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MusicWatch Weekly: jazz week


It used to be that Portlanders had to wait till winter’s PDX Jazz Festival to catch several strong jazz shows in a row. No more! Just check out this week’s improv-oriented offerings.

Jazzmeia Horn sings Wednesday night at Portland’s Old Church.

• Wednesday. One jazz’s rising young stars, Jazzmeia Horn (besides bearing the coolest first name ever) has won the two most prestigious international vocal jazz competitions, performed with top jazz artists, and regularly plays major NYC venues. PDX Jazz brings her to Portland’s Old Church Wednesday night.

• Thursday. Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble has been engaging in some cool collaborations lately, and the next one looks fascinating. Boundary-busting Portland composers Amenta Abioto, Sage Fisher (from Dolphin Midwives), and Floom’s Maxx Katz — whose music ranges from soundscapes to death metal to experimental improv — have scored new music to accompany the classic 1968 zombie film Night of the Living Dead, which they’ll perform Thursday night while the film and heads roll at Portland’s Holocene club. Rock those Halloween costumes!

•The pianist/guitarist team of Bryn Roberts and Lage Lund play their lyrical original music Thursday night at Portland’s Classic Pianos.

• Saturday. You may not instantly recognize the band name Circuit Rider, or even its leader, cornetist Ron Miles, but any jazz fan will recognize and revere the trio’s other two members: chameleonic / prolific Seattle guitarist Bill Frisell, and drummer Brian Blade. But Miles, who shares Denver roots with Frisell and who plays in Art Farmer’s lyrical tradition, really should be better known, and Saturday night’s trio performance at Lewis & Clark College’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel presented by PDX Jazz offers a rare and splendid opportunity.


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• Sunday. The next night’s PDX Jazz show, this one back at Portland’s Old Church, is also a low-key winner. Danish guitarist/composer Jakob Bro (whose trio also includes bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Joey Baron) recently released a pair of terrific albums on the great ECM label and make another highly recommended entry in this fall’s excellent PDX Jazz lineup.

For more jazz this week, check out the lineup at Eugene’s Jazz Station, which ArtsWatch’s Daniel Heila recently spotlighted.


Composer Andrew Norman

• One of the country’s hottest youngish composers, Californian Andrew Norman composed his 2015 “hyperactive fantasy” Split for the great LA pianist Jeffrey Kahane, who’ll perform it with the Oregon Symphony Friday at Salem’s Willamette University and Saturday through Monday at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway Ave.

Fronting an orchestra that includes abundant percussion (timpani, kick drums, slapsticks, guiro, temple blocks, opera gongs, triangle, flower pot, washboard, wood blocks, brake drum, bongos, splash cymbal, vibraphone, ratchet, log drum, tin cans, spring coil), Kahane, a frequent Oregon visitor, plays (musically speaking) a prankster who gradually becomes “more the pranked,” Norman writes, “an unwitting protagonist trapped in a Rube Goldbergian labyrinth of causes and effects who tries, with ever greater desperation, to find his way out of the madness and on to some higher plane.” The concert also celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birth anniversary with three orchestral episodes from his lively 1944 musical On the Town and Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony.

• American music also seizes the spotlight when Portland Youth Philharmonic takes its show on the road this month with free or cheap performances Saturday night at Redmond’s Ridgeview High School and Sunday afternoon at Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center. (They’ll play the program at home next week too.) William Grant Still’s The Far West from his larger suite The American Scene is one of those excellent works by African American composers whose neglect Damien Geter decried in his ArtsWatch story last month. Inspired by American vistas, it’s an early example of the landscape music before that was a thing. The concerts also include the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by 17-year-old violinist Aaron Greene, winner of PYP’s 2018-19 Soloist Competition, and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6.

Aaron Greene performs with PYP. Photo: Brian Clark

• Sunday afternoon sports a pair of smaller scale orchestral concerts. In Eugene, the Shedd concert hall’s microphilharmonic chamber orchestra plays a pair of down-sized classics: Mozart’s dazzling Sinfonia Concertante featuring dueling viola and violin and arranged for chamber orchestra, and Brahms’s sunny Serenade #1, in its rarely performed reconstructed original version for five winds and four strings. Also on Sunday afternoon, Portland’s beloved world chamber ensemble 3 Leg Torso joins the North Coast Symphonic Band at Astoria’s historic Liberty Theatre.


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On Monday night at Lincoln Hall, Portland Wind Symphony plays the world premiere of Olin Hannum’s Odds and not Evens, Symphony # 1 by Kimberly Archer and works by Holst, Vaughan Williams and Verdi. As ArtsWatch’s Maria Choban wrote in her review of PWS’s concert last spring, free is a very good price, especially for such a committed group of musicians.

Chris Chapman leads Portland Wind Symphony

Chamber and Choral Music

• After this month’s earlier choral collisions, choral music fans have to be satisfied with a single major show (that we’re aware of), but it’s a good one. On Sunday at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, Seattle’s Byrd Ensemble sings politically charged Renaissance works by its namesake William Byrd and his friend Thomas Tallis, the famous Allegri Miserere, and contemporary compositions by Gabriel Jackson and Arvo Part.

• Oregon’s finest string quartet, the Delgani Quartet, opens its season with a recommended program: the famous single quartet movement by Schubert, Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s second quartet, and one of the greatest of all chamber compositions: Claude Debussy’s sole quartet. They’re performing at Portland’s Old Church Friday night, Eugene’s United Lutheran Church Sunday afternoon and Tuesday night, and Salem’s Prince of Peace Episcopal Church Saturday night.

