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MusicWatch Weekly: musical warming


It’s a chilly week in Oregon, but there’s plenty of jazz, of both the hot and cool variety, to keep us warm. Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch’s preview of this year’s PDX Jazz Festival, check out the extensive calendar for the many fine concerts we haven’t the space to list here. On Wednesday at Mission Theater, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, one of jazz’s  most acclaimed rising young ensembles, combines avant garde improv, 21st century compositional approaches and jazz tradition with a sense of fun.


That same night at Jack London Revue, Kandinsky Effect, takes a different approach to contemporary jazz. The French-American trio electronica meets jazz combo swirls funk grooves and rock beats with relaxed sax melodies.

If your tastes tilt more trad, catch legendary South African/New York bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ekaya ensemble also Wednesday, at Revolution Hall. No less than Nelson Mandela called the former Dollar Brand “South Africa’s Mozart,” and Duke Ellington thought enough of him to arrange his American record debut. He’s been blending African and American jazz influences ever since, and this ensemble, which includes cello and flute as well as more traditional jazz instruments, is one of the 83-year-old composer/pianist’s best.

On Thursday at Newmark Theater, an all star lineup of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington,saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, and Portland-native bassist Esperanza Spalding celebrate the great composer/pianist Geri Allen, who died last year. Portland’s own great jazz pianist/composer, Darrell Grant, opens with a solo tribute. Afterwards, check out yet another great Oregon original, multi instrumentalist George Colligan, leading another all star trio from his New York years with the great bassist/composer Buster Williams and drummer Lenny White. And for a nightcap, catch young Portland saxman/composer Ian Christensen’s quartet at Portland5’s Art Bar.

Esperanza Spalding performs in a tribute to Geri Allen. Photo: Andrea Mancini.

On Friday at Mission Theater, still more Portlanders (pianist Randy Porter, drummer Charlie Doggett and more) join another tribute show: soul jazz septet Under the Lake’s celebration of Houston’s groovy ‘70s band the Crusaders (earlier called Jazz Crusaders) featuring pianist Joe Sample. Also Friday: terrific pianist Marcus Roberts’s long-term trio with drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Roland Guerin, double-billed with guitarist Russell Malone’s quartet at Newmark Theatre.


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Another ‘70s-’80s plugged in jazz tribute follows Saturday at Revolution Hall with Miles Electric Band’s tribute to the visionary musician called jazz’s Picasso, Miles Davis, featuring members of his various electric ensembles including his nephew, drummer Vince Wilburn, Jr., Neville Bros/Rolling Stones bass great Darryl Jones, sax titan Antoine Roney and more.

Just one more all star recommendation here: Sunday’s Jazz by 5 show at Rev Hall featuring names well known to jazz fans for their sterling work as sidemen in some of jazz’s finest ensembles, from Miles’s Kind of Blue band (Jimmy Cobb) to Bill Evans’s trio (Eddie Gomez) to the Jazz Messengers (Javon Jackson), along with a pair of respected band co-leaders, Randy Brecker and Joanne Brackeen. But really, almost every show in this knowledgeably curated festival has plenty of musical magnetism.

Monica Huggett takes a break from baroque to play Mozart with 45th Parallel. Photo: Jonathan Ley.

On the classical side, Wednesday offers a pair of Portland chamber gems. In 45th Parallel’s show at Rose City Presbyterian Church, yet another Portland music master, violinist Monica Huggett, joins fellow historically informed period instrument specialists Greg Ewer, Adam LaMotte, Sam Park and Nathan Whittaker in some of the finest classical music ever written: two of Mozart’s dazzling string quintets, which are too seldom heard compared to the quartets that dominate chamber music. They’re tossing in a quintet by his buddy Michael Haydn (Joe’s bro) too.

Still another quintet, this one with piano and strings, highlights Wednesday’s Chamber Music Northwest concert at Newmark Theater, where, if your tastes run more to the later Romantic era, you can hear Miró Quartet playing Dvorak’s lovely Cypresses and Schumann’s a minor quartet, then joining renowned pianist and Oregon favorite Jeffrey Kahane in a chamber classic: Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major.

Jeffrey Kahane joins Miro Quartet Wednesday.

Another famous quartet, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, tops the program Thursday at Lewis & Clark College’s Flanagan chapel, when Oregon Symphony’s James Shields and violinist Emily Cole team up with New York musicians Laura MetCalf and pianist Matei Varga. They’ll also play music by baroque master Marin Marais and 20th century LA composer Ingolf Dahl.

Sax fans who usually have to be content with jazz — not that there’s anything wrong with that — for their favorite instrument have a rare opportunity to hear some 20th century classical sax masterworks Thursday at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall, when Portland alto ace Sean Fredenberg joins pianist Chuck Dillard in music by popular French composer Jacques Ibert (Don Quixote Songs), Paule Maurice (the musical portraits Tableaux de Provence), and William Albright.

Orchestral highlights include Vancouver Symphony’s Saturday and Sunday concerts at Skyview Concert Hall, featuring longtime music director Salvator Brotons’s own Trombone Concerto (starring  Los Angeles Philharmonic principal trombonist David Rejano), Beethoven’s third symphony and Brahms’s Tragic Overture. Oregon Symphony’s Saturday-Monday shows include Samuel Barber’s stirring second Essay for Orchestra, pianist Francesco Piemontesi joining for Franck’s Symphonic Variations and Richard Strauss’s Burlesk, and Sibelius’s fifth symphony, one of the Finnish master’s most popular.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Speaking of Finns, young pianist Janne Oksanen plays more Beethoven, plus music by Chopin and fellow Finn Toivo Kuula in a recital Saturday at Portland Piano Company.

Vocal and choral music fans have several treats this weekend too. On Sunday in Portland First Presbyterian Church’s laudable Celebration Works series, Resonance Ensemble’s “Souls” concert explores mystical traditions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and features a cycle of twelve Sufi poems set by Portland composer Theresa Koon. The free show includes an installation illustrating questions posed by the Muslim Educational Trust and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch preview.

David DeLyser leads Choral Arts Ensemble.

On Saturday and Sunday at Portland State University’s Lincoln Recital Hall, Choral Arts Ensemble sings musical theater hits from Broadway shows like A Chorus Line, Book of Mormon, Guys and Dolls, Candide and more, plus opera choruses from Verdi, Wagner, Weber, Beethoven, Mozart, and Gilbert & Sullivan.

Opera arias from Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata are also on the bill at Eugene Concert Choir & Orchestra’s Sunday afternoon performance of Mozart’s stirring Mass in c minor (another underperformed Mozart masterwork) at the Hult Center’s Silva Hall. And speaking of opera, Astoria Music Festival brings acclaimed American soprano and Portland State alumna Charlotte Pastor from her Salzburg home to sing Viennese operetta favorites from The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, and more with Oregon’s own baritone Deac Guidi Sunday afternoon at Astoria’s Bridgewater Bistro.

Want to recommend more music to warm the soul this frigid week? Do so in the comments 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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