Alaska Airlines to the rescue: Portland Jazz Fest revived

The Portland Jazz Festival, pronounced dead on September 8 due to the pullout of Seattle-based title sponsor Qwest Communications, now rises from its ashes on the wings of Alaska Airlines and an advisory board of local businesses and individuals. According to a press release issued today by PDX Jazz, the fest’s umbrella organization, “the 6th Annual Alaska Airlines Portland Jazz Festival presented by The Oregonian A&E will take place, as scheduled, Februrary 13-22, 2009.” The 10-day fest’s theme will be the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. Does this suggest corporate and community support for jazz is available — if you know where to find it?

Bill Royston, producer of the Portland Jazz Fest, explained the turnaround thusly: “Last Wednesday, two things happened. First, we were asked to meet with member of Portland City Council and a coalition of local leaders to explore ways to revitalize PDX Jazz. Later that day we also received an unsolicited phone call expressing interest [from] Alaska Airlines on a multi-year title sponsorship . .  This will both meet our immediate needs and provide the beginning of long-term stability.”

Back to the press release: 

“Alaska Airlines is pleased to sponsor the Portland Jazz
Festival,” said Steve Jarvis, Alaska Airlines vice president of marketing
sales and customer experience. “Portland is home to many customers and
employees of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, and we’re happy to help showcase
great artists and their music through this important community event.” 

A force for regional integration, Horizon Air operates shuttle flights on the hour and half-hour between Portland and Seattle. 

With further support for the fest coming from Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, businessman Sho Dozono (a former mayoral candidate and head of Azumano Travel Service), U.S. Bank, Precision Cast Parts, Oregonian A&E (the daily newspaper’s arts and entertainment section), Travel Portland, the Portland Trailblazers, Rogue Ales, the record store Music Millennium, Amtrack, NW Natural (gas company), Enterprise Rent-A-Car and a host of downtown hotels, even Qwest returned to the fold with a new funding pledge from the firm’s national foundation.

The resurgence of the Portland Jazz Fest strengthens the Pacific Northwest’s position as a burgeoning international showcase for new music:

  •  Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival, 20 years old, runs from Oct. 18 to Nov. 9, with 50 concerts featuring pianist Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden and Carla Bley’s Liberation Music Orchestra, trumpeter-conguero Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band, Ravi Coltrane, pianist Marilyn Crispell’s trio, violinist Billy Bang, bassist-vocalist Richard Bona’s quartet, Swiss pianist George Grawe, Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, Peter Apfelbaum’s Hieroglyphics Orchestra, pianist Wayne Horvitz with trumpeter Ron Miles and drummer Bobby Previte, a jazz opera, jazz films — overall, an ambitious and interesting schedule.
  •  Vancouver, British Columbia’s Coastal Jazz and Blues Society, which plans its 25th annual festival for June 26 – July 9, 2009, runs concerts throughout other seasons, too — Seattle tenor saxophonist Hadley Calliman performs in quintet Oct. 3-4, and percussionist Jerry Granelli (now based in Halifax, but formerly a teacher at Seattle’s Cornish Institute) leads his V-16 project, an electric guitar quartet, on Oct. 17. 
  • The Bellvue Jazz Festival, another production of Portland’s Bill Royston, debuted as a Memorial Day weekend event last May.
  • The Banff Centre in Calgary, Canada, has hosted the highly-regarded Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music for 30 years (trumpeter Dave Douglas is currently the program’s director) and sponsors fall and winter music creative residencies.

Extend the Pacific Northwest just a little south, and the San Francisco Jazz Festival (held Oct. 3 through Nov. 9) looms as the big daddy of all these doings. New York City may still be the Apple, but there’s no limits on how far this music has gone. Did I mention I’ll be attending the 10th annual Festival de Jazz de Ponta Delgada, in the Portuguese Azores, Oct. 22-26?
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  1. Devon says

    Yay! I’m so relieved. After the downfall of IAJE and hearing the Portland Jazz Festival had gone under I was starting to feel like everything was crumbling around us.
    An unsolicited phone call and from an airline company no less… it just goes to show you miracles happen!

  2. BN says

    Correction: Qwest is based in Denver, CO.
    HM: Thanks for righting me, BN. Is it possible that being out of Portland’s immediate area, Qwest was less than reasonably responsible for sponsoring the Fest? Having engaged in a small amount of fundraising, I’ve found sponsors have to have a genuine stake in what they support. I understand Alaska Airlines looking to make a splash as title sponsor in a closeby lower 48 tourist center; Qwest Oregon seems to be involved with broadband internet, digital tv and voice and wireless communications in 12 western states, but maybe that spreads it too thin. Anyway, the more supporters the merrier because more stable support will be. Congrats to PDX on attracting the new sponsors it deserves.