Portland's 15th annual event honors past, present singers - including Jon Hendricks, Eddie Jefferson and Al Jarreau

COURTESY: ANNA WEBBER - The PDX Jazz Festival celebrates famous singers, and Kurt Elling (left) and special guests pay tribute to the late Jon Hendricks.The great singers of the genre are the focus of the 15th annual PDX Jazz Festival, which stages for 11 days, Feb. 15-25.

Grammy Award-winning Kurt Elling pays tribute to the late Jon Hendricks, with daughters Michele and Aria Hendricks performing along with Portland stalwarts Randy Porter and Nancy King, and a performance by the Portland State University Jazz Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Sherry Alves.

Saxophonist Richie Cole, the last living link to Eddie Jefferson's pioneering legacy, makes a rare Portland appearance, joined by singer Allan Harris to mark the late singer's 100th birthday in 2018.

And local performer Bobby Torres and his ensemble, along with vocalist Sean Holmes, pay respects to the legacy of the late Al "Breakin' Away" Jarreau.

There'll be more than 30 featured concerts around Portland at several venues.

The PDX Jazz Festival had planned to fete Hendricks, recruiting Elling, before the singer's death last November.

"It's now a tribute story, and it got me to thinking how important Jon was," says Don Lucoff, executive artistic director.

"Jon was all about vocalese, really very theatrical. Of that era, he was the most renowned and well-known (singer). I couldn't find anyone more fitting to do a tribute than Kurt. He's played in the festival before with Art Abrams, and last year with Branford Marsalis and Nancy King."

King will join Elling on the Hendrick shows, noon Thursday, Feb. 15, at Portland State University's Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave. (free admission) and 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at Revolution Hall, 1300 S.E. Stark St. ($35-$65).

Comparing Hendricks and Jefferson, Lucoff adds, "(Hendricks) wasn't an amazing vocalist, tone or timbre, but Jon was a better singer than Eddie. He was more of a musician in the broadest context. But Eddie is a genius in his own way."

From there, Lucoff started thinking about Jefferson, and he remembers watching Cole many times. Jefferson tragically was murdered in 1979.

"Eddie is really looked upon as the godfather of vocalese," Lucoff says. "He was such an influential figure."

Cole performs along with Harris at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave. ($25-$35).

And Lucoff thought of Torres when he wanted to integrate Jarreau into the show. Jarreau died in February 2017.

"Al was a product of the '70s, in terms of phenomenal convergence of smooth jazz radio," Lucoff says. "He had big radio hits that catapulted him in terms of sales. Al was the right guy at the right time.

"I saw Al a number of times. I just enjoyed him. He always put on a great show, and had a way of heart-wrenching performances, very emotional in a way that connected with audiences, and always had great musicians around him."

Jarreau won seven Grammy Awards and was associated with such greats as David Foster, David Sanborn, George Benson and Chick Correa.

The show will take place at the University of Portland's Buckley Auditorium, 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19 ($20).

"There's a musical link that runs through all three of these guys," Lucoff says. "We wanted to shine a light on vocalese."

All information can be found at

COURTESY PHOTO - Lisa Fischer & the Grand Baton (above) play a double bill with Tahirah Memory in the PDX Jazz Festival.Some other highlights:

• Lisa Fischer & the Grand Baton plays on a double bill with Tahirah Memory, daughter of Thara Memory, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Revolution Hall. Fischer was a lead backup singer for the Rolling Stones.

• Brazilian singer Luciana Souza makes her first Portland appearance in eight years. She is on a double bill with the Dave King Trio, 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at Revolution Hall.

• There'll be seven nights of free music at Al's Den, 303 S.W. 12th Ave., Feb. 18-24.

• A tribute to late pianist Geri Allen, featuring Portland's Grammy Awards winner Esperanza Spalding, will likely be sold out, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, at Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway. Terri Lyne Carrington and Ravi Coltrane also perform.

• On the closing day of the festival, 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Revolution Hall, the Jazz By Five will feature jazz masters, including Jimmy Cobb, the last living member of the Miles Davis sextet that made "Kind of Blue."

• The documentary "Bill Frisell: A Portrait" is a portrait of an anti-archetype guitar hero, 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18 at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd.

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