Holly Hofmann directs the Oregon Coast Jazz Party with the organizational skills of a headmistress, the firmness of a Marine Corps drill instructor and the finesse of a world-class flutist. At the 2012 party, she unsheathed her flute twice, sitting in with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and joining in the closing jam session. The rest of the time, she field-marshaled the three-day gathering.
Held in the town of Newport, the festival presented 19 musicians playing in established groups and being mixed and matched by Ms. Hofmann in intriguing combinations. The event also incorporates clinics and workshops for student musicians. The audience at the Newport Performing Arts Center was full of knowledge about the music and full of enthusiasm. Most of the performances drew packed houses, listeners of a certain age with a sprinkling of people under 50. That chronological fact led to discussions among patrons and musicians about who will be the future audience for jazz. I wish I could tell you that someone had the answer.
By way of introducing most of the cast of characters, let’s look at a picture by Nancy Jane Reid, a Newport volunteer who photographs the festival each year. This was the weekend’s final blow, a Sunday jam on “Perdido.” We see everyone but bassist Tom Wakeling, bassist Dave Captein and drummer Gary Hobbs, all of whom who had moved on to previous commitments in Portland; and organist Atsuko Hashimoto.
After Hamilton, Calvaire and Redd played relay drums solos on the same set—never missing a beat—Peplowski put down his clarinet, muscled his way onto the stool and took drumming back to the basics and beyond, inspiring hilarity in the audience and onstage, particularly among the actual drummers. Later, he said, “I went easy on them because I didn’t want to make those guys feel any worse than necessary.” His clarinet and tenor saxophone playing made up for any perceived shortcomings in his percussion technique. The episode was one instance of the camaraderie, tolerance and frequent giddiness that prevailed throughout the festival.
Our next report will recount some of the highlights of the weekend’s music.