Showcasing Three North American Premiere Performances
October 13th, 2009, PORTLAND, Ore. – The 2010 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival presented by US Bank will be held February 21-28 with jazz outreach programming in area schools and community centers on Monday through Friday, February 21-26, leading up to a series of headline concerts Thursday through Sunday, February 25-28 throughout downtown and inner Eastside Portland venues.
Lauded as one of the top North American jazz events, the 7th annual Portland Jazz Festival features jazz masters and emerging new artists including three-time Grammy Award-winning bassist, bandleader and composer Dave Holland Quintet, legendary saxophonist and John Coltrane collaborator Pharoah Sanders, the Mingus Big Band devoted since 1993 to the musical legacy of Charles Mingus, Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza, and contemporary trumpeter Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy.
Additionally, Portland Jazz Festival’s annual thematic programming asks the provocative question Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved to a New Address)? – New Music from Norway, featuring North American premieres of leaders in Norway’s new and burgeoning jazz scene. This “festival-within-a-festival” includes the avant-garde chamber jazz of the Christian Wallumrod Ensemble, the saxophone/ accordion duo of Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli, and the jazz/rock fusion of In The Country featuring Morten Qvenild (keyboards), Roger Arntzen (bass) and Pal Hausken (percussion).
Complete headline concert schedule:
Thursday, February 25, 7:30pm, Hilton Pavilion Ballroom, Luciana Souza
Friday, February 26, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Mingus Big Band
Friday, February 26, 9:30 pm, Norse Hall, In The Country
Saturday, February 27, 3:00pm, Norse Hall, Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli
Saturday, February 27, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Dave Holland Quintet
Saturday, February 27, 9:30 pm, Norse Hall, Christian Wallumrød Ensemble
Sunday, February 28, 3:00pm, Newmark Theater, Pharoah Sanders
Sunday, February 28, 7:30pm, Crystal Ballroom, Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy
The Story behind the Theme
This year’s festival theme, Is Jazz Dead (Or Has It Moved to a New Address)?, shares the title of British jazz writer Stuart Nicholson’s critically acclaimed book on the contemporary state of jazz. Nicholson confronts traditional jazz musicians and audiences who insist on narrowly defining what jazz should be, while maintaining the importance of this music as being indigenously American. Nicholson claims that such rigidly defined art alienates younger audiences from jazz, and points to the exploding scene in Europe, specifically Norway, that has developed both a new culture and audience for jazz.
The inspiration for artistic director Bill Royston’s selection of these three Norwegian groups stems from his direct exposure to Norway’s jazz scene while travelling as part of an international delegation invited by the Norwegian government in 2008 to experience the major Scandinavian summer festivals.
“I found a rich and vibrant scene, featuring unconventional performers reinterpreting the American musical legacy and building a whole new jazz lexicon. I’m thrilled to share this discovery with our Jazz Festival audience,” says Royston. “The featured American jazz artists are intended as a counterpoint to the work of these exciting Norwegian musicians.”
Each of the Norwegian artists represents the vast diversity of Nordic music that has risen from an improvisational gumbo derived from jazz, classical, rock, folk, and even country music styles — pianist Christian Wallumrød, classically trained, performs haunting improvisations in a chamber music setting with an ensemble of cello, violin, Baroque harp, trumpet, percussion and piano; Trygve Seim, who performed with his large ensemble at the 2007 Portland Jazz Festival, has an impressive ability to combine unusual instrumentation like the present saxophone and accordion duo with Frode Haltli; the trio of In The Country comes from a more pop music base that blends jazz improvisation with driving rock rhythms and electronic experimentation. The diverse artists and their music hold a common bond that writer Nicholson refers to as the “Nordic Tone”, recognized by deep elongated notes at the center driven by pulsating rhythms and adventurous improvisations around the edge.
“Mingus and Coltrane always superseded traditional forms to create their own sound. They were above the fray, and the Mingus Big Band and Pharoah Sanders continue this legacy. Contemporary innovators like Dave Douglas, Luciana Souza and Dave Holland constantly strive to go beyond the limits of traditional jazz,” states Royston. “Similarly, the Norwegian artists have carefully studied American jazz, and developed a distinctive sound. They are the new visionaries, and this festival will affirm for Americans that a new jazz is very much alive!”
Jazz Education and Outreach
Jazz education and outreach events include performances of The Incredible Journey of Jazz, a Black History Month celebration staged in Portland area middle schools each February. The 60-minute musical/theater piece was originally developed by Portland State University professor and pianist Darrell Grant and the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute. The performance features seven actors and musicians who each play multiple roles in depicting the experiences of African-Americans through the history of jazz. Early scenes have students communicating through African rhythms, and then follow the evolution from gospel, blues, ragtime, Dixieland and New Orleans. Eventually, we witness the migration of Black Americans up the Mississippi River to Chicago and other industrial centers with the big band sounds of Ellington and Basie, to the bebop of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, contemporary experimentation of Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman, and ultimately to rap and hip hop.
Another key outreach component is the popular Jazz Conversations, one-on-one interviews with jazz headliners and members of the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). These interviews are presented before a live audience in the intimate PCPA ArtBar throughout the festival. The sessions are recorded by KMHD-FM, Portland’s jazz radio station, for later broadcast and subsequently are available on the Portland Jazz Festival website, pdxjazz.com, for general listeners.
PDX Jazz Members have the advantage of reserving the best seats during the exclusive pre-sale period from October 13 – October 26. New and renewing members can join any time.
Starting Tuesday, October 27 at 10:00 AM PST Portland Jazz Festival tickets will be available to the general public at all TicketMaster locations, by calling 503-228-JAZZ (5299), or online at pdxjazz.com. Those who sign up for the PDX Jazz mailing list will receive the first notification when tickets go on sale to the public.
About PDX Jazz
Founded in 2003, PDX Jazz, Portland’s jazz membership organization, presents both regional and international jazz artists throughout the year. Dedicated to nurturing jazz musicians and audiences, PDX Jazz is best known for its critically acclaimed Portland Jazz Festival. PDX Jazz also presents nearly 200 performances annually showcasing Portland jazz artists with the ongoing series PDX Jazz @ RiverPlace (RiverPlace Hotel) and PDX Jazz @ the ArtBar (Portland Center for the Performing Arts), as well as the annual PDX Jazz @ RiverFest each August along Portland’s South Waterfront. The PDX Jazz office is located at 133 SW 2nd Ave in Portland. For more information visit www.pdxjazz.com or call 503-338-5299.