22 September 2010 — Past, present and future collaboration between African Americans and Jewish Americans is the message behind Bridges and Boundaries: Jewish & African Americans Playing Jazz Together, the theme of the 2011 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival presented by US Bank. The festival, which annually selects a compelling musical and programming theme, will be held Friday, February 18 through Sunday, February 27 at venues throughout Portland. The complete festival lineup will be announced on October 13 when single show and special package tickets go on sale exclusively to PDX Jazz members. Tickets will become available to the general public on October 23.
A select few of this year’s culturally diverse headliners include Avishai Cohen, the Israeli trumpeter, one of the leading players in the new all-star SFJAZZ Collective, performing the work of African American pop icon Stevie Wonder. Cohen will also be joined by his siblings Anat Cohen and Yuval Cohen for a special performance of The 3 Cohens. Famed African American violinist Regina Carter will return to Portland, presenting her newest project, Reverse Threads, which traces the musical history of African cultures, including tribes of Ugandan Jews. And, Joshua Redman, son of African American saxophonist Dewey Redman and Jewish American dancer Renee Shedroff, leading his new James Farm Quartet that includes both African American and Jewish American musicians.
African and Jewish American community leaders, Portland Jazz Festival’s new Artistic & Community Ambassador Esperanza Spalding (who will lead her new Chamber Music Society in an exclusive Portland area engagement), and many other artists will participate and interact in panel discussions and “Jazz Conversations” focusing on artistic and social perspectives. National jazz journalists, writers, and critics-including Nat Hentoff-will also participate in these events.
“The original idea for this festival came from Nat Henoff’s writings about jazz as a meeting place for African and Jewish Americans.” said Bill Royston, Artistic Director of the Portland Jazz Festival. “His writings of Steven Bernstein’s ‘Diaspora Blues’ to the odyssey of Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith were of primary influence. Historically, the music drew people together, and today there is a new wave of Israeli musicians who have moved to New York and elsewhere across the United States.”
For more than 100 years, jazz has been the timekeeper of change in America’s moods, lifestyles and overall social awareness. Jazz has historically broken down racial color lines and cultural differences. Its stage has been a magnet for African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Western Europeans; all playing together in jam sessions long before the Civil Rights movement existed. Truly, jazz is America’s classical music, and its only indigenous art form.
In his acclaimed history of Portland jazz, Jumptown, Robert Dietsche documents how communities were divided and destroyed by urban development. As I-5 segmented the Black community and signaled the death of the N Williams cultural scene, I-405 shattered the Jewish neighborhoods. In many cities, the Black community evolved from what had originally been a Jewish neighborhood. These physical boundaries, however, only enhanced cultural divisions and misunderstandings, which remain prevalent today.
Movements in contemporary jazz are again leading the way in creating bridges between African Americans and Jewish Americans. This merger of new directions in Jewish music with African American jazz improvisation has brought together the theme of the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival (February 18-27).
What is PDX Jazz?
PDX Jazz is Portland’s jazz organization, producing the annual Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival presented by U.S. Bank. PDX Jazz offers an array of distinguished programs throughout the year in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings boasting internationally recognized artists while supporting regional fan favorites from the Northwest, often times presented in newly configured formats. PDX Jazz in partnership with Oregon Music News recently initiated a monthly jazz series at PDX Jazz @ Tony Starlight’s, an intimate music venue, located in northeast Portland.
For a complete schedule of events, please visit the website.