No matter what a certain television series tells you, Portland, Ore., isn't all that weird. Sure, we make great coffee, ride bicycles, eat organic food — and, yes, there are a lot of hippies and hipsters here. But Portland is much more than that.
Jazz fans are undoubtedly familiar with some of the artists that make and have made this city their home. The much-recorded bassist Leroy Vinnegar lived here for a while, as did saxophonist and Monk sideman Charlie Rouse. The late Native American saxophonist Jim Pepper called Portland home. You may have heard of Portland native Esperanza Spalding.
There's also vocalist Nancy King, bassist Glen Moore (of the band Oregon), pianist and singer-songwriter Dave Frishberg, bassist Chuck Israels, trumpeter and educator Thara Memory, young saxophonist Hailey Niswanger and many more that I'm probably forgetting. (Believe me, I'll hear all about it after this article.) And many world-class jazz musicians secretly call Portland home, as the Pacific Northwest has long served as a covert getaway for artists.
This Friday, the 10th annual Portland Jazz Festival will bring audiences in my fair city a bevy of jazz experiences from near and far. These 10 days in February give our community a chance to celebrate creative music in venues around town — and show off its own diverse local scene. In that spirit, here are five examples of what's happening now in Portland jazz.