The Portland Jazz Festival, from PDX Jazz, celebrates Black History Month with a series of concerts and events presented over two weeks every February. Dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local musicians, the festival includes education and outreach programs that extend into Portland’s schools and neighborhoods, as well as a generous offering of free performances.
“We strive to produce a festival that reflects the fabric of a vibrant jazz community … there is no city of a similar size in America that boasts such a wealth of talented artists as Portland.” – Managing Director Don Lucoff
In its 12th incarnation (Feb. 18 – March 1, 2015) the festival included a record number of 30 headline concerts, including:
- Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto, daughter of legendary Bossa Nova singer/guitarist Joao Gilberto, opening the festival (Feb. 18).
- ’70s pop star Freda Payne (Band of Gold) making her foray into jazz, performing both jazz and Motown classics at Jimmy Mak’s in “My Town is Motown” (Feb. 19).
- Harvard University professor and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient pianist Vijay Iyer making his return to the festival (Feb. 20)
- Trumpeter extraordinaire Nicholas Payton teaming up in a swinging double bill with pianist Billy Childs, who will present his tribute to famed singer/songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Laura Nyro (Feb. 22).
- NYC to PDX Project, led by local pianist Darrell Grant, showcasing local musicians that made their way from the Big Apple to find a home in Portland (Feb. 24).
- Pianist and singer Joe McBride performing with the Mel Brown B-3 Organ Band in “What’d I Say, for Brother Ray,” a soulful tribute to Ray Charles (Feb. 26).
- Legendary bass player and NEA Jazz Master Ron Carter performing a double bill with virtuosic pianist Benny Green (March 1).
- Blues giant and great guitarist/singer/organist Lucky Peterson closing the festival (March 1).
Performances are held at multiple venues, from the Newmark and Winningstad theaters at Portland’5 Centers for the Arts in downtown Portland, to the acclaimed jazz club Jimmy Mak’s in the Pearl and the historic Aladdin Theater, a former vaudeville house.
The 2015 festival featured a tribute to Frank Sinatra, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth. Special performances included:
- Grammy Award-winning singer Kurt Elling singing Sinatra with local big band the Art Abrams Swing Machine (Feb. 20).
- The Bill Charlap Trio paying homage to the Sinatra songbook with “In the Wee Small Hours” (Feb. 21).
Each year, the festival honors a “Jazz Master” — in 2015, writer Wayne Thompson served as the Portland Jazz Master, honoring his many years as a jazz journalist and support of the art form. Thompson curated a performance of his own with local and national musicians (Feb. 25).
Getting to the festival
The Portland Jazz Festival’s official transportation partners are Amtrak and Alaska Airlines.
2015 PDX Jazz Festival hotels
The following hotels have partnered with PDX Jazz Fest to provide lodging during the festival (Feb. 18 – March 1, 2015):