Portland State and all that Jazz

Jazz. Hear the pure cool as the music dances on the ivories, and beats and bops and booms on the strings of the bass. As a horn blows harder than a heavy gust through the windy city, with a rhythmic tat-TAT-doom-KA-key beating repetitiously on the drums, your body and soul engage in a high of aesthetic sounds.

PDX Jazz is a non-profit organization. Alongside co-founder and sponsor Travel Portland, they will help present the 11th annual Portland Jazz Festival, with the mission to inspire, educate and develop future jazz audiences for generations to come. The festival runs from Feb. 20 to March 2.

As a celebration of Black History Month, the Portland Jazz Festival is dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local jazz musicians. A series of jazz education and outreach programs that extend into Portland’s schools and neighborhoods is at the heart of the annual event.

Portland State plays an important part in this year’s Portland Jazz Festival. Several faculty and students are taking part in education and outreach events, performances and jazz conversations.

“My goal in being involved in the festival is to bring as much as possible of this incredible jazz in the doors of PSU. It happens all over the city but I am really pleased there is an association with our school,” said Darrell Grant, associate professor of music for jazz studies and jazz piano at PSU.

Grant has been involved with The Incredible Journey of Jazz since the festival’s beginning in 2004. This middle school program is a six-piece ensemble with a narrator explaining the history of jazz, the significant components of the genre and historical figures like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Mario Sandoval is a senior in jazz studies at PSU who will be playing the drums in The Incredible Journey of Jazz.
“Jazz is very American, like baseball, and I believe Americans should be exposed at a young age. I enjoy the reaction from the kids because in their minds jazz is something far from what they are expecting, and they get to see it evolve in a matter of an hour,” Sandoval said.

Another outreach program that Grant has organized is the Student Stage, where PSU hosts high school and college jazz ensembles to play non-competitively. The two groups performing from PSU are Park Avenue and Colligan Man, which is playing a tribute piece to Martin Luther King Jr.

“The hope is that students will become interested in the local musicians that are playing. The idea is to connect them to the jazz tradition in Oregon, which is really strong and has a long history,” Grant said.

Jazz Conversations, a series of interviews with jazz musicians, are an opportunity for students and the community to hear an artist talk about their life. Grant will be conducting a special Portland Only Jazz Conversation with living legend Ahmad Jamal, an American jazz pianist, composer and educator.

“Ahmad Jamal is one of the great jazz pianists in history, essentially,” said George Colligan, associate professor and jazz area coordinator at PSU.

“To me there is really nothing that can duplicate hearing a great band live; in this world we take it for granted,” Colligan said.

Known as a pianist, Colligan will give a surprising performance leading his group, Theoretical Planets, as a drummer. The group features PSU students Jon Lakey (bass), Nicole Glover (saxophone) and Joe Manis from Eugene (saxophone).

“I teach by example and musical interaction. We have to reach the young players and keep the lineage of jazz going. Part of jazz history is the mentorship; great jazz players learn not in school but on the bandstand playing amongst musicians better than they are. Getting these experiences are vastly more important than being in the classroom,” Colligan said.

As well as the PDX Jazz paid performances, there is an extensive free performance schedule. One particular performance will be the PSU Student Trio featuring Lakey, Glover and Jordan Goldblatt.

“I am really looking forward to this gig, a very fun night of music,” said Lakey, a senior in jazz studies at PSU.

“This year is maybe the most happening year with so many different caliber of artists involved, sort of like bringing a bit of that New York City jazz scene to Portland,” Lakey said.

The schedule and tickets for the Portland Jazz Festival can be found at http://portlandjazzfestival.org