Late last year, Daniel Rossi decided to do something about the state of jazz in Portland.
"Basically, all there is in town is PDX Jazz Fest and Soul'd Out, and Soul'd Out isn't totally jazz," Rossi tells WW. "I don't want to start any shit, but PDX Jazz Fest—and they do a great job at what they do—is run by mostly rich people and the shows they get are cool, but they book music with their donors in mind. That's fine, but musicians and other people like me can't afford to go to more than one $70 concert in a month, if they can even afford that. So it's basically see Pharoah Sanders and then nothing else. I wanted to book shows that are more accessible."
To be sure, there are venues in Portland, like the 1905 and Jack London Revue, that book a genre-hopping mix of local legends and up-and-coming musicians, and are starting to fill the void left by the recent closures of stalwart jazz clubs. But options are still limited for this city's younger generation of jazz musicians, and for jazz-curious audiences who can't shell out a lot of money for a ticket. So Rossi, a vet of both Portland's jazz and rock scenes, began mulling a plan. One night, after hoisting a few pints, he decided to just go for it. "Honestly, at like 1 am I just thought, 'Well, I'll reach out to my favorite musicians and see what happens,' and I started emailing around," he says. "Amazingly, I started getting responses the next day. That actually ended up with us landing Justin Brown, who is Thundercat's drummer, in February at the Liquor Store."
Booking shows with multifaceted talent like Brown, a player who is testing the limits of what jazz can be, is exactly the type of show Rossi aims to put on with his monthly series, Daniel Rossi Presents, which is currently held at the Liquor Store on the last Sunday of every month. This month's show will feature Håfa, a new duo featuring Charlie Brown III on keys, Cory Limuaco on drums and electronics, and highly skilled trumpeter Noah Simpson, performing for a cover charge of $7. It's the sort of boundary-pushing, affordable bill Rossi's programming is all about.
In addition to providing shows for the less than well off among us, Rossi wants to showcase what jazz sounds like in 2019 and expand listeners' sonic palates. "I wanted to try and stimulate the young jazz scene here. It's all original compositions, so you're going to be hearing new sounds," he says. "I was thinking this could be a window into where jazz is now and how it's evolved. It's not this background music some people think of it as. It's really energetic, aggressive and loud, with influences from electronic music and things from hip-hop like J Dilla."
Another of Rossi's goals is to illuminate the many similarities between the DIY indie-rock scene and the new generation of Portland jazz players and appreciators. Arbitrary genre lines are blurring more each day, and Rossi hopes that booking jazz-centric bills in rock rooms like the Liquor Store will help open some minds. Rossi points out he's not a promoter or a booker by trade. "I approached the Liq, which was in my mind because they have a great live music program and it used to be the Blue Monk, which was a jazz club I used to go to back in the day," he says. "The idea is to get young people that would usually go to, or even play, indie-rock shows or psych-rock shows at a place where they're comfortable like the Liquor Store and expose them to this cool music they might not otherwise seek out."
Rossi is still ironing out the details of the series' broader goals, but aims to have a showcase every month, sometimes at the Liq, sometimes at other well-respected rooms. So far, he says, people have been very supportive. "I really enjoy bringing these acts here and showing them we have a scene for this type of music in Portland," says Rossi, "And hopefully exposing some people to new sounds that challenge their preconceived notions of what jazz is."
SEE IT: Daniel Rossi Presents Håfa and Noah Simpson at the Liquor Store, 3341 SE Belmont St., theliquorstorepdx.com, on Sunday, March 31. 8 pm. 21+. $7.