Mt. Hood Jazz Festival features Bobby Torres, Soul City

In less than two weeks, Gresham will turn into Swingtown for two days when the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival takes place.

The fun starts Friday, Aug. 1, with free “round-robin” jams all over downtown, and continues Saturday, Aug. 2, when gates open for an all-ages ticketed show at 11:30 a.m. at the Gresham Center for the Arts Plaza, 401 N.E. Second Ave.

Tickets are $15 in advance for Aug. 2, $20 at the gate. Students can get in $10 in advance or at the gate, and children 6 and younger get in free.

You can’t bring food or alcohol in, but there will be plenty of food, wine and beer for sale. Festival patrons can bring chairs or blankets to the Saturday concert, and free parking is available all over downtown.

For more information, call 503-621-6316 or visit CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Tonight Show alumnus Pete Christlieb will blow his saxophone with the Linda Small Quintet at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 2.

President’s take

Susie Jones, president of the Gresham/Mt. Hood Jazz Association, which organizes the festival, says it drew about 600 people last year and she expects that number to double.

“This year we gave comp tickets to many local students who are participating in their jazz bands in their schools,” she says, noting students from Sandy, Gresham and David Douglas high schools as well as Beaumont Middle School are expected to attend.

“We hope other festivals will pick up the idea and be generous with student comp tickets,” Jones adds. “It is important to build a young audience.”

The festival has been gaining momentum, she says, noting last year was the first time the event had been put on since 2009.

“We experienced a bump in the road when the economy tanked in 2008-09,” Jones says. “Last year was our first year back after taking several years off. We are clearly on an upswing now, in terms of sponsorship and community interest.”

She says this year’s lineup, which includes Woodstock Festival alumnus Bobby Torres, who played with Joe Cocker during his famous set in 1969, is part of a world class group of performers.

“It will be especially fun to see several artists who we normally don’t get to see coming up from L.A., including Pete Christlieb, Linda Small and Billy Haynes,” she says.

Speaking of which, here’s a look at who’s playing.

Friday, Aug. 1by: FILE PHOTO - Folks take in music on a sunny day at last years Mt. Hood Jazz Festival. The festival is open to folks of all ages and takes place at the Center for the Arts Plaza in downtown Gresham.

The Matt Schiff Organ Trio will play from 7:30-8:30 p.m. and from 9-10 p.m. at the Hoppy Brewer, 328 N. Main Ave.

Schiff plays guitar, Mark Simon plays organ and Larry Bard plays the drums. The men all have been in the Portland music world since the late 1970s, and Schiff says the group will be swingin’ ‘n’ groovin’, playing jazz with a bluesy feel. (You can regularly catch Schiff in Troutdale at the Riverview Restaurant, where he plays a solo guitar gig Thursdays from 5-8:30 p.m.)

Internationally touring violinist Eddie Parente will draw his bow with the Owen James Quartet from 6-7 p.m. and from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Asian Thai Bistro, 120 N. Main Ave.

The quartet employs classical guitar, double bass and drums to create expressive, rhythmic interpretations of jazz standards, Latin classics and original compositions. Think of your favorite saxophonist or clarinet player as a violinist and you can understand what this outfit sounds like.

The Jeff Baker Group plays from 6-7 and 7:30-8:30 p.m. at Spinella’s, 436 N. Main Ave.

Baker teaches at Portland State University, and was called “one of the best male vocalists in the jazz world today,” by WCLK radio in Atlanta. He’s headlined numerous jazz festivals and has performed in central Europe and South Africa. His four critically acclaimed CD releases on Origin/OA2 Records imprint have charted on the Jazzweek International Radio Top 50 and have been ranked as high as No. 1 on stations in Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Portland, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cape Town and New Zealand.

The Billy Haynes Group plays from 7:30-8:30 p.m. and from 9-10 p.m. in Billy Bob’s, 333 N. Main Ave.

A bass player and vocalist, Haynes has toured extensively in the Middle East and The Netherlands. His gigs have included tours with Tina Turner, Lou Rawls and Natalie Cole.

Saturday, Aug. 2by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Pianist Randy Porter will tickle the ivories for the Linda Small Quintet.

Ted Case, Nicole Glover, John Nastos, Chris Brown, Tree Palmedo and Jon Shaw make up the Back to Portland All-Stars, who open the festival’s second day with a show from noon to 1 p.m. at Center for the Arts Plaza.

