You know what’s hot? August in Eugene. You know what’s cool in August in Eugene? Jazz.
I’m not talking about “cool jazz,” the term of art referring to a particular laid back strain of music that arose in the 1950s with a famous short-lived band led by Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan and other beboppers, and blossomed on the West Coast with Chet Baker, Mulligan and others. I mean, if you’re looking for live music at a time when the weather’s hot but the music scene isn’t, the city’s jazz venues offer some cool shows worth checking out. They’re not always cool jazz, or even jazz at all.
The month’s biggest actual jazz show happens, ironically enough, not at Jazz Station but next Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Roaring Rapids Pizza Company, with a pair of Portland-based Oregon jazz legends teaming up with Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) for a big band show of original Oregon jazz.
Pianist Gordon Lee is easily one of the state’s most accomplished jazz composers, educators and arrangers. He’s performed at jazz festivals around the world and helped cultivate a couple generations of Oregon jazz musicians in his teaching at various colleges and universities. For 33 years, Lee has worked on and off with the great Portland drummer Mel Brown, the former Motown staff drummer who played on innumerable hits and tours before returning home to Portland in the ’80s, where he still leads multiple ensembles at various venues every week. Every jazz musician should be so busy and productive.
Lee’s bringing in some of his fellow respected jazz veteran bandmates and other Portland all-stars. This includes tenor sax giant Renato Caranto, trombonist Stan Bock, trumpeter Thomas Barber, soprano sax/clarinet master Tim Willcox and baritone saxophonist Mieke Bruggeman. Lee also is drawing top players from the creative young lions of PJCE — led by University of Oregon alum and trumpeter Douglas Detrick — which has reinvigorated Portland’s jazz scene in recent years. It’s the closest thing to an Oregon jazz all-star concert we’re likely to see this year.
The Jazz Station itself presents some attractive shows that don’t happen to be jazz. Take Friday, Aug. 9’s Dirty Cello show. Not only does the San Francisco quartet feature a titular lead instrument much more associated with classical music than jazz (leader Rebecca Roudman performs with the Oakland and Santa Rosa Symphonies) the band actually plays blues, rock (including a smokin’ “Purple Haze”) and bluegrass music using banjo, guitars, bass and drums. Even though the main jazz connection is the venue’s name, don’t let that stop you from getting down and dirty.
On Saturday, Aug. 10, the Jazz Station brings another Bay Area musician, Oregonian-turned-Oaklander Lisa Forkish back to sing her original songs, with help from a fellow a cappella luminary, Eugene’s own Evynne Hollens, and next-gen singer/guitarist Emily Sangder.
Classical music can be hard to come by in August — except at various wineries around the Willamette Valley, whose vintners have realized what a tasty pairing the fruit of the vine makes with classical music. Several festivals in wine country feature various Portland musicians this summer, but one of Eugene’s finest, classical guitarist David Rogers, performs next Friday, Aug. 16, at Marks Ridge Winery in Sweet Home. An accomplished classical player, Rogers is also no prisoner of category. His solo recital ranges from original compositions to JS Bach and Spanish, Flamenco and Latin classics to original settings of boomer pop by Leonard Cohen, the somehow-still-touring Rolling Stones and Neil Young as well as the Beatles. ν