The Portland Jazz Festival, from PDX Jazz, celebrates Black History Month with a series of concerts and events presented over two weeks every February. The festival returned Feb. 15-25, 2018 for its 15th iteration. Dedicated to preserving America’s indigenous art form by presenting internationally recognized jazz masters alongside local musicians, the festival always 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
The annual celebration of improvised music brings some of jazz’s greatest living stars, including a touching tribute to Geri Allen, the beloved American jazz pianist and composer who sadly passed away in June 2017. It also offers the chance to see rising young lions from Portland State University’s Jazz and Contemporary Voice program, Monk competition winner Yotam Silberstein and saxaphonist Ian Christensen, plus a parade of Portland’s finest jazz musicians like Pete Krebs, Ezra Weiss and Marilyn Keller.
In 2018, the festival’s theme was “Soulfully Vocal” — specifically, the language of vocalese. Made prominent by living legend Jon Hendricks and the incomparable Eddie Jefferson, vocalese is when a vocalist sings words note for note to a melody created by a soloist’s improvisation. The lineup for 2018 was filled with renowned singers who utilized their vocal talents to “emulate and improvise.”