The band will back up Javier Nero, a rising star who composes and arranges music as well as plays trombone. Nero won first place at the 2011 International Trombone Association’s Carl Fontana Competition and won first prize in the International Trombone Association’s 2013 JJ Johnson Competition.

Nero also has been awarded two Downbeat Student Music Awards over the years for his arrangements, has performed at The Apollo Theater, and has recorded with guitarist/vocalist Steve Miller.

The Bobby Torres Ensemble plays from 1:15-3:15 p.m. Torres played with Joe Cocker during his iconic 1969 Woodstock set, and has also worked with Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, Jackson Browne, Gladys Knight and many others (see sidebar).

The aforementioned Billy Haynes takes the stage at 3:30 p.m., jamming until 5:30 p.m.

Pete Christlieb plays saxophone with the Linda Small Quintet from 5:45-7:45 p.m.

Christlieb played with Si Zentner, Della Reese, Woody Herman, Pearl Bailey and Chet Baker and spent 20 years jamming on “The Tonight Show.” He also played on the Glen Campbell show, as well as on “Star Trek,” “Sonny & Cher” and several other TV productions. He has been nominated for three Grammys and has recorded with Natalie Cole and Michael Buble.

His wife, trombonist Linda Small, has played with Emil Richards, Super Sax, Don Menza, Buddy Childers, Scott Whitfield and Seth McFarlane/Ron Jones Influence Band, among others. Small has recorded with various Motown artists such as Leslie Uggams, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Dramatics, The Stylistics and Stevie Wonder and works on the TV show “Family Guy.”

This set also will feature award-winning bassist/instructor Tim Gilson, who’s played with Mose Allison, John Handy, Wycliff Gordon, Antonio Hart and Wynton Marsalis; pianist Randy Porter, who has tickled the ivories for Freddy Hubbard, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Diane Schuur and Bobby Caldwell as well as the Charles McPherson Quartet; and drummer Todd Strait, who has toured with Kevin Mahogany, Karrin Allyson and Eldar and who serves as an adjunct drumset instructor at Mt. Hood Community College.

Soul City closes out the festival, taking the stage at 8 p.m. Led by Geno Michaels, the band performs classic soul and neo-soul, r ‘n’ b, funk and jazz.

Michaels plays keyboards and organ along with featured vocalists Gigi Wiggins and Alonzo Chadwick. The horn section is Eldon “T” Jones and Bryan Dickerson on saxes, and Tom Barber on trumpet. The group’s rhythm section is Dave Iula/Tomo Maruta on guitar, John Shaw on bass, Ed Pierce and Anthony Jones on drums/percussion.

In addition to leading his own bands, Michaels has played keys for Lloyd Jones, Kelly Joe Phelps, Paul deLay, Norman Sylvester, Linda Hornbuckle and others.

Bobby Torres

Percussionist Bobby Torres will bring a particularly interesting resume in tow when he takes the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival stage Aug. 2.

If you were at the Woodstock festival in upstate New York in 1969 — or have seen the famous documentary film of the event — you know that English soul singer Joe Cocker's performance was a highlight.

Torres was a member of Cocker's band. Like many other musicians, he had to fly into the festival via Army helicopter. Greeted by "Joan Baez imitating Joe Cocker" Torres said he saw "500,000 people go crazy when they announced the owner of the farm Max Yasgur as he waved to them thinking they saw the peace sign from his hand. But he had a farm accident and had two fingers missing on his right hand so it looked like a peace sign!"

The band famously ended its set with the Beatles "With a Little Help From My Friends," and Torres recalled the storm of applause that erupted at the song's end.

"With all that happened that day it left me with a feeling of gratitude and amazement of what my life had arrived to."

Torres went on to play with Cocker for years, as well as Tom Jones, both of whom he said were easygoing.

"Tom had us playing darts in his suite to 6 in the morning after every gig telling jokes and drinking," Torres adds.

Torres also lived with Leon Russell and worked with countless other famous musicians, including Kenny Rogers and Jackson Browne.

In Gresham, Torres will perform a combination of originals and standards all with Latin rhythm patterns. The always busy musician says he is glad to have many good memories.

"I couldn't have planned it any better," he says.

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