15th Annual Biamp PDX Jazz Festival


Terri Lyne Carrington Photo by Tracy Love

February 15-25
Various venues, Portland, OR

The 15th Annual Biamp PDX Jazz Festival is about to take over the Portland metro area for a week-and-a-half schedule recognizing legacy artists, emerging musicians, and local Northwest talent. Bringing Seattleites and other out-of-towners south, PDX Jazz Festival treats its audience to a robust jazz and culture celebration in the middle of Black History Month.

Running from Thursday, February 15, through Sunday, February 25, the festival offers an upwards of 100 ticketed events. These highlighted performances are on our radar: a Portland-only Geri Allen tribute show with Terri Lyne Carrington, Ravi Coltrane, and Esperanza Spalding, with special remembrance performance by Darrell Grant; Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sánchez; famed Brazilian Jazz singer Luciana Souza on a double bill with The Dave King Trio; five-time Grammy nominee John Beasley with the eleven-member Miles Electric Band; Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano winner Tigran Hamasyan; Tel Aviv guitar legend Yotam Silberstein with beloved Portland guitarist Dan Balmer; Bay Area drummer Scott Amendola; and a rocking finale by Javon Jackson’s Jazz By 5. As part of a co-presentation with Soul’d Out Music, PDX Jazz also gets big names Lettuce and Snarky Puppy with Banda Magda.

Paying homage to the art of vocal jazz, this year the PDX jazz program sees a slew of great singers and vocal tributes. On the first Saturday, Grammy Award-winning Brazilian Jazz singer Luciana Souza returns to the stage with her new poetic project featuring guitarist Chico Pinheiro and bassist Scott Colley. American jazz violinist Regina Carter will shine in a concert devoted to the iconic melodies of Ella Fitzgerald. More vocal lineups include Lisa Fischer & Grand Baton with special new jazz voice opener Tahirah Asha Memory, and new festival performer Portland-based Latin American singer-songwriter Edna Vazquez opening for the Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble.

Great pianists are anything but overlooked on this year’s booking. Of the more exciting players, pianist/composer virtuoso Tigran Hamasyan fuses potent jazz groove with rich folkloric music of his native Armenia. A double-bill with George Colligan Trio and Ethan Iverson will be another big moment for pianists; Iverson, best known as one-third of avant-jazz group The Bad Plus, goes solo after 17-years with the iconic trio. Another double-bill will see dynamic pianist Marcus Roberts Trio with harmonic guitar master Russell Malone Quartet. Daytime piano concerts at the illustrious recital hall of Portland’s Classic Pianos will bring in classically trained, Azerbaijan-born concert pianist Amina Figarova and up-and-coming blind multi-instrumentalist and composer Rachel Flowers.

Playing with his celebrated septet Ekaya is prolific pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, dubbed  “South Africa’s Mozart,” by Nelson Mandela. A founding member of the South Africa’s first premier jazz group Jazz Epistles, Ibrahim has recorded with and been mentored by Duke Ellington. A few days later, catch the unparalleled Hammond B-3 playing of NEA Jazz Master Dr. Lonnie Smith. 

The festival closes with a memorable show at Revolution Hall that celebrates the eras of swing, bebop, avant-garde jazz. Headlining is Javon Jackson’s illustrious Jazz By 5, a musical collaboration with Randy Brecker, Joanne Brackeen, Eddie Gomez, and Jimmy Cobb. Opening is one of the next generation’s spotlight drummers to watch, the ambitious Domo Branch. Claiming soloist awards from the 2016 and 2017 Next Generation Monterey jazz competition, the talented student performer has now organized an exciting quintet for a memorable opening performance.

Artistic Director Don Lucoff adds in his personal excitement about this particular bill: “It’s great to hear young and old pairing like that.”

The heart of PDX Jazz has always been to showcase the talent already working hard around the neighborhood.

“We really try to recognize the greatness of our local scene,” Lucoff tells Earshot Jazz.

As such, Portland gems have been included in the scheduling, like Portland reunion tour with famed songstress Nancy King and Tacoma-born bassist David Friesen who join Randy Porter Playing Cole Porter. Oregon Hall of Famer Bobby Torres plays with his ensemble in a tribute show for Al Jarreau. Up-and-coming Portland groups like local funk/R&B/soul band Midnight’s Children, and groove-oriented The Euge Organ Trio join the bill as part of the recurring “Not Exactly Jazz” series at the east side’s McMenamins property White Eagle Saloon. In another series “Vocalese & Beyond,” we hear from local group Laurent Nickels Trio with magical vocals by ultra-talent Jimmie Herrod.

The handful of participating venues will include Revolution Hall, Winningstad Theatre, Mississippi Studios, Newmark Theatre, Lola’s Room at Crystal Ballroom, and Portland’s The Old Church Concert Hall.

Tickets, full schedule, and more information available at pdxjazz.com or 503-228-5299.

–Halynn Blanchard


Posted on

January 30, 2018

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