When I first heard Bill Royston talk about the theme for the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival, Feb. 18-27, I was a little skeptical, mostly because I as thinking about the words, not the music: Bridges and Boundaries: Jewish and African Americans Playing Jazz Together. It sounded like an invitation to a debate or a lecture, not a jazz festival. Or maybe one of those ideas that skips along the surface without really taking hold.
But yesterday the festival announced the line-up of concerts, and the depth of the idea started to become clear. So, for example, Regina Carter wins a MacArthur grant, goes to Africa intent on recording folk songs, and she discovers a settlement of Ugandan Jews with a musical heritage stretching back many centuries. She decides to include that music on her new CD, Reverse Thread, and that's what she'll be playing in Portland next February. Just about everyone on the bill connects to the theme in similarly deep ways -- Don Byron, the 3 Cohens, Joshua Redman, Anat Fort. And they all make great music.
Plus, Esperanza Spalding, above, was introduced as the official ambassador of the festival, a perfect choice both because she grew up in jazz here and because her explanations of the music and the culture as a whole are so clear and compelling. So, yes, we were persuaded.
Here's the schedule of headliners announced by the jazz festival yesterday:
- Friday, February 18, 7:30pm, Winningstad Theater, Randy Weston
- Saturday, February 19, 7:30pm, Winningstad Theater, Anat Fort
- Sunday, February 20, 7:30pm, Winningstad Theater, Dave Frishberg
- Thursday, February 24, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Don Byron
- Friday, February 25, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, Esperanza Spalding
- Friday, February 25, 9:30pm, Crystal Ballroom, Poncho Sanchez
- Friday, February 25, 9:30pm, Alberta Rose Theatre, Nik Bartsch's Ronin
- Saturday, February 26, 2:00pm, Crystal Ballroom, The 3 Cohens
- Saturday, February 26, 7:30pm, Newmark Theater, SFJAZZ Collective
- Saturday, February 26, 8:00pm, Tony Starlight's, Gerald Clayton
- Saturday, February 26, 9:30pm, Crystal Ballroom, Regina Carter
- Sunday, February 27, 2:00pm, Newmark Theater, Joshua Redman
- Sunday, February 27, 7:30pm, Crystal Ballroom, Maceo Parker
Another theme is going to be piano players. Dave Frishberg, above, we know is superb. He lives here, we've heard him, he is amazing. Gerald Clayton is an excellent young pianist, and Joshua Redman will probably be accompanied by another exemplary young pianist, Aaron Parks. But, really, we know all these bands are going to be loaded with top-drawer musicians. That's just the way the Portland Jazz Festival has been.
PDX Jazz Members can reserve seats during the pre-sale period from October 13 - October 22. (New and renewing members can join at any time.) On Saturday, October 23, Portland Jazz Festival tickets will be available to the general public at all TicketMaster locations, by calling 503-228-JAZZ (5299), or online at pdxjazz.com.