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Portland Jazz Festival, where stars come out to play

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We strive to produce a festival that reflects the fabric of a vibrant jazz community who responds positively to a highly evolved musical aesthetic from artists who range from their young 20s to upper 80s.

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Any worthy jazz festival is characterized by the caliber of the talent roster. The 2014 U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival can feel rest assured, it’s safely up there in the stratosphere of destination jazz fests.

For the 11th annual festival February 20-March 2, Eliane Elias, the great NEA Jazz Master Ahmad Jamal, 83, Pat Metheny Unity Group, JLCO with Wynton Marsalis, the Yellowjackets, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Esperanza Spalding are definite highlights. The roster is an impressive mix of hometown favorites (Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band, Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough, Darrell Grant, Esperanza Spalding) and international superstars.

Managing Director Don Lucoff beat the drum for Portland as the host city to a world of top-shelf jazz: “We strive to produce a festival that reflects the fabric of a vibrant jazz community who responds positively to a highly evolved musical aesthetic from artists who range from their young 20s to upper 80s. Additionally, there is no city of a similar size in America that boasts such a wealth of talented artists as Portland, and each year we feature these celebrated artists in selected settings as headliners and special guests.”

The Portland Jazz Festival in 2009 was the only one around to pay proper tribute to Blue Note Records’ 70th anniversary for the 10 days it was on. This year, there’s more of that to come under the header, Blue Note @ 75. Various contemporary artists will cover the great Blue Note personnel, for starters. Eliane Elias will perform Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Chet Baker numbers. Other major Blue Note recording artists show up to perform live or in tribute covers. “For the 2014 festival we recognize a selection of artists who made an impact on the storied imprint, tagging their performances Blue Note @ 75. These performances will include: Who’s On First Bob Dorough & Dave Frishberg; the long overdue reunion of Hard Bop masters Bobby Watson & Horizon featuring Victor Lewis, Terell Stafford, Edward Simon, and Portland native Essiet Essiet; …Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band; and imposing leaders who certainly made their mark in the past 20 years – Jack DeJohnette, Joe Lovano, Wynton Marsalis and Kenny Werner.”

Other landmark celebrations add to the mix.

This year will be the first time Portland Jazz Masters went to an ensemble. The 43-year veteran ensemble Oregon accepts the unprecedented honor.

Several of the promising, new artists will make their Portland debut, while some vets return after several years of absence. The Yellowjackets haven’t been in Portland to do a live show in 12 years. Same with artists Kenny Werner, Geoff Keezer, Elias, Tord Gustavsen, and Toshiko Akiyoshi. First-timers Aaron Diehl, Grammy-nominated Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Grace Kelly get to enjoy the best this City of Roses has to offer, while introducing new audiences to their own special rhythms.

PDX Jazz is the Portland Jazz Festival’s presenting organization. Check regularly for updates.

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