Ravi Coltrane and McCoy Tyner headline Portland Jazz Fest

Ladies and gentleman, an announcement: the Portland Jazz Festival is freakin’ smokin’ this year.

I know, I know-you’re “kind of into” jazz. But, you’re really skeptical that a white-as-snow city like Portland that eats bad indie-rock for breakfast, lunch and dinner can put forth a truly legit jazz festival. I’m in the same boat. I usually just look at the line-up for any festival in this city (blues, Bite of Oregon-whatevs) and just “intelligently” scoff. But this year, the Portland Jazz Festival is for real.

Ever heard of McCoy Tyner? Maybe? Well, look at the musician credits on the back of that John Coltrane LP that you own. There. See it? McCoy frickin’ Tyner – one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time – is going to be at this thing! Ravi Coltrane. Stefon Harris. Nicholas Payton. Eddie Palmieri, Bill Frisell, Mel Brown – the list just goes on. It’s crazy!

In fact, if you’re reading this, and it’s Friday and it’s before 2:30 p.m., drop the paper – right now. Run (be careful!) to Lincoln Hall, Room 75 (it’s in the basement). Why? Because Mr. Tyner and Mr. Coltrane will be taking part in “Chasin’ the Trane – Remembering John Coltrane,” a free discussion/performance in honor of the master himself.

NPR correspondent Ashley Kahn, author of “A Love Supreme: The Making of the John Coltrane Masterpiece,” will kick off the event at 1:30 p.m. with a lecture and a roundtable discussion.

Best part of the festival: students get in for half-price for Miguel Zenon, Nicholas Payton, Stefon Harris and Susan Werner. Call 503-228-JAZZ (5299). For a full schedule of events, visit the Portland Jazz Festival’s web site: www.pdxjazz.com.

And while Mr. Tyner’s performance is totally, completely sold out (doh!), tickets are still available for everything else.

Internationally recognized jazz pianist Denna Witkowski, who provided a prodigious performance at Lincoln Hall just yesterday will also be playing several free shows at LV’s Uptown, 310 S.W. Lincoln from 8-11 p.m. While not officially a part of the Jazz Fest, it is the perfect chance to see a future superstar live.

So, what are you going to do this weekend? Watch junk like “Veronica Mars” or go see a Jazz Fest line-up that would make NYC grit its teeth in jealousy? Opt for the latter. (You can watch “Veronica” anytime, and, like new-U2, it’s really overrated.)

The Portland Jazz Festival runs from Feb. 17-26.