PDX Jazz

Photos by Mark Sheldon

Last week, I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing Bill Frisell in front of an audience—in what’s called a “Jazz Conversation,”—at this year’s edition of the Portland Jazz Festival. Held at the Art Bar in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), our chat was podcast by the Oregonmusicnews.com and can be heard here.

The PDX fest, programmed and very ably run by executive director Don Lucoff (who in full disclosure is a dear friend), is a classy event that presents both local and national jazz talent for 9 days every February. It takes advantage of Portland’s many, SO MANY, cool venues and draws its audience from up and down the west coast as well as Portland’s book reading record listening, coffee–swilling population. The fact that it happens during the low season for the hotel business there doesn’t hurt either. And yes, if you are physical media obsessed, Portland does have more than a few record stores worth exploring. I managed to pick up a few choice items at Crossroads Music, Jackpot Music, Everyday Music and Music Millennium.

And then there’s Second Avenue Records which is akin to traveling back in time to a place where the spirit of Slayer (and probably Jerry Garcia as well) move like a mist among wads of garish metal T–shirts that hang in clumps from the ceiling, obscuring the lighting and making it oddly hard to see what records are actually in the bins. The word “trip” doesn’t even begin to describe this store where more often than not, something from the thrashier end of the punk rock spectrum is being played at maximum volume.

As far as headliners go, Branford Marsalis, Roy Haynes (at age 86), Charlie Hunter, Charles McPherson and Frisell were the big guns at this year’s event. As always Frisell was charming and forthcoming. He is one of the greatest talents in music—not just jazz—playing, composing and recording today. The man can do textures like none other. At his biggest show, held on Friday, February 24th at the Crystal Ballroom he and pedal steel player Greg Leisz played the music of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant in the first half and John Lennon, to synch with his latest release All We Are Saying in the second. Another great show by a guy I could listen to for days.

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