MusicWatch Weekly: hot summer jazz

Smoke gets in your eyes, jazz gets in your ears this week as summer festivals continue despite the blazes

What began as an informal neighborhood musical soiree has blossomed into one of Portland’s jazz treasures. The fifth annual Montavilla Jazz Festival  at Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark, is headlined by the Grammy-nominated team of primo pianist Randy Porter’s Trio with jazz singing living legend Nancy King, performing the music from their recent Grammy-finalist album featuring Cole Porter tunes and more. The lyrical jazz duo of flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny and pianist Darrell Grant also reunites after too long a break, co-leading a quartet in new chamber jazz compositions.

Maybe the most intriguing act on the program was inspired by Tamolitch Pool on the McKenzie River near Blue River. One of our area’s most magnificent natural spaces, its allure inspired Salem-based composer-pianist James Miley’s evocative, ambitious new Watershed Suite, which Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble performs at Montavilla and at a free show Thursday at (appropriately) Springfield’s Roaring Rapids. Miley, a Willamette University music prof who directs Willamette Jazz Collective, combines classical and jazz influences in a multifaceted work that translates the complex beauty Oregon’s watersheds, including the mighty Columbia River and Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge, into music. One of the state’s most valuable music institutions, PJCE features top Portland area performers and also continuously nurtures both performances and recordings of new, original jazz music compositions some of Oregon’s finest emerging and accomplished musicians.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble performs at this weekend’s Montavilla Jazz Festival.

Other performers constitute an all-star lineup of Portland jazz performers leading expert ensembles, including national award winning pianist/organist/drummer/trumpeter George Colligan’s fun, multigenerational new electric trio Other Barry and guitar demon Ryan Meagher’s Evil Twin, both celebrating cool new releases on PJCE’s label that you can hear at the links above. Erstwhile Portlander Nicole Glover returns from New York to jam with local greats, and the festival also includes omnipresent drummer Alan Jones, saxophonist Tim Willcox, Christopher Brown, jazz/funk trumpet star Farnell Newton, bassist Shao Way Wu, and sets featuring some of the top improviser/composer/performers from PJCE and Creative Music Guild.

Nicole Glover performs at Montavilla Jazz Festival. Photo: Diaz Duran.

Tonight, Roaring Rapids also features Bossa PDX, with Portland jazz pianist/singer Kerry Politzer, Colligan (who happens to be her spouse) on drums, sax titan Joe Manis, guitarist Enzo Irace (who shreds in Other Barry) and bassist Damian Erskine playing new arrangements of Brazilian classics. And there’s modern chamber jazz tonight in Portland, too, with Simone Baron’s piano trio in an intimate house concert at Casa Della Zisa, 4624 NE Fremont St.

Other Recommendations

Sunriver Music Festival continues with tonight’s orchestra concert at Sunriver Resort’s Great Hall featuring a Mendelssohn symphony, Copland classic, a sweet dulcimer concerto by Conni Ellisor, and a tune very familiar to PBS fans. Friday’s all-Bernstein pops concert at Bend Church of the Nazarene includes his greatest hits from West Side Story, Candide and more, sung by a quartet of top Oregon vocalists. There’s a kid’s concert Sunday as well as a recital by 2017 Van Cliburn competition winner Kenny Broberg.

Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival continues Saturday and Sunday at J. Christopher Wines with Portland composer Kenji Bunch’s  enchanting string quintet String Circles, Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins, and a string quartet by Mendelssohn — but not that Mendelssohn. It’s his beloved sister Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s quartet. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch festival preview.

William Byrd Festival continues with various performances at church services at Holy Rosary Church and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and recommended organ recital by director Mark Williams at Trinity Sunday.

Mark Williams. Photo: Sarah Wright.

Eugene Noise Fest (ENF), one of my fave events when it happened at the wonderful, now defunct DIVA Center, returns to Eugene’s WOW Hall Saturday with a dozen artists from all over the West Coast perpetrating noise, experimental music and sound art. Stay tuned for Daniel Heila’s ArtsWatch preview.

• Seattle Opera’s production of the great American opera — maybe the greatest of all of them — Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess continues through August 24. Stay tuned for Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review.

• Hunter Noack’s fascinating In a Landscape series finds the Portland pianist’s Steinway playing classical and contemporary music at Sisters’ Suttle Lodge Wednesday and Government Cove near Cascade Locks Saturday. Read my ArtsWatch feature and interview.

• A new, kid friendly recital series commences Sunday at Beaverton’s Cedar Hills United Church of Christ, led by the excellent recent Portland State Chamber Choir accompanist Colin Alexsei Shepard, who’ll play French Impressionist and Russian Romantic music and share stories about the music and composers.

Jermaine Smith plays Sportin’ Life in Seattle Opera’s ‘Porgy and Bess.’ Photo: Philip Newton.

• The American Civil Liberties Union has been defending the freedom of expression so important to artists for decades. The “international art pop experiment” known as Sexbots headline a benefit concert for the ACLU, with local songwriters / ukulele players Amy Bleu and Rachel Chuganey, and Spokane singer/guitarists Justin Eisenstadt and Andrew Cornett, Thursday at Floyd’s Coffee in Portland’s Old Town.

• If you care to brave the haze, Saturday’s Oregon Zoo concert featuring Punch Brothers (featuring Portland’s own Chris Thile) and Andrew Bird is one of the best of the summer.

• Courtney Freed, whose recent Freddie Mercury tribute Angela Allen reviewed for ArtsWatch, stars in the latest Portland Sings! concert at Clackamas Rep Sunday. She’s joined by fellow Portland theater musicians Mont Chris Hubbard at the piano and singer Pam Mahon in 1930s classics including “Stormy Weather” and — of course! —   “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

Update: the day after we posted this story, we learned of the passing of one of the greatest singers of our time. Here’s an example of Aretha’s immortal artistry.

Got more smoky sounds to recommend to our readers? Fire up those comments!

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