PDX Jazz Fest: Live (and virtual) from South Africa to the Rose City
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began and normal life went away, the Biamp PDX Jazz Festival took place as usual in 2020 with in-person concerts.
"We wrapped our last day of the 2020 festival 10 days before the COVID shutdown happened," said Nicholas Salas-Harris, the festival's artistic director. "We were literally one of the only jazz festivals to go to in 2020."
Well, if anything, they had a lot of time to plan for the 2021 festival, although Salas-Harris, Executive Director Chris Doss and the whole crew entered the summer of 2020 still believing the PDX Jazz Festival would happen live again. Once it appeared live wouldn't be possible and it would have to be virtual, organizers set about trying to make the best festival possible. (Upon last week's announcement that the Portland tri-county area's pandemic status had been upgraded and that some indoor venues could open, it was too late to arrange for in-person events).
The result is a collection of live and recorded streams for the annual event, Feb. 18 to 27. There'll be live events from Portland, as well as far away locales such as South Africa and London. There'll be music movies. There'll be master classes for musicians.
Online access can be had for as little as $5 per show. The PDX Jazz Festival would like you to join its members club (starting at $50); members can watch every festival show for free. Complete information can be found here.
Shows will be available to view for 48 hours and films for 72 hours.
It all starts with a live performance by Pink Martini's Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, from the Biamp World Headquarters in Beaverton. They'll play Pink Martini music and more.
The live performances from abroad are all exclusive to the PDX Jazz Festival.
They include: Harold Lopez Nussa, from Havana, Cuba, 8 p.m. Feb. 19; "Indaba Is" featuring Thandi Ntuli, Sibusile Xaba, The Brother Moves On, Bokani Dyer, and The Ancestors featuring Nduduzo Makhathini and Mandla Miangeni from Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 26-27; "Behind the Boards" with Blue Lab Beats featuring producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr. DM from London, 5 p.m. Feb. 20; "Behind the Boards" with Kassa Overall featuring Giovanni Russonello from Brooklyn, New York, 5 p.m. Feb. 27.
"It's the nature of what we're going through, and what we can do with technology," Salas-Harris said, of streaming concerts from far away. "It's opened a lot of doors."
The jazz films, which start Feb. 21, are:
• "Universe," featuring an exclusive Q&A with directors Nick Capezzera and Sam Osborn. It's the story of trumpeter Wallace Roney and his composition completed with Miles Davis.
• "Herb Alpert Is ...," featuring an exclusive Q&A with director and writer John Scheinfeld and author Ashley Kahn.
• "Buster Williams Bass to Infinity," featuring an exclusive Q&A with director and producer Adam Kahan, Buster Williams and Lenny White.
Some local performances in the 18th annual festival take place at the Jack London Revue and elsewhere (without an audience, of course, and available virtually). Some performances will be streamed in from elsewhere.
Highlights include: Judith Hill, who has sung on tour with Michael Jackson, Josh Groban and John Legend, 8 p.m. Feb. 20; current Portland resident Brian Jackson and "The Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson Songbook" with Greaterkind and Allakoi Peete on percussion, 8 p.m. Feb. 23; Marcus Shelby Quartet's "Black Music and Freedom," featuring Tiffany Austin, Darrell Grant and Carlton Jackson, 8 p.m. Feb. 26; "The American Refrain: Jazz and Modern Music" featuring Noah Simpson, 8 p.m. Feb. 24; Wayne Horvitz's "The Royal We" closing out the festival on Feb. 27 live from Seattle's Royal Room.
The piece by Simpson, a young trumpet player who lives in Portland, was commissioned by PDX Jazz.
Portland musicians taking part include Rivkah Ross Trio at Jupiter on Feb. 20 and Marilyn Keller at Music Millennium on Feb. 24.
"This is the bridge year," Salas-Harris said. "Our main focus is to expand our membership base. We're not going away, we're digging our roots deep."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.