1st March 2010 — Devin Phillips, the young saxophonist who evacuated Hurricane Katrina with the NOLA2PDX program in 2005, took the stage at the Newmark Theater and showed the audience in his adopted hometown that he has the chops to share the stage with the legendary Pharoah Sanders, who welcomed him with open arms. At one point Phillips introduced Pharoah as “my idol”. It was a fitting moment for a festival that encourages the development of young players and Portland jazz musicians.
Beginning with a sold out show featuring Luciana Souza (pictured at right; photo credit: Fran Kaufman) on Thursday and concluding with Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy at the storied Crystal Ballroom, the 2010 Alaska Airlines/ Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival presented by US Bank demonstrated that jazz is very much alive in this country and across the Atlantic, in Norway.
Friday morning began with a scramble to transport the Mingus Big Band from storm-rattled New York to rainy Portland. Arriving less than an hour before show time, the band performed the music of the legendary Charles Mingus to a sold out audience. Even after a long day, five of the Big Band members joined the packed Midnight Jam Session at Norse Hall, the venue that featured performances by Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli, the Christian Wallumrod Ensemble and In The Country. One of the jam session highlights was pianist and program curator Darrell Grant taking over for Dave Kikoski in welcoming Craig Handy and Justin Faulkner. A Philadelphia native, Faulkner (pictured at left performing with Pharoah Sanders and Devin Phillips; photo credit: Fran Kaufman) aptly demonstrated to Portland audiences that he lives up to his rapidly growing reputation since joining the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 2009. Faulkner also performed admirably with Pharoah Sanders sounding akin to a young Elvin Jones. Another jam session highlight was Grant’s moving tribute (a recasting of Amazing Grace featuring bassist Glen Moore) to Portland political and cultural icon Dick Bogle who passed away on the festival’s opening day.
The Norwegian artists, two groups premiering in North America, played to sold out performances at Norse Hall, Portland’s Norwegian community center. In The Country demonstrated the provocative quality of Norwegian jazz with their genre bending and electrifying performance. The virtuosos Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli (pictured at right; photo credit: Fran Kaufman) captivated the audience with a personal and unconventional saxophone and accordion duo performance. Taking advantage of the warm acoustics of Norse Hall, the Christian Wallumrod Ensemble opted for an acoustic performance creating an intimate sound that highlighted the subtleties of their acoustic instruments. Portland’s jazz scene was in force at full capacity for PDX Jazz free performances by Devin Phillips, Ben Darwish, the Blue Cranes, the Quadraphonnes, the Farnell Newton/Marcus Reynolds Quintet, Toni Lincoln, Clay Giberson & John Nastos, and the John Gross/Dave Frishberg/Charlie Doggett Trio.
“This year’s festival represents the culmination of an experience that began in 2007 when we prominently featured ECM artists - Charles Lloyd, Gary Burton & Chick Corea - along with introducing Trygve Seim and Tomasz Stanko,” states Portland Jazz Festival co-founder and artistic director, Bill Royston. “The ECM exposure led to an exhilarating odyssey to the Kongsberg Jazz Festival as an invited guest of the Norwegian government. Hearing Christian Wallumrod, In The Country, and the alluring duo of Trygve Seim & Frode Haltli in their natural environment gave me renewed energy to expand on what jazz is and potentially is not for the 2010 festival.”
More festival highlights:
• The festival week began with a sold out Gospel Brunch featuring Mike Phillips at Self Enhancement, Inc., an organization that serves youth in the N Portland community.
• The Incredible Journey of Jazz traveled to five area middle schools to present the musical history of jazz to 2,000 students in honor of Black History Month. In attendance were two Portland Trail Blazer alumni, Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey.
• Dave Holland, who had weather related problems departing New York, was joined by Alex Sipiagin in place of Robin Eubanks, on tour with the SF Jazz Collective. The Grammy awardwinning quintet also featured longstanding members Nate Smith, Chris Potter and Steve Nelson.
• Jam session participants included artists from Norway and America - Darrell Grant, Roger Arntzen (In The Country), Craig Handy (Mingus Big Band), David Kikoski (Mingus Big Band), Justin Faulkner (Mingus Big Band), Trygve Seim, Frode Haltli, Andrew Oliver, Glen Moore (of the group, Oregon), Reed Wallsmith, Derek Sims, Ben Darwish and others.
• The Jazz Conversation with Pharoah Sanders took place in front of an overflow audience.
• ·The Jazz Conversation originally scheduled with Craig Handy became an impromptu discussion about the life and times of Charles Mingus. Moderated by Tom D’Antoni (Oregon Music News), the discussion included David Friesen (bassist/composer), Don Lucoff (PDX Jazz), Paul DeBarros (Seattle Times/ Down Beat) and Sam Howard (bassist).
• Is Jazz Dead (or has it moved to a new address)? featured a highly charged discussion on transatlantic musical styles, politics, race, art and commerce. Moderated by Paul DeBarros, the conversation included Forrest Bryant (JazzTimes), Peter Margasak (Down Beat) and Darrell Grant (pianist/composer), with pianist Christian Wallumrod joining the discussion in mid-stream.