist Julian Priester and saxman Benny Maupin, plus Portland’s own George Colligan (who was a top pianist in New York before coming to Portland State) and drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana. Opening act Salvant bids fair to become jazz singing’s new It Girl, a 24 year old Baroque music trained chanteuse with a feeling for standards and more that matches her gorgeous voice, which can sound like Billie, Sarah, and Ella, sometimes in the same song. She’s also playing at The Shedd in Eugene Friday night.

Dan Tepfer, Saturday, The Shedd, Eugene, and Wednesday, Classic Pianos, Portland. $15-$20. One of jazz’s rising young pianist/composers, with Downbeat awards, competition prizes, rave-reviewed albums with jazz legend Lee Konitz and others to his name, the New York-based Tepfer returns to the state where he spent many childhood summers to play his fabulous, jazzy solo piano improvisations on J.S. Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations.

Jovino Santos Neto, Saturday, The Old Church, Portland. $13-$18. This isn’t a Portland Jazz Festival event but might as well be; the Brazilian pianist now based in Seattle is one of South America’s top jazz keyboard masters, combining various Brazilian rhythms with jazz improv.

Oregon, Monday, Evans Auditorium, Lewis and Clark College, Portland. $30. The greatest band ever to come out of the state it’s named for gets its much-deserved showcase as this year’s Oregon Jazz Master. (Last year’s laureate, the great Portland-based singer Nancy King, who matriculated at the UO and performed with the band’s Ralph Towner and Glenn Moore, is also playing in this year’s festival with her pianist, Steve Christofferson.) Oregon pioneered the fusion of jazz, classical and world music beginning in the late 1960s, and they still sound uniquely beautiful today, whether in free improv or more composed works. Here’s my story about Towner, Moore, King and that rich early-’60s UO jazz scene.

Tord Gustavsen Quartet, Tuesday, Mission Theater. $20. The festival has for the past few years been bringing Oregon some of the young stars of Scandinavia’s remarkably fertile jazz scene, and this Norwegian foursome, which specializes in the atmospheric sounds made famous by its record label, ECM, is one of the best.

Grace Kelly Quartet, Tuesday, The Shedd, Eugene and Wednesday, Jimmy Mak’s, Portland. The alto saxophonist and Marsalis protege is one of jazz’s rising young stars, with a tone and style as alluring as her actress namesake.


Eugene Symphony, Thursday, Hult Center. I know, the centennial of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was LAST year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth hearing the 20th century’s most electrifying music again, not to mention the other candidate for progenitor of modern music: Debussy’s sultry Prelude to The Afternoon of a Fawn, and Sergei Prokofiev’s thrilling Violin Concerto #2.

Fireworks, Friday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College,Portland, $30–$47 and Saturday, Beall Concert Hall, Eugene. $10. Our top non-jazz recommendation this weekend involves another Oregon homecoming, as as bassist Brian Coughlin founded the trailblazing New York-based electric chamber ensemble not long after graduating from the UO in 2000. The indie classical band’s Oregon programs this time survey American music from Bill Monroe to Charles Ives, Duke Ellington to Oregon composer Robert Kyr, Stephen Foster to Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin. Along with cello, reeds, violin, accordion, piano and percussion, the ensemble now includes guitarist Gyan Riley, whose own intriguing, much praised compositions have almost made everyone stop thinking of him as only the great California proto-minimalist composer Terry Riley’s son.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, $22-$100. The Portland State University Chamber Choir joins the band in Debussy’s magical Nocturnes, while Portland Piano International artistic director Arnaldo Cohen stars in Rachmaninoff’s inevitable Piano Concerto #2, and the orchestra records one of Haydn’s best mid-period symphonies, #53.

Vancouver Symphony, Saturday and Sunday, Skyview Concert Hall, Vancouver. Oregon Symphony tuba titan Ja’Ttik Clark, who appeared recently with the Columbia Symphony, now steps out again to perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto, and the concert also features Janacek’s colorful Taras Bulba and Liszt’s tone poem, The Preludes. $35-$50.


Jeffrey Ziegler, Friday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon. $10. New York-based cellist Zeigler, who just left the Kronos Quartet after a long and fruitful run, caps his weeklong UO residency with a recital co-starring UO faculty musicians and featuring music by Pulitzer Prize winning composer and Bang on a Can founder David Lang, a premiere by Jesse Jones, and works for cello and electronics.

45th Parallel & 3 Leg Torso, Friday, Melrose Hall, Linfield College. $10. The excellent chamber music presenting organization plays Dohnanyi’s Sextet and the quintessential Portland band pepetrates its irresistible combination of classical and world music.

MTDuo, Saturday, Polish Hall, Portland. $10. Celebrating the 200th birthday of pioneering ethnomusicologist Oskar Kolberg, violinist/pianist Tatiana Kolchanova and violist/violinist Mary Rowell play Polish music by Chopin and much more obscure Polish composers from the 18th through 20th centuries.

William Jenks, Saturday, Wiegand Hall, Marylhurst University, Portland. $15-$30. The Portland Classic Guitar founder returns to ax-tion after breaking both arms in a motocross mishap (those wild classical musicians and their dirt bikes and switchblades and whatnot), with solo guitar music by J.S. Bach, Albeniz, Villa Lobos, and more.

Psallite, Saturday, Knight Library Browsing Room, University of Oregon. Free. Narrator Linda Marie Zaerr and harpist Laura Zaerr perform a Middle English lay, Sir Orfeo.

Jeffrey Lependorf and Matt Hannafin, Sunday, Conduit, Portland. $10. The New York shakuhachi master joins Portland percussionist Hannafin and dancers Tere Mathern and Kristine Anderson in improvisations for music and dance.

Oregon Bach Collegium, Sunday, United Lutheran Church, Eugene. $15. Following the composer’s example, Baroque violinist Michael Sand’s arranged three great works by J.S. Bach for other Baroque instruments.

Robert Beall and Friends, Sunday, Community Music Center, Portland. Free. The flutist and fellow chamber musicians and singers play music by Prokofiev, Mozart, Haydn, and more.

Paul Roberts, Tuesday, The Old Church, Portland. $30. See ArtsWatch’s preview here.

Concordia Choir, Tuesday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland. $20-$30. The Minnesota chorus, one of the top college choirs, sings music by J.S. Bach, Guererro, Whitacre, film composer Hans Zimmer, and other contemporary composers.

Chris Thile & Mike Marshall, Wednesday, Aladdin Theater, Portland. $25-$28. Two of the world’s most accomplished and versatile mandolinists join forces (some guitar and fiddle might also be involved) to perform music of J.S. Bach (that guy’s everywhere these days!) and more. Thile (the Nickel Creek/Punch Brothers/MacArthur “genius” grantee) recently released an album of Bach covers.

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