Judy and I took the train on Friday and went to the Joe Lovano conversation with Doug Ramsey at the Art Bar, had dinner there and went to the main event of the opening night – the first public performance with full orchestra of Terence Blanchard’s “A Tale of God’s Will” (Requiem for Katrina). The CD won a Grammy last year. It is very moving music, a lament for New Orleans, and very stirring. Sound was a bit of a problem, the strings were miced, the second violins were louder than the firsts and the sound was grainy, to boot. Wish they had played it entirely acoustically – in Schnitzer Hall it would have sounded better, but we were glad to be able to hear it live. Terence’s introductions added a lot to the program. An opening set with Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quintet was not very satisfying for us, but after the concert, Devin Phillips (a New Orleans refugee now living in Portland) was leading his very swinging quintet at the Art Bar across the street…. a great nightcap. Sometimes the local cats outshine the visitors.
Joe Lovano’s Us5 is a new group I hadn’t heard and was curious about. They played Saturday afternoon at the Portland Art Museum Ballroom which seemed acoustically friendly to jazz. Walking in we immediately noticed two drumsets on stage and thought “Oh-oh…” but about half way through the first tune, we were looking at each other and saying “Wow!” Gerry Hemmingway and Francisco Mela were the drummers, both energetic and imaginative and very complimentary. They didn’t have a drum battle, they didn’t both play all the time, and when they switched from one to the other it was seamless. They traded back and forth with Joe, pianist James Weidman and bassist Michael Formanek. It was one of the highlights of the weekend. Jacky Terrasson Trio opened, with a lot of sizzle but seemingly lacking much substance.
We passed on the Dianne Reeves concert, but look forward to seeing her at Bellevue with Russell Malone. We had a nice dinner at Jake’s Grill and went to the late set Saturday night with John Scofield Trio at the Art Museum Ballroom again. Sco’ played with Matt Penman on bass and Bill Stewart (another great drummer!). Joe Lovano introduced them, and Sco’ said he’d be back. After several trio tunes, Lovano joined them and they played like they were still a working group (Joe was in the band in the early 90s). The crowd included a lot of younger listeners and they were really into it. We sat next to a couple of kids, one a guitarist, the other a drummer and they were in heaven! Great concert!
We wrapped up the night at the Art Bar again, with Dave Frishberg, John Gross and Charlie Doggett Trio doing some rare tunes (Dave doesn’t sing with this group, they have a different repertoire.) Nice hang with Lovano, Doug Ramsey, Michael Cuscuna, Ashley Kahn, et al. We closed the joint.
Some of the audiences were disappointingly small – the Terence Blanchard concert especially, and nothing appeared close to selling out. Probably the biggest crowd we saw was at the Scofield concert. They have now cancelled next Friday night’s main event with Cassandra Wilson and Jason Moran due to poor advance sales, but all other concerts and events are going on.