Oregon ArtsWatch

 

Blues finale: a festival with teeth

The party gets hearty as "Kingfish" Ingram picks his guitar strings for the crowd. Joe Cantrell snaps the Waterfront Blues Fest's last hurrah.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


When the extraordinary young guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram waded into the crowd at the Waterfront Blues Festival on Sunday and started picking the strings with his teeth, you knew the whole darned party was gettin’ down. Musicians, fans, techies, vendors, kids, couples, senior hipsters, spur-of-the-moment dancers, festival newbies and seasoned blues aficionados – it was the last day of the four-day music extravaganza in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and everyone was wringing the juice from the thing down to the last drop.

“Kingfish” Ingram: whole lotta talent goin’ down.

Ingram, the 20-year-old prodigy from Clarksdale, Mississippi, who’s played and recorded with Buddy Guy, Keb Mo’ and other greats, is two years out of high school and taking the music world by storm. Portland was happy to be part of the deluge. A Portland favorite from New Orleans, the fabulous Trombone Shorty – Troy Andrews on his birth certificate – played a late set with his band Orleans Avenue, and the likes of Feufollet, Ural Thomas & the Pain, and the Too Loose Cajun Zydeco Band – plus a whole lot of happy revelers – kept the closing-day party sizzling and most everyone waiting impatiently for next July, when the blues fest will blow the lid off the riverfront again.

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Blues Fest 3: Let the good times roll

There's a party goin' on: Photographer Joe Cantrell gets with the groove as Day 3 of the Waterfront Blues Festival loosens its Louisiana Belt.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


A lot of Louisiana took the stage on Saturday in Day Three of the Waterfront Blues Festival – groups as redolent of New Orleans and bayou country as Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Lil’ Pookie & the Zydeco Sensations, Mysti Krewe Mardi Gras Parade, and Chubby Carrier & His Bayou Swamp Band – and the roux got spicy and a little rowdy in the crowd, too, which took on a loose, decorative Mardi Gras flair. The music was terrific, but things got free and easy and party-down in the audience, too, which drifted easily and happily into putting on a show of its own. As photographer Joe Cantrell, who’s been busily documenting the entire four-day festival, put it: “This evening was one of the BEST hours of people-shooting ever!”

This year’s festival wraps up on Sunday with a full day of music and scene-making in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, from morning to night: more zydeco and Cajun from the likes of Carrier and Lil’ Pookie and Taylor and the up-and-coming Feufollet and the eagerly awaited Trombone Shorty, with a little bit of Tennessee tossed into the pot from Memphis Shorty’s Harmonica Hoedown. If anything, expect the groove to get a little looser and the partying a little rowdier yet. Your single-day tickets – $25 at the gate – get you into the party for the entire day, until after dark, and in addition to paying for the musicians and the music, help support the nonprofit Sunshine Division, which distributes food and clothing to people in the metropolitan area who need them.

Cantrell was on site once again all day long on Saturday, focusing his lens on the acts onstage and, more often, on the show in the crowd. Some highlights from his Day Three shoots:

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Waterfront Blues 2: In the Spirit

On Day 2 of the big blues bash on the riverside, the sounds ring over the city. Joe Cantrell captures the excitement in photographs.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


Day Two of the Waterfront Blues Festival dug deep into the spirit of music and life with an extraordinary set by the Spiritual Brothers and their sounds of Northern Ghana and Burkina Faso. Unlike the four-day festival’s first day on the Fourth of July, there were no fireworks over the river. But there was plenty of fire in the music on Friday, a day that also included sharp sets by the likes of Harpdog Brown & the Uptown Blues Band, Larkin Poe, Terry Hancke, the California Honeydrops, Lloyd Jones, Lisa Mann with Lara Price, Monti Amundson, Brother Yusef, Arietta Ward (daughter of the legendary, late Portland pianist Janice Scroggins) and others.

Passing the traditions on: generations in the crowd.

The four-day festival, which transforms Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park through Sunday, is a highlight of the Pacific Northwest’s summer music season, drawing thousands of revelers every day. Saturday’s schedule features a lot of Louisiana sounds – Curley Taylor & Zydeco Trouble, Lil’ Pookie & the Zydeco Sensations, Mysti Krewe Mardi Gras Parade, Chubby Carrier & His Bayou Swamp Band – plus the likes of top locals LaRhonda & the Steele Family Band, the Terry Robb Quartet, Norman Sylvester’s Allstar Revue, and more. Your single-day tickets – $20 in advance, $25 at the gate – get you the entire day from 10 a.m. until after dark, and in addition to paying for the musicians and the music, help support the nonprofit Sunshine Division, which distributes food and clothing to people in the metropolitan area who need them.

