too much fun

jazz-beyond-jazz fans (that’s yours truly!) exult in Ornette Coleman, Myra Melford’s Be Bread, the Bad Plus and the overall Portland Jazz Festival


Complete disclosure — I am a guest and advisor to the Portland Jazz Festival, also here to promote my book (at the incredible bookstore Powell’s, and also the local Borders tomorrow), so I have enormous self-interest in the Portland Jazz Festival, produced for only five years by PDX Jazz, a non-profit that has established significant local community sponsorship and support. Nevertheless —
Pulitzer Prize-wining Ornette Coleman delivered an iconic performance with his quintet (OC playing furious fiddle as well as beseeching and blues-drenched alto sax and querolous trumpet; Tony Falanga on upright bass, powerhouse Charnett Moffett and guitaristic Albert McDowell on electric basses; brilliantly quick Denard Coleman playing drums) and received a standing ovation from a nearly sold all-ages crowd at the ornate downtown Portland Theater, a former movie palace, to formally open the festival’s first night. That afternoon Ornette verbalized his thoughts on life, love, death, habit, creativity, originality, sound, music and the whole damn thing in a public interview I conducted for an hour, which was attended by more than 100 attentive attendees — and recorded for eventual broadcast by KMHD.
Keyboardist-composer Myra Melford’s quintet Be Bread, with electric guitarist Brandon Ross (taking a more-than-usually forefront role, though electric trumpeter Coung Vu is equally a powerful creative voice to the rich, thick rolling mix, as is extraordinary electric bassist Stomu Takehishi and the colorist drummer/percussionist Elliot Cavee) — the music rises, it’s nourishing, it’s bread, it rocked at an 11 pm show, which followed a separate ticketed event, the debut performance of the new all-star SFJazz Collective (Joe Lovano, Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenon, Dave Douglas, Robin Eubanks, Renee Rosnes, Matt Pennman, Eric Harland) playing Wayne Shorter repertoire. Charnette Moffett was seen swinging behind Robin Eubanks in the late night free fest jam session, where local saxists gathered from the trendy Pearl District streets. . .
The next afternoon the Bad Plus thrilled a crowd of several hundred at the historic Crystal Ballroom venue, and right now I’m readying to hear Tim Berne, saxophonist-composer-improviser, with pianist Craig Taborn.
All these musicians sat with jazz authors and journalists James Hale, Paul de Barros, Tim DuRoche, Steve Cantor, Lloyd Peterson on two panels discussing “The Shape of Jazz To Come,” and other future-of-music topics — also, Hale publically “conversed” with Berne, de Barros with Melford, Peterson was supposed to do Cecil Taylor but that’s gotten cancelled or maybe postponed ’cause CT didn’t connect as planned, Cantor talked with the entire Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson, Reid Miles, Dave King) — If I didn’t have to rush off (maybe I can still catch a minute of the Spanish Harlem jazz Orchestra) I’d provide details, but more will follow . . .
(I should mention that photographer R. Andrew Lepley is working assiduously, I’ve seen jazz journalists Joseph Woodard from Santa Barbara and Laurence Donohue-Greene from AllAboutJazz-New York, local writers Martin Hughley and Luciana Lopez, producer Bill Royston has done an amazing job staging this city-wide event, the staff is great, food is good, I love Oregon pinot noirs. . . it’s been (unusually) sunny, too. I drove through the gorgeous Columbia Gorge and climbed an outcropping, and recommend it all). howardmandel.com

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