My first clear musical memory is walking into my dad's wood shop and hearing the opening bars of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" on his dust-caked boom box. It certainly wasn't the first time I had heard jazz, but it was the first time I remember hearing jazz that moved me.
Now, almost every year, my dad—who moved to the U.S. from England 50-odd years ago largely to hear and see more jazz—and I get together to attend a few Portland Jazz Festival shows. But this year, with a little whiskey and weed to set the mood, we decided to first preview some of the acts we are most excited about in the comfort of my apartment. I will warn you, though, that my dad curses like a sailor.
I put on Elias' Volume 1 Originals...
Dad: I just love her. They call her the Goddess of Piano. Of course, part of the appeal is that she's so gorgeous.
Me: I love her playing here. Her voice here kind of reminds me of Sade.
Dad: Yeah, maybe. You know, I thought Sade was boring until I saw her live. I tell you what…
Me: Pretty sexy?
(Thursday, Feb. 20, Newmark Theatre.)
I cue up "Sweet and Lovely" from Jamal's latest album, Open Doors...
Dad: He looks like he's still 60 years old. Very handsome, debonair guy. That was like my dad's favorite tune.
Me: Was your dad a big piano fan?
Dad: Yeah. It's probably my favorite instrument, too. My dad used to send me to piano lessons, but I wasn't into it. I wish I woulda stuck with it. The teacher told me I was "catching like a house on fire." I thought that was pretty good, but when I told my dad, he called off the lessons. (Friday, Feb. 21, Newmark Theatre.)
I put on her 1956 trio album, The Toshiko Trio...
Dad: I've never heard this. It's great! Who's on it?
Me: Ed Thigpen and Paul Chambers!
Dad: Holy shit!
Me: I've only heard her big-band stuff. I have that Farewell to Mingus album on vinyl.
Dad: The big-band stuff is the only stuff I've really heard. No, this is great. (Saturday, Feb. 22, Winningstad Theatre, trio; Sunday, Feb. 23, Classic Pianos, solo.)
I put on DeJohnette's 1974 fusion album, Sorcery...
Me: This must be a pretty recent reissue. Wow, it is really freaky! I like it.
Dad: But it's a bit…drifty, isn't it? It's like listening to the Grateful Dead. You have to be stoned to understand it.
Dad: I think Jack DeJohnette is a genius, though. His stuff with Bill Evans, God! You know, Bill Evans has an electric-piano album and it's one of my favorite records. It's just called The Bill Evans Album. I know every note of that album. [We put on "Waltz for Debby" from The Bill Evans Album.] Anything with the word "waltz" in it, I like. (Sunday, Feb. 23, Newmark Theatre, with Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding and Leo Genovese.)
Dad: She is really an exciting player. Really young, but she has her own sound. And she made a record with fucking Lee Konitz! Lee Konitz, he's still alive! Oh man, did you ever hear that record he made with—oh, what's his name. The blind piano player? He's dead now.
Me: George Shearing?
Dad: No, this is an American guy. People thought he was too mathematical. Ah, me brain, man. Fuckin' 'ell. Don't get old. I gotta piss. It'll come to me. [It's Lennie Tristano. We listen to his great album, The New Tristano, and sip more whiskey.] (Wednesday, Feb. 26, Jimmy Mak's.)
We put on Pat Metheny's Question and Answer...
Me: This is good. I'm not always real into Metheny's sound. But maybe it's that '80s and '90s production that seeps into lots of it.
Dad: He has his own thing, and I'm not always into that either, but then he can play with any motherfucker in the world. And once he went on a really great, scathing rant about Kenny G. It was just wonderful.
Me: He's got Roy Haynes playing with him on drums here.
Dad: Wow. Yeah, Roy Haynes can make anyone sound good. I really like Metheny. Now if he'd just cut his fucking hair!
Me: I hope you know that's going in the article. (Sunday, March 2, Newmark Theatre.)
SEE IT: The 2014 Portland Jazz Festival runs Feb. 20-March 2 at various local venues. See portlandjazzfestival.org for tickets and full schedule.