Conflict with benefit decreased sponsors

Attendance was down at this year's Mt. Hood Jazz Festival in downtown Gresham's Center for the Arts Plaza for a variety of reasons, but the music was great.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - The band SoulCity gave a rousing performance as they closed out the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival Saturday, Aug. 2.The bill began at noon Saturday, Aug. 2, with the Back to Portland All-Stars followed by the Bobby Torres Ensemble. Billy Haynes came on next followed by the Pete Christlieb/Linda Small Quintet and closed with SoulCity at 8 p.m.

Those who attended were euphoric about the quality of the musicians and the sound system that wafted music over the plaza and for blocks around.

Long-time festival volunteer Clarence Larkins said the crowds were smaller than last year, but the music was much better.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - The Pete Christlieb/Linda Small Quintet, one of the great jazz performances Saturday, Aug. 2 at Gresham's Center for the Arts Plaza.“The music is off the chain, but I don't think they advertised it right,” he said. “Torres played at Woodstock. And before Pete and Linda, there was Billy Haynes, and he said he hadn't played here since 1985. He played with Ike and Tina Turner. They brought in some serious musicians this year.

“The quality of the music, the sound system, everything but the people. But it's the people's loss.”

But only for those who weren't there. David and Leilani Miller and Leonard Jackson, who drove down from Seattle, were in heaven.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - Long-time festival volunteers Wesley Thompson, center, and Clarence Larkins, right, said the music was superb this year at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.“It's our first time, but we will definitely be back,” David said.

As Matana McIntire served up pita wrap for Pockets Pita Bar booth, she said the music and the audience were magical.

“There's a wonderful energy in the air,” she said.

About 600 people attended last year's festival, but this year's attendance was closer to 200. Mt. Hood Jazz Association president Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - SoulCity closed out this years Mt. Hood Jazz Festival at Greshams Arts Plaza Saturday, Aug. 2.Susie Jones said one reason was a conflict with the Soulful Giving Blanket Concert benefit in Troutdale, held at the same time.

Jones said she had not been made aware that the Soulful Giving event changed its date to coincide with the Jazz Festival.

Even though attendance was low, Jones said the festival is still rebuilding after being shut down for several years after the recession of 2008-09. She pointed out that visitors had come from as far as Laredo, Texas, and Vancouver, B.C.

Photo Credit: OUTLOOK PHOTO: BEVERLY CORBELL - Richard and Connie Otto of Gresham had prime seats for the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival Saturday, Aug. 2 and stayed for the entire concert, from noon to 10 p.m.“I am certain the other event affected this year's Jazz Festival,” she said. “They divided the sponsors and divided the audience.”

Better communication will keep the snafu from occurring next year, she said.

As he sat in the shade with Larkins, Wesley Thompson, who has been a volunteer for 25 years, remembers the days when the festival drew as many as 10,000 people and featured music greats like Ramsey Lewis, Rosemary Clooney, Buddy Rich and Anita O'Day.

“For 15 years we had it at the college and it's been here for three years,” he said. “But we lost sponsors this year."

Thompson said he felt sorry for the musicians because the crowds were small, but Larkins disagreed.

“They don't care,” he said. “They just want to make great music.”

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