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REVIEW: Ornette Coleman and SFJazz Collective @ PDX Jazz fest (Portland – – 2/15/08)

16th Feb 08 (Sat) 3 comments

Gettin’ there… oy… bad “car on fire” accident just outside of Salem. Parking around the venue was wicked bad. It’s near Portland State University… which automatically means “minimal parking options” and there were tons of roads closed for construction… I ended up parking about a mile away. Grabbed a notdog from a hotdog shop en route. It was a yummy spicy Boca variety. Yay! I love living in Oregon — you can actually get a non-meat protein, horseradish-and-ketchup-into-your-system delivery device in a fauxtube-steak format from a fastfood-type outlet.

Anyway, post-dawg… I showed up at the venue at 7:23pm for the 7:30 show. I ran part of the way; so it was a close one…

Ornette Coleman @ the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
The main dude (artistic director) for the PDX Jazz Fest 503(c)(3) looked sorta like James Randi — alas, he wasn’t (he’s Bill Royston). He announced the sponsors: Oregonian A&E, Qwest Communications, and the Portland Trailblazers. My a priori understanding of the Oregonian A&E is that they have TV shows of Criss Angel-types who make your pilate mat and hummus plate disappear while playing indie rock in the background at silly volumes. I might be wrong, though. Qwest Communications is most famously known for providing reasonably-priced, high-speed internets that aren’t available at my address. The Portland Trailblazers play what I understand to be a game called “basketball.” It’s like a big game of team-based ping-pong. Except the table is huge, you stand on it, and the net isn’t in the middle, it’s on the ends of the huge table. Oh, and you can hit the net, but you don’t use paddles. You use your hands!! Oh, and the ball is huge and not made out of plastic. So, the Trailblazers are basically a ping-pong team. Once Mr. Royston got the sponsors out of the way, he introduced SF Jazz’s Joe Lovano who introduced Ornette Coleman

Ornette started playing around 7:40pm… his band wasn’t the band from his last CD (the Pulitzer Prize winning Sound Grammar); and I didn’t get their names, as they weren’t listed in the program. He had a drummer (possibly his son), a guitarist, and two bassists (one upright, one electric). I’m more horrible with Ornette’s song names than just about anyone, though. I do know for a fact that he played “Lonely Woman” (from The Shape of Jazz to Come). I also think he played “Song X.” He only announced one song from the stage (the opener to the set), but he’s got a slight lisp and the mic wasn’t on all the way. It sounded like he said “Buttered Helen.” So, yeah, I don’t know. He and his band played a blistering hour+twentyfive improv set, only stopping briefly prior to the encore. Ornette primarily played his trend-bucking non-metallic white sax. He also played violin (lefty) and trumpet during some songs. It was a brilliant free jazz set all around. I’m thoroughly glad that I got to see this pioneer of the free jazz movement.

I left as the band left the stage the second time… to get to the Newmark Theatre for Round 2 of the PDX Jazz Fest. Luckily the Newmark Theatre is 50 yards away, if that. Which was good, because as I was planning online, Ask.com’s maps… well, they’re utter crap. It said the venues were 1.2 miles away by foot. Wrong!

SF Jazz Collective @ the Newmark Theatre
Mr. Royston announced a new sponsor for this SFJC show: American Airlines. I hear that they are a busline that provides “air vents” for every passenger’s seat. Seems “OK” for a bus trip. I’d rather fly, though. He then introduced The Bad Plus (who I wish I could have seen last week in Eugene, they rock) who introduced the 8-piece SF Jazz Collective

SF Jazz Collective is a group that is commissioned each year to arrange and play the works of a jazz great. Past years have been Ornette Coleman (2004), John Coltrane (2005), Herbie Hancock (2006), and Thelonious Monk (2007). This year’s group arranged Wayne Shorter tunes. I haven’t gotten into Wayne Shorter (yet), but I know he played with Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and he’s on Herbie Hancock’s V.S.O.P.. Oh, I guess I’ve also heard his band Weather Report. So, I lied, I have gotten into him at least through WR and Herbie… Anyway, the SF Jazz Collective build a new repertoire each year based on a jazz great and then they all each write a new tune for the group.

The band for 2008 (links and instruments below) is Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas (one of my fav jazzmen), Stefon Harris, Miguel Zenón, Robin Eubanks, Renee Rosnes, Matt Penman, and Eric Harland. This was Dave’s 2nd season with the group. This show was their first show of the 2008 season, but they were far from rusty. They played for about an hour and half before I left (I had to bail half way through the encore in order to get home by 1am… oy). They announced their songs from stage, and they had a handy-dandy program available, too. Here’s what they played: “Go” [Wayne Shorter: hereafter WS], “Armageddon” [WS], “The Angel’s Share” [Matt Penman], “The Year 2008” [Eric Harland], “Black Nile” [WS], “Infant Eyes” [WS], “Secrets of the Code” [Dave Douglas], and the encore was announced by the pianist as “another Wayne Shorter tune that I’m sure you know.” Alas, I didn’t know it. It started out with piano… so I’ll leave it at that.

8 songs, 90 minutes. You do the math (I’ll give you a hint: divide, don’t multiply. Show all work to receive partial credit).

Also in their 2008 repertoire (sets change nightly): Wayne Shorter tunes “Aung San Suu Kyi,” “Diana,” “Footprints,” “El Guacho,” and “Yes or No.” Band member tunes “Aurora Borealis” [Renee Rosnes], “Frontline” [Miguel Zenón], “Road to Dharma” [Stefon Harris], “This That and the Other” [Joe Lovano], and “Breakthrough” [Robin Eubanks].

Oh, I forgot to say… somehow my ticket for SFJC was in the “wheelchair section.” That ruckin’ focked!! I could spread out. Totally luck of the draw on the ticket… but I tain’t complainin’…

The Appropriate Linkage:

yay… Glen Phillips and Belà Fleck next week…

~Dan – np: Charlie Hunter TrioCopperopolis

EDIT (4/7/08): Allaboutjazz.com has a nice review of the Ornette show HERE

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