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Waterfront Blues: a bang-up start

On Day 1 on the 4th of July, the festival rings out in red, white, and the blues. Joe Cantrell captures the mood and the action in photos.


PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE CANTRELL


It was a bang-up day on the Fourth of July in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where this year’s Waterfront Blues Festival got off to a high-flying start and, come night time, a rainbow of fireworks lit up the sky. It was just the first of four days’ ringing out the blues on the waterfront – the festival plays through Sunday – and photographer Joe Cantrell spent hour after hour and walked mile after mile through the park, capturing the essence of the action from the stages and the crowd and the sky. Whatever else the festival is about, it’s about people: the musicians, the fans, the revelers, the technicians, the oldsters, the couples, the kids, the crowds.

Red, white, and boom! Blues Fest fireworks light up the sky.

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What Kind of Music Do You Listen to for Pleasure?

An interview with Portland composer David Schiff

Introduction by Matthew Neil Andrews
Interview by Charles Rose

Alongside Kenji Bunch and a handful of others, recently-retired Reed College professor David Schiff sits comfortably among Portland’s most popular composers of what we still call “classical” music. There’s a good reason for that: the New York born, longtime Oregon resident writes music that combines the best of mainstream contemporary classical (Stravinsky, Copland, Carter) with the energy and appeal of more popular genres such as minimalism (Reich, Riley), jazz (Mingus, Ellington), and even klezmer.

That makes his music catchy, exciting, intellectually stimulating, and emotionally rewarding. We also find it very telling that he’s written books about Ellington and Carter: two giants occupying complementary ends of the vast spectrum of 20th-century U.S. music. You can read Arts Watch Senior Editor Brett Campbell’s profile of Schiff right here.

David Shifrin and David Schiff onstage at CMNW’s 2016 Summer Festival.

Schiff’s also gone out of his way to make friends with some of the finest players in the daring cross-genre world he lives in, so we get to hear his music played by Regina Carter, Fear No Music, David Shifrin, and various stars from the Chamber Music Northwest company of world-class performers. This upcoming Saturday, July 6, and Monday, July 8 (both in Kaul Auditorium at Reed College, where Schiff teaches), CMNW presents the world premiere of Schiff’s Chamber Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Ensemble, commissioned for this occasion.

The concert also includes Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C Minor and Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, and composer/pianist Daniel Schlosberg‘s arrangement of the Adagio from the second Brahms piano concerto, a task Schlosberg described as “a daunting proposition.”

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MusicWatch Monthly: Too many notes

Summer gets all sweaty, with classical and jazz festivals, operas, experimental sound art, and a bit of good old-fashioned NW gonzo punk

Garden wall at Lan Su Chinese Garden. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

La Finta Giardiniera
July 12-27, Newmark Theater
In The Penal Colony
July 26-August 10, Hampton Opera Center

It’s oddly appropriate that Portland Opera is closing its season with summer performances of Mozart and Philip Glass. Both composers are that rare breed: equally adept at performing their own chamber music, writing grand symphonies for orchestra, and collaborating on a variety of comic and tragic operas on themes both timeless and timely.

They have both also been accused, perhaps justly, of writing too many damn notes, and that’s part of why the best way to experience theatrically-inclined composers like Mozart and Glass is in their native habitat: the opera house. That’s really where their music lives best, in live performances rich with grand singing, engaging sets and costumes and lighting and the other “works” which give opera its name—plus the comedic and dramatic intimacy that is live theater’s specialty.

July 12-27, PO stages the lesser-known Mozart opera La Finta Giardiniera, in its second Portland production of the year (PSU Opera put on their own production earlier this year). Lindsay Ohse stars; Chas Rader-Shieber directs.

July 26-August 10, Jerry Mouawad (co-founder of Portland’s Imago Theatre) returns for another modern “pocket opera.” PO specializes in presenting these chamber operas by modern composers, thrilling Portland audiences recently with Laura Kaminsky’s As One and in 2017 with Mouawad’s production of David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and The Little Match Girl Passion. Martin Bakari and Ryan Thorn star in Glass’s adaptation of the terrifying Kafka story.

Jazz and Blues

Waterfront Blues Festival
July 4-7, Waterfront Park

For over three decades, Portland’s iconic blues festival has been a hot, sweaty, messy, crowded, rite of passage. It’s such an undertaking they’ve got a handy little guide for navigating the four-day, four-stage fest sprawled across the west side of the river, wedged between the waves and the construction cranes.

