The difference between Portland and Phoenix can be equated in more ways than comparing inches of rainfall and number of retirees. The sound of the city's jazz festivals are pretty different, as well.
Whereas PDX was pretty hardcore traditional this year, this weekend's PHX-fest is definitely on the smooth tip. That's cool; I dig it all. That's why I've dispatched a photographer to grab some shots this weekend as the AZ Jazz Fest kicks off tomorrow night at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa.
Jazz-infused R&B dude Ne-Yo will serve as the opening night headliner, dispensing what AZJ says will be "elaborately choreographed production showcasing R&B-pop hits from the singer-songwriter-producer accompanied by a splashy army of dancers and backing musicians." Sax players Marian Meadows and Paul Taylor (whose new record landed on my desk this morning) will play Saturday along with two jazz/R&B collectives: Rick Braun will lead the way with Jazz Attack while Jefferey Osbourne and Faith Evans will mix-and-match with some heavy hitters under the name Groove Hypnotic Tour. Grammy-winning legend Patti LaBelle closes things up Saturday.
Highlights on Sunday are shaping up to be sets from the ever-enchanting soul goddess Gladys Knight and singer/songwriter/guitarist Jonathan Butler with closing ceremonies being conducted most funkily by the Isley Brothers.
OK, so no one will be blowing Ornette Coleman sides; it'll still be a groovy weekend. Were I to have a roundtripper myself, I'd be shooting those photos. Come back to see the sights next week and go here for tickets and information.
Photo of Jonathan Butler by Raj Naik (Courtesy of Mack Avenue)
This past week's showing at the 11th Portland Jazz Festival has immediately vaulted "Jazzlandia" into the same category as San Francisco, Monterey and, dare we say it, Newport on the list of great American jazz festivals. From the opening night with Brian Blade through performances by Ahmad Jamal, Wynton Marsalis and Pat Metheny, the fare was an "embarrassment of riches." Click here to find out what were the 5 Best Things About The Portland Jazz Festival.
Photo of James Carter by Michael Verity
...with humor and horror. No lie, that's what you get from this week's featured releases: Bohren and Der Club of Gore's Piano Nights, Ed Palermo Big Band's Oh No! Not Jazz!! and Thumbscrew, the debut album from a new trio that includes Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson and Tomas Fujiwara. Read all about it here.
Photo of Thumbscrew courtesy of Cunieform Records.
In 1513, Balboa became the first European to touch the Pacific Ocean and, while doing so, founded the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. Five hundred years later, Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Perez commenorates the event with the release of Panama 500, an interesting blend of traditional jazz, Panamanian folk and European classical music. Read more here.
Photo By Raj Naik & Luke Severn/Courtesy of Mack Avenue Records
The first weekend of the Portland Jazz Festival ended on an adventurous note with a 90-minute free-thinking, largely experimental set by the jazz super group Spring Quartet. Anchored by Portland native Esperanza Spalding on bass, Spring Quartet includes Joe Lovan on saxes, Leo Genovese on keyboards and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Interested to know what went down. See a review here.
Photos By Michael Verity
The Portland Jazz Festival is just a few days old but has already delivered its share of fabulous performances. After Brian Blade opened the festivities on Thursday, Ahmad Jamal appeared in a sold out show at the city's Newmark Theater on Friday. Joining him for a spirited 90-minute performance were a trio of heavy hitters: bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena. Click here for a review of the show followed by profiles of the players (complete with exclusive photographs).
Photos by Michael Verity
Saxophonist David Sanborn's latest super group -- with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, B3 superstar Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart -- opens a four-night run in San Fran tonight. The band will play 7:30 all-ages sets all four nights at the SF Jazz Center on Franklin Street. (Tickets)
Also opening tonight is the 2014 PDX (Portland) Jazz Festival. Spread across 11 days and numerous venues, both large and small, festival highlights include performances by Ahmad Jamal (tomorrow night), Spring Quartet featuring Esperanza Spalding, Jack DeJohnette and Joe Lovano (Sunday night), Yellowjackets (Monday night) and up-and-coming piano star Helen Sung on Thursday night.
Though they're not officially part of the festival, Wynton Marsalis will be in town next Friday (2/28) and Pat Metheny will be playing Sunday, 3/2.
Photo of Esperanza Spalding by Michael Verity
Harvey Mason will make his Concord Records debut this spring with a brand new set that draws on his 40 years as one of jazz fusion's most highly-respected -- and funkiest -- drummers. Named after the jazz classic he co-wrote with Herbie Hancock, Bennie Maupin and Paul Jackson, Chameleon is a 10-song collection that includes tunes like Grover Washington's classic "Black Forest," Quincy Jones' "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" (from 1974's Body Heat), Donald Byrd's "Places And Spaces" along with new approach to the title cut.
Not only does the record bridge a gap of 40 years with its repertoire, it unites two generations of exceptional players. From the "legendary" group comes former Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, Los Homres El Caliente founder Bill Summers and bassist Paul Jackson. Among the "young guns" who participate are trumpeter Christian Scott, bassist Ben Williams and guitarist Matthew Stevens.
The record will drop on April 29th.
In the meantime, sample some of the best that Europe has to offer this week from Louise Gibbs, Philippe Leoge and Eleni Karaindrou in this week's new release column.
Photo by Steven Haberland/Courtesy of Concord Music
The rest of February and most of March will see plenty of new releases on the shelves of your local (or virtual) record store.
Here's a quick checklist of albums we'll be previewing in the coming weeks:
Mike Longo (with Bob Cranshaw and John Lewis) - Step On It (Consolidated Artists)
Bernie Worrell - The Upper Air (Solo Piano) (Produced By Bill Laswell) (MOD)
Free Nelson Mandoomjazz - The Shape Of Doomjazz To Come/Saxophone Giganticus (Rare Noise)
Colin Edwin/Lorenzo Feliciati - Twinscapes (Rare Noise)
Krakauer - The Big Picture (Table Pounding)
Ian Carey/Ben Stolorow - Duocracy (Kabocha)
Natalie Cressman - Turn The Sea (Cressman Music)
John Clayton - Parlor Series, Vol. 1 Featuring Gerald Clayton (Artist Share)
Lisa Hilton - Kaleidoscope (Ruby Slippers)
Noah Baermann - Ripples (Resonant Motion)
For a taste of what's coming out of Europe these days from the likes of Louise Gibbs, Philippe Leoge and Eleni Karaindrou, check this week's new releases.
Digital Entertainment World, the world's foremost convention on the topic of music distribution via the internet, has announced the addition of a panel on the topic of classic, jazz and world music.
Entitled "The Future of Classical, Jazz And Non-Popular Music," the panel will be lead by Nu Jazz Entertainment CEO Jerald Miller. Also on the dais for the February 20 discussion will be a marketing expert from Concord Music, assistant producer Phillip Bailey from Yarlung Records and a representative from a LA law office specializing in music business.
"For some time now the digital music conferences have neglected music like Jazz and Classical", Miller is quoted as saying. "Even the major labels have done this. In an age were some of the catalog has been released on vinyl LP, 8-track cassette, then audio cassette, Compact Disc, and sometimes as digital downloads--there's a real quandary about what can be done with content from the 30's and 40's or even the 80's & 90's to rejuvenate their sales. Our presentations seeks to bring Jazz, Classical and other types of non-popular music to the forefront and create an engaging discussion on were focused on future growth."
The session is scheduled to take place from 3:15 pm to 4:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles, on February 20th.
To learn about an up-and-coming new jazz singer, Zara McFarlane, click here.
Photo courtesy of Nu Jazz Entertainment