Cathedral Park Jazz Festival photo by Chris Lazarus.
Cathedral Park, Portland, OR
BY JONATHAN SHIPLEY
The future looks bright but for a while there it didn’t, what with COVID ravaging the nation. Things dimmed. Jazz lights dimmed. The art form took a hit with losses related to the virus, from trumpeter Wallace Roney to jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Clubs had to close their doors for the virus, and some even permanently. Musicians and educators had to zoom to Zoom, undoubtedly impacting the levels of education given and received, and impacting the development of the art form to younger musicians.
The light of jazz dimmed but it certainly didn’t go out. Just ask Rita Rega, the Programming Chair of Portland’s annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. She is also a radio show host. Her program, “The World of Jazz,” airs twice a month on Portland’s KBOO FM. “Things are opening up,” she says, “The Cathedral Park Jazz Festival is the longest-running community event in Portland. We weren’t going to allow it to die because of COVID.” Cathedral Park Jazz Festival is presented by the Jazz Society of Oregon, whom according to their website are an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the local scene, supporting jazz education, and fostering a greater appreciation of this Black art form. For four decades, Cathedral Park Jazz Festival has presented a free festival showcasing the hottest jazz, blues, Latin, and soul music from the Portland scene and nearby.
Rega couldn’t be more excited “for all of us getting back into the park and enjoying some great live music!” The in-person festival will take place July 16–18 under the St. John’s Bridge. Acts will include 500 Miles High, led by pianist Ramsey Embrick, who will pay tribute to Chick Corea; blues legend Lloyd Jones, who will be on stage with the Atlas Horns; and, among other renowned acts, soul artist Jarrod Lawson brings his full band in one of his first festival performances of the year. Other performers at the festival will include Fenix Rising, Korgy & Bass, Michael Raynor Quartet, Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, and Julianne Johnson with the Ron Steen Quartet. Soul Vaccination will close out the festival on Sunday night.
“Portland has had a lot of bad press lately,” Rega adds, “and carrying on this free festival is an invitation to come down to the park and enjoy life on a beautiful summer’s day.” COVID rules will be in place, such as mask wearing and social distancing. Still, the festival is outside, the park is large offering various views of the stage, and there will be plenty of room to tap one’s toes, get in a groove, or get up on one’s feet. “We just want audiences,” she says, “[and] the opportunity to get back to normal.”
Though everyone wants normalcy in life, the festival doesn’t plan to be normal. No, for a festival coming out of the dimmed COVID world, it should prove to be an exhilarating time and nothing less.
“[Last year] we all missed out on celebrating Portland’s diverse music scene before a large, live, enthusiastic crowd.” Not this year. The future looks bright, indeed.
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival: Friday, July 16, 4:30-10pm; Saturday, July 17, 1-9:45pm; Sunday, July 18, 1-8:15pm; Cathedral Park, N. Edison St. and Pittsburg Ave., Portland, OR 97203