Take a look at the line-up right here. If any of those musical legends and other hot-shit artists sound like you’d want to get into a sweltering, sunscreen-slathered groove with them and a thousand other vibing blues fans down on the sun-baked shore of the Willamette River—then pack yourself a bag full of bottled water, grab a big floppy sun hat, and get your ass down to the water.

Waterfront Blues Festival, July 7, 2018.
Waterfront Blues Festival, July 7, 2018.

Jazz in the Garden
Tuesdays, July 16-August 20, Lan Su Chinese Garden

Across six Tuesdays this summer, Lan Su Chinese Garden in Old Town Portland hosts PDX Jazz’s Summer Music Series, featuring a variety of international and local artists. On July 16th, it’s Malian supergroup BKO Quintet; on July 23, Portland vibraphonist Mike Horsfall pays tribute to Cal Tjader; on July 30, erstwhile Portland saxophonist Hailey Niswanger returns from Brooklyn with her band MAE.SUN. In August, jazz and soul singer China Moses performs on the 6th, pianist Connie Han plays on the 13th, and on the 20th Bobby Torres Ensemble commemorates Woodstock.

The Territory
July 15, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College
July 16, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University

Local superstar jazz composer and pianist Darrell Grant is having a busy year, as usual. His nine-movement suite for jazz ensemble The Territory, premiered at Chamber Music Northwest in 2013, led to the formation of the “Oregon Territory Ensemble,” which has continued performing the landscape-inspired music and recorded it with Grant in 2015.

They’ll perform The Territory here twice in July, and the line-up is pure local A-list: Florestan Trio cellist Hamilton Cheifetz, vocalist Marilyn Keller (From Maxville to Vanport), bass clarinetist Kirt Peterson, multi-instrumentalist John Nastos, trumpeter Thomas Barber, drummer Tyson Stubelek, bassist Eric Gruber, and vibraphonist Mike Horsfall.

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‘Aladdin’: Middle Eastern enough?

In its latest stage and screen riffs on a fantasy tale with Orientalist roots, Disney makes a highly selective push for representation

By MELORY MIRASHRAFI

One month before Disney’s new live-action Aladdin opened in movie theaters nationwide, the Broadway tour of the hit musical came to Portland. While millions of viewers across America are flocking to see both adaptations of the 1992 classic, only one version features any actors of Middle Eastern descent.

This comes as no surprise: There were no Middle Eastern actors in the original, either. To this day, I remember the moment I learned Princess Jasmine was voiced by a white woman. When I was twelve I primarily identified with Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (an introverted reader with an engineer for a father), so I was disappointed to be assigned Jasmine as my character at a Disney-themed birthday party because of my “Arabianness.” Princess Jasmine has since followed me around as the only “Middle Eastern” Disney Princess (Jasmin also happens to be my middle name, which doesn’t help), and although there’s no such place as “Agrabah,” an inevitable connection formed between the two of us, making it particularly shocking when I realized that the voice I had been listening to had never been Middle Eastern at all. While Jasmine’s vocals are done by Filipina singer and actress Lea Salonga, her speaking voice belongs to white American actress Linda Larkin, a difficult truth to swallow as someone who grew up identifying with Jasmine in part because she looked like me.

While the new live-action movie version of Aladdin in theaters attracts praise for its inclusion of Middle Eastern actors in its cast, it’s unsettling that the simultaneous Broadway tour is seemingly void of any such effort. Recent Disney endeavors such as The Princess and the Frog and Moana seem to seek cultural specificity and an acute awareness of race in a push for equity, diversity, and inclusion.  It’s certainly also worth noting that both of the aforementioned examples are animated, circumnavigating certain elements of the casting process, such as embodiment. Why, then, the gap between what is seen on stage and screen when it comes to Aladdin?

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Andrés Felipe Orozco as the Calip in an onstage revival of Kismet in Neustrelitz, Germany, 2019. Photo: Tom Schweers

AS AN IRANIAN-AMERICAN THEATER-MAKER and cultural consultant, I often ask what keeps a production from accurately representing a certain region, ethnicity, or culture. While Aladdin (2019) takes steps to right the lack of accurate cultural representation, it falls short of erasing Disney’s xenophobic legacy – one that stems from a combination of the tale’s Orientalist origins, as well as a history of misrepresentation of Middle Eastern people in theater and film.

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