FRIDAY, FEB. 6
The Portland Jazz Festival brings a host of mainstream talent to Portland for a long weekend sure to pack the hotel lobbies and clubs. Along with the somewhat predictable miasma of Mount Hood Jazz Fest-flavored fare like Jenna Mammina, Poncho Sanchez and Regina Carter, one of the highlights of this glorified hotel jamboree is the appearance of legendary composer-saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
In the spirit of his former employers Art Blakey and Miles Davis, Shorter has assembled an unlikely assortment of musicians (cross-cultural, multigenerational) who play with a fervor that is mean, lean and low to the ground. This all-acoustic group features drummer Brian Blade (one of the more well-rounded of the pack of young lions to appear in the '90s), bassist John Patitucci, and stellar Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez. After 30 years in the salt mines of fusion, it's great to see the septuagenarian Shorter returning to the hallmarks that made him famous: those lush, architectural, long-limbed tunes, each a musical essay on possibility, desire and jazz's savage deployment of rhythm.
Born in Newark, N.J., during the Depression, Shorter first found musical family in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1959-early '60s) with upstarts Freddie Hubbard, Reggie Workman, Curtis Fuller and Cedar Walton.
In many ways a second-tier stylist on the horn--considering heavyweights like Coltrane and Sonny Rollins--Shorter had a spectacular gift for crafting deceptively simple melodies that were rich in emotion and sensual swing. His work with Blakey, his Blue Note recordings and the quintet with Miles Davis (and Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams) are all great examples of this.
While much of the mentality behind the Portland Jazz Fest represents a secured-perimeter approach (staving off any unwanted pesky innovation), it's refreshing to see Shorter still experimenting with expectation--whether it be with an orchestral palette, Brazilian classical music or just good old-fashioned 1960s boogaloo. Shorter still wants every note to count. In an interview in Earshot Jazz Monthly, Shorter said, "Miles would say, 'You see the way Humphrey [Bogart] threw that punch?' and I said yeah, and he said 'Play that.'" If Shorter's recent albums are any indication, this could be one of the best straight-ahead outings of the season. (Tim DuRoche)
Portland Marriott Downtown, 1401 SW Naito Parkway, 503-226-7600. 8 pm. $35 advance, $45 door. All ages.
friday, feb. 6
André St. James-Roger Woods Nonet
This paint-peeling, powerhouse ensemble--led by bass titan André St. James and baritone saxophonist Roger Woods--burns through serpentine, tightly wound arrangements from the jazz lexicon. Their combustion and forward momentum is a sheer delight and recalls the take-no-prisoners aesthetic of bebop in its bomb-dropping heyday. (Tim DuRoche)
The Blue Monk, 3341 SE Belmont St.,
595-0575. 9:30 and 11:30 pm.21+.
saturday, feb. 7
Latin Jazz Party with Poncho Sanchez
Don't let the easygoing attitude, ZZ Top beard and Kangol hat fool you. With a Grammy, a Billboard award and a coronation from the Jazz Times ("the new king of Latin Jazz"), conguero Poncho Sanchez has done quite well for himself. His career began with a longtime stint playing percussion with the great Cal Tjader. After Tjader died, Sanchez moved on to start his own projects. And 20 albums later he's still strikin' the skins just right. On first listen Sanchez echoes Tito Puente, but subsequent listens reveal musical infusions ranging from Afro-Cuban (what he's best know for), '60s soul and R&B, and of course salsa, to name a few. (Alex Valdivieso)
Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-0047. 2 pm. $20 advance, $30 door. 21+.
Jeanne Ronne Quartet
Sink back into the Benson's dark-wood, lumber-baron splendor and sip some juice to Ms. Jeanne Ronne. A consummate performer in the jazz piano-lounge tradition--think Marian McPartland at the Hickory House or Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing--Ronne leads duos, trios and larger at the Benson and is simply a joy to hear. Anchored by Neil Masson, a drummer with an elevated sense of taste, dynamics and taut swing, tenor saxophonist Lee Wuthenow (a master of droll dry tone and off-color wit) and a revolving cadre of bassists, Ronne and the boys are one of the festival's better kept secrets. (TD)
Benson Hotel, 320 SW Broadway, 228-2000. 9:30 and 11:30 pm.21+.
sunday, feb. 8
A veteran of the jazz-party boom of the 1980s (where Ellingtonites and Basie-heads endlessly played "In a Mellotone" to golf-pant-wearing jazz buffs), Hamilton can remind you of Ben Webster one minute, then Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, Buddy Tate or any number of great 1940s tenor saxophonists the next. A wonderful balladeer with a suave demeanor and a sleek little pencil-thin moustache, Hamilton also knows when to go to town on the swingmatism. He's appearing with our own Dave Frishberg, Gary Hobbs and Phil Baker. They share the bill with bassist John Clayton's "Tribute to Ray Brown," featuring Benny Green and Jeff Hamilton, as part of the Jazz Society of Oregon's 20th Annual First Jazz. (TD)
Benson Hotel, Mayfair Ballroom. 320 SW Broadway, 228-2000. 4 pm. SOLD OUT. 21+.
For complete Portland Jazz Festival listings see HeadOut. For information on show times and ticket prices, go to www.pdxjazz.com