Rebecca Kilgore: Master of syncopation
Calling herself "overhwhelmed," singer Rebecca Kilgore humbly accepted the honor of Jazz Master from the PDX Jazz Festival.
Kilgore joins a distinguished list of Jazz Masters, a title she joked about, saying "I don't think of myself as a master, because in jazz and music you are always learning. I'm an aspiring master."
During the upcoming Biamp PDX Jazz Festival, Kilgore will be honored at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, at The Old Church with a concert by Kat Edmonson. The next night at 7 p.m., she'll perform at Al's Den with longtime favorite pianist Randy Porter and bass player Jon Lakey.
The 17th annual jazz fest, Feb. 19-March 1 at several Portland venues, will feature the likes of Grammy Award winners Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Larry Carlton and Thundercat and scores of other performers — including Archie Shepp, Kenny Barron, Stanton Moore Trio, Nolatet, Stanley Jordan, Antibalas, Ron Artis II, Eric Gales, Kenny Barrett, Omar Sosa and Yilian Canizares.
Local musicians participating include Kilgore, Devin Phillips, Christopher Brown and Liv Warfield.
Nicholas Salas-Harris has orchestrated the festival as the new artistic director, replacing Don Lucoff, who helped plan the 2020 shows. Salas-Harris formerly ran the Soul'd Out Festival for 10 years. With his new duties, Salas-Harris had to end the Soul'd Out Festival.
"I feel it's our strongest lineup," Salas-Harris said of this year's PDX Jazz Fest.
Kilgore, meanwhile, "is a good example of what PDX Jazz does. It's telling a story of Portland and history and people who have been stalwarts and kept the jazz scene alive. We're very happy for her."
As a Jazz Master, Kilgore has joined Dave Frishberg (2011), Thara Memory (2012), Nancy King (2013), the band Oregon (2014), Wayne Thompson (2015), Charles Gray (2016), Mel Brown (2017), Art Abrams (2018) and Darrell Grant (2019).
A Portland resident for 40 years, Kilgore joins King as the only other woman on the list.
She has performed at jazz festivals and venues around the world and has more than 50 recordings in her discography. Kilgore is a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame. She's an aficionado of the Great American Songbook, particularly Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer.
The Rebecca Kilgore Trio includes Kilgore, pianist Randy Porter and bassist Tom Wakeling. She's also a vocal coach. And, of note, she has been on the mend in the past year from an accident in which a car hit her while she crossed a street.
Kilgore said she appreciates the jazz scene in Portland, because "it's very supportive with a lot of camaraderie." She enjoys performing at The 1905 club, among the Portland venues.
Kilgore also enjoys performing at houses and residences — yes, it's a trend, she said. "All the money goes to performers, and they're usually quite friendly and intimate," Kilgore said. "It's not new, but it's just getting bigger. When I visit friends, I always keep in mind, 'Do they have a space for like 30 chairs and a piano?'"
Kilgore said she chose to be honored during Edmonson's concert, because "she has a voice that really is beautiful and in tune and sounds very youthful."
She speaks of the virtues of singing jazz music.
"You get to express who you are, and interpret music how you want to," she said. "There are jazz musicians who sing and don't have great voices — Dave Frishberg doesn't have a stellar (trained) voice, but he's so wonderful to listen to, funny and poignant, especially when he's singing his own material. With live music you're creating right in front of an audience, and it's magic."
For complete details on the PDX Jazz Festival, see www.pdxjazz.com. Tickets remain for most events.
Some notable concerts:
• Larry Carlton and Stanley Jordan, 7 p.m. Feb. 21, Newmark Theatre
• Archie Shepp Quartet and Blue Cranes, 7 p.m. Feb. 22, Newmark Theatre
• Branford Marsalis, 7 p.m. Feb. 23, Newmark Theatre
• David Sanborn Jazz Quartet, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25, Revolution Hall
• Eric Gales and Ron Artis II, 8 p.m. Feb. 27, Aladdin Theater
• Thundercat and Georgia Anne Muldrow plus Brown Calculus, 9 p.m. Feb. 29, Portland Art Museum (sold out)
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