Mt. Hood Jazz Festival takes off
Mt. Hood Community College is reviving its popular Jazz Festival, but this year it will be a virtual event due to the pandemic.
The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival "has a reimagined vision. It could be the same size as before, but I don't know if it will look the same," said Dan Davey, director of jazz studies at the college.
The free 2021 Virtual Mt. Hood Jazz Festival runs from Friday, April 30, through Sunday, May 2. It will feature live, online performances by noted jazz artists, plus master classes.
It kicks off each morning at 10:30 a.m. with a choice of three master classes taught by a well-known musician. There will be three live performances to choose from at 1 p.m., another three master classes at 3 p.m. and the day will end with three live, online performances at 6 p.m.
Performers include Tia Fuller, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Hero Trio, the Army Blues Band and the Mel Brown Septet.
Wycliffe Brown, Ingrid Jensen, Trent Austin and Lynn Darroch are among those who will give master classes.
Susie Jones, former head of MHCC's music department and a force behind the old Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, said of Davey, "We completely trust him to bring the festival back."
She added, "He's terrific. He's done wonderful things there."
The reimagined festival was going to combine a competition for middle and high school music groups usually held in the spring with the traditional concert-focused festival that formerly was held in August. But, the pandemic scuttled the school band competition for this year.
"The format is different than in the 1990's with the big, outdoor concerts," said Davey.
The festival will continue to have a focus on education, no matter how it grows, Davey said.
In prior years, student competitions were capped "at 75 bands and had a wait list of 10 or more," Davey said.
The education component also "connects us to the next generation of festival goers," he said.
The festival was once a big deal in the jazz world and in Gresham, drawing tens of thousands of jazz lovers and the country's most celebrated jazz performers.
Launched in 1982, it drew as many as 30,000 jazz fans to listen to the top jazz artists including Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval and B.B. King.
The festival moved off-campus and was instead held in downtown Gresham from 2003 to 2007 and then returned to the college. The festival withered from the 10,000 per day attendance to about 1,200 per day at the 2007 festival.
The festival was last held in downtown Gresham in 2014. The Outlook observed that the 28th edition of the festival in downtown Gresham had a free show, "but attendance was sparse."
The rights to the festival name came back to the college two years ago, Davey said.
An attempt to revive the festival last year was scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They're doing the best they can with COVID," said Jones of the 2021 festival.
Davey, a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, Boston, has been at MHCC for six years. He is also the piano instructor at the University of Portland and works as a professional pianist, organist and trumpet player.
"It's been really great and humbling for me to be able to provide this for the community," he said.
The festival is made possible by Presenting Sponsor AARP Oregon and Platinum Sponsors Clackamas County Bank, Classic Pianos and the city of Gresham. Gold Level sponsors are Gresham Sanitary Service and Center for the Arts Foundation. Austin Custom Brass is a Silver Sponsor and Bronze Sponsor is Spinella's and seven other businesses.
Said Davey, "It is a fruitful festival for the college and for our students."
Mt. Hood Jazz Festival
Performances, workshops and master classes:
10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday, April 30-Sunday, May 2.
Live streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
Donations to support the festival may be made at bit.ly/2QqhHwR.
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