John Clayton photo courtesy of artist
Fort Worden State Park
Port Townsend, WA
Herds of aspiring young musicians, seasoned players, and jazz listeners alike are headed to the seaside community of Port Townsend for Centrum’s 42nd Jazz Port Townsend. From July 28–30, a three-day concert series will fill up a 1200-seater grand pavilion and circulate throughout intimate downtown Port Townsend clubs, all trailing a weeklong series of student workshops and master classes.
Artistic Director John Clayton has plotted all-star workshop faculty among his list of festival headliners, with performances by Clayton Brothers Quintet, Sean Jones/Terell Stafford/Wycliffe Gordon/Grace Kelly, pianists George Colligan and Gerald Clayton, accomplished drummer/composer Kendrick Scott, and the vocal duo of Grammy-nominated songwriter René Marie and powerhouse Dee Daniels. Featured performances will take place at McCurdy Pavilion, on the grounds of former military base Fort Worden State Park, while the popular “Jazz in the Clubs” series kicks off Thursday, July 28.
Two Friday night performances bring together first-class entertainers, beginning with the collaboration of JD Allen, Sean Jones, and the unmatched improvisation of favorite Northwest pianist George Colligan as the JPT Quintet. Closing the night, the Jeff Hamilton Organ Trio will feature reputable organist and New York mainstay Akiko Tsuruga and swinging guitarist Graham Dechter.
The Saturday afternoon performances see John Clayton on bass alongside his brother Jeff Clayton (saxophone), joined by four-time Grammy nominated pianist/composer Gerald Clayton. Their group Clayton Brothers Quintet, founded nearly 30 years ago, will set the stage for a faculty all-star big band paying tribute to Woody Herman, one of America’s favorite big band leaders from the swing era. Among faculty performers in this show are trumpeters Sean Jones, Terell Stafford, and Thomas Marriott, Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), and Jeff Hamilton and Joe LaBarbera (drums).
A headline collaboration performance follows three high-energy trios, aptly dubbed “Three-O,” on Saturday night. The jazz prodigy alto saxophonist Grace Kelly takes the stage to join trombone legend Wycliffe Gordon, Grammy-winning trumpeter Sean Jones, and acclaimed New York-based trumpeter Terell Stafford, after earlier trios that feature captivating interplay and rhythmic precision between Gerald Clayton and Kendrick Scott (drums). Prodigious California-based pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Harish Raghavan also join the mix of combo players in the trio series.
One of the most enticing components of the festival’s events will be the popular “Jazz in the Clubs” series. Delivering a great feast of live music in a handful of cozy venues in Port Townsend’s downtown, “Jazz in the Clubs” is sure to see a spectrum of audience members, ranging from attentive youthful students to Seattleites on a getaway. Jazz Port Townsend notes that underage students will be welcome at certain venues.
Meanwhile, during the week of “jazz boot camp,” the total 200 workshop participants will receive small ensemble experience under the direction of a dedicated faculty advisor with whom they’ll work twice a day beginning July 24. Additionally, instrumentalists and vocalists will sit in on daily master classes in a focused, supportive atmosphere.
New to the bill of all-star clinicians are Portland-based pianist George Colligan, unsurpassed solo-guitarist Corey Christiansen, and reputable jazz-fusion drummer/composer Kendrick Scott. Still early in his career, Scott has already collaborated with a multitude of name artists including Jazz Crusaders, saxophonists Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett, Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and jazz pianist/record producer Robert Glasper.
Possibly due to Scott’s addition to this year’s lineup, space for drum students was maxed out before any other instrument group this year. Program Manager for Jazz and Classical Music Gregg Miller comments, “This is going to be a good year for drummers.”
While drum and piano spaces are all currently filled, the team at Jazz Port Townsend says they may be able to accept other instrumentalists and vocalists into mid-July. “We’re in the business of saying ‘yes,’” says Miller. “We’re playing jazz, and we’re not here to be exclusive.”
– Halynn Blanchard
Mainstage tickets are $23-$53; three-concert packages, $65-$130; wristband for clubs, $25 per night; all-festival packages (excluding Thursday night in the clubs) $115-$180. Tickets available at centrum.org.
Jazz Port Townsend Featured Performances
Fort Worden’s McCurdy Pavilion
Friday, July 29, 7:30pm
JPT QuintetJeff Hamilton Organ Trio feat. Akiko Tsuruga & Graham Dechter
Saturday, July 30, 1:30pm
Clayton Brothers Quintet
René Marie/Dee Daniels
Faculty All-Star Big Band: A Tribute to Woody Herman
Saturday, July 30, 7:30pm
Sean Jones/Terell Stafford/Wycliffe Gordon/Grace Kelly