Terrell Stafford photo courtesy of the artist.
Fort Worden, Port Townsend
Summer in Seattle means catching a ferry and getting out of the city for a couple of days—windows down, sunglasses on, heading up the road to the quaint peninsula town of Port Townsend, a town known for its views of the Puget Sound. But in July, ears and eyes turn to another stage.
Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend Festival nests in Fort Worden, a 433-acre idyllic former military base, and brings incredible acts from around the country for three days of musical bliss. This year the festival runs from July 25 to July 27 and begins Thursday with Jazz in the Clubs, an à la carte series of concerts in venues throughout the Fort Worden grounds that lasts through the weekend. A $25 daily wristband acts as a pass to the venues. Wander the grounds of Fort Worden from 8 to 11pm and happen upon the different all-age concerts.
Main stage shows are on Friday night and Saturday through the afternoon and night at the McCurdy Pavilion, a balloon-hangar-turned-arena that seats 1,200.
Friday night begins with Anat Cohen and Marcello Gonçalves. Equipped with only a seven-string guitar and a clarinet, Cohen and Gonçalves craft a richly textured orchestra of two. The duo traverses multiple musical territories in a soundscape informed by a milieu of styles made unique by their collaboration.
They are followed by soul jazz ensemble Equal Time, comprised of organist Akiko Tsuruga, guitarist Graham Dechter with Jeff Hamilton on drums. All accomplished in their own right, the jazz trio together create soulful and surprising movements.
Saturday afternoon begins with the brass-band street performers Brothers of Brass, featuring Terell Stafford and Marquis Hill on trumpets, following in the tradition of New Orleans street music. The quippy Mayo Mastery is Michael Mayo, a talented, emotional jazz vocalist. Then, Centrum All Star Big Band directed by John Clayton, billed as the “hottest big band in the Northwest,” takes the stage featuring Akiko Tsuruga from Equal Time and standout pianist Gerald Clayton.
Saturday night is packed with Grammy- nominated Geoffrey Keezer on piano and vocalist Gillian Margot. “Piedmont Blues: A Search For Salvation” by Gerard Clayton and featuring vocalist René Marie will close Saturday night. The show is a tribute to the land and culture of the musical styling Piedmont Blues and its defining characteristics of ragtime rhythms, fingerpicking and low, storied lyrics. Marie, a Grammy-nominated vocalist and Piedmont native, sings the vocals for this sprawling epic that weaves in music and an assemblage of projected film, new and archival photography, and Southern folklore.
DownBeat called Marie’s performance “masterful” and Clayton at the helm has picked up praise from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Preceeding the Jazz Festival is a concordant weeklong workshop for jazz and blues musicians. Now in its 33rd year, students work with renowned talents chosen by Artistic Director John Clayton. –Whitney Bashaw
Tickets and information available at centrum.org.