Delgani String Quartet performs in Portland, Eugene, and Salem.

• Despite its name, Portland Baroque Orchestra’s weekend concerts feature a chamber ensemble (flute, harpsichord, cello, viola da gamba) playing some of the baroque era’s most elegantly tuneful music. One of the most renowned historically informed flutists, Janet See (who’s graced dozens of prominent recordings) stars in a pair of Telemann’s delectable Paris Quartets and two more gems from François Couperin.

• Film scores are increasingly “composed” from sample libraries, and AI is all the rage these days, but it’s hard to imagine Artificial Improvisation that could achieve the responsive power of the OG human soundtrackers, who back in the day (we’re talking silent films, before recorded soundtracks were even possible) improvised the scores to films in theaters around the world. On Saturday at Portland’s Trinity Cathedral, concert organist David Briggs, artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, gets a jump on Halloween and brings that long-buried practice back from the grave when he improvises the accompaniment to the 1925 silent horror classic Phantom of the Opera.

Renowned organist David Briggs makes up his own score to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Saturday at Portland’s Trinity Cathedral.

• One of the fall’s most important classical music events is the Pacifica Quartet’s complete performance of all of Beethoven’s glorious string quartets in five concerts between this Sunday and next at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. Sunday afternoon’s concert features a pair of early quartets (Op. 18, Nos. 3 and 6), the middle period Op. 95 quartet, and the late, great Op. 135 quartet. Tuesday offers a similar mix: Op. 18, No. 1, Op. 59, No. 3 (one of the popular Razumovsky quartets), and Op. 127. And one of the benefits of a deep dive like this one is the opportunity to learn more about these masterpieces, via free talks by one of classical music’s great explainers, Miles Hoffman (whom you might know from his essays on NPR and APM’s Performance Today) at Multnomah County Central Library Saturday afternoon and before Sunday’s show, plus a Monday night panel discussion moderated by our colleague David Stabler at PSU’s Lincoln Recital hall and more. Stay tuned for interviews and previews by ArtsWatch’s Matthew Andrews and me.


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• A father-son pair of sarod masters star in Saturday night’s Kalakendra-sponsored concert of Indian classical music. Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash join tablawallahs Anubrata Chatterjee and Nilan Chaudhuri at Portland’s First Congregational Church. One of India’s finest musicians, the elder Bangash has brought his beautiful instrument to Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall and beyond.

• If Japanese music is more your thing, Oregon Koto-Kai plays shimmering music for the traditional zither Sunday afternoon at PSU’s Lincoln Hall.

Charles Grant, Alonzo Chadwick, Saeeda Wright
in ‘Gospel Blues.’ Photo: Jim Dorothy

• It’s as much a theatrical as musical experience, but Gospel Blues, a show about a striking Memphis sanitation worker’s encounter with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, does boast plenty of rousing live music,  courtesy of musicians including Jelani Greenidge and Saeeda Wright – featured soloists in the Oregon Symphony’s annual Gospel Christmas – and music by composers Dave Fleschner and the late Janice Scroggins.This concert reading runs for two Portland performances only, Friday at West Hills Covenant Church, 5815 SW Gillcrest Court, and Saturday at Maranatha Church, 4222 NE 12th Avenue.

Gary Ferrington’s Streaming Picks

PSU Noon Concert Series: Chinese Music. Thursday, October 25 at 12:00pm. Confucius Institute’s Visiting Distinguished Artists from China play traditional Chinese instruments.

Live from Beall Concert Hall: UO Symphony Orchestra, Thursday, October 25 at 7:30pm (PDT). Featuring music by Ravel, Elgar, Rautavaara, and Schuman.


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Live from Beall Concert Hall: Oregon Wind Symphony, Friday, October 26 at 7:30pm (PDT).

Live from Beall Concert Hall: Michael Fleming, Graduate Composition Recital, Saturday October 27 at 7:30pm (PDT)

Live from Beall Concert Hall: PAC. Sunday, October 28 at 7:30 pm (PDT) Featuring all three winners of the SOMD innovation award with performances by TaiHei Ensemble, Teen Angst, and Pacific Artists Collective

Live from Beall Concert Hall: OcTubaFest, Tuesday, October 30 at 7:30pm (PDT). Featuring the world premiere of Andrew Dewinter’s Sonata for Tuba and Piano with Michael Grose (tuba) and Andrew Pham (piano) plus music by Mozart, F. Strauss/Mike, Mahler, Uber, Censhu, Bozza, Gulino, Piazzolla/Anderson, Rachmaninov, Schumann/Rowe, Strauss, Horovitz, Kotscher and Lindt, Taylor, Stevens, and Tchaikovsky.

Whew! That’s a lot and only scratching the surface in this busy season for Oregon music. Please suggest more shows, jazzy and otherwise, in the comments section below.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.


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Photo Joe Cantrell

Brett Campbell is a frequent contributor to The Oregonian, San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities. He has been classical music editor at Willamette Week, music columnist for Eugene Weekly, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer, a recipient of arts journalism fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (Columbia University), the Getty/Annenberg Foundation (University of Southern California) and the Eugene O’Neill Center (Connecticut). He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and several plays, and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.


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