Mel Brown and Gordon Lee to Headline Sixth Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival August 17–18

What is jazz? More importantly, where is it headed? At the Montavilla Jazz Festival (MJF), the future of the art form is at the forefront of the experience. With Portland artists from across the spectrum of expression, attendees will hear musical pioneers exploring new frontiers in jazz.

Now in its sixth year, MJF 2019 takes place at comfortably air-conditioned Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark Street, Portland, Oregon on August 17–18, 2019. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, MJF’s mission is to support local artists while creating an accessible cultural experience for all. The full festival lineup, schedule, and ticketing information are available at www.montavillajazzfest.com.

Festival Details

  • Location: Portland Metro Arts, 9003 SE Stark Street, Portland, Oregon, on August 17–18, 2019. Both days the doors and box office open at 1:00 pm, with the festival starting promptly at 1:30 p.m.

  • Day Passes: General admission and VIP day passes for both Saturday and Sunday are available for presale purchase at https://www.tickettomato.com/, and at the box office during festival hours on both days. Headliner tickets are sold separately. Seating is limited, re-entry is not guaranteed, and no refunds are given. General Admission day passes are $15, VIP day passes are $30. Youth 12 and under are admitted free.

  • Headliner Show Tickets: General admission and VIP tickets to both Saturday and Sunday headliner shows are available for presale purchase at  https://www.tickettomato.com/, and at the box office during festival hours on both days.

  • Parking: To help meet our urban sustainability goals, attendees are encouraged to use public and alternative transportation options. On-street parking is available in the neighborhood surrounding Portland Metro Arts.

HOW MEL BROWN AND GORDON LEE HAVE SHAPED THE PORTLAND JAZZ SCENE

Portland’s Eastside has always been more of a hotbed of jazz than the city’s Westside. African Americans created this genre, and the Eastside is where most black Portlanders have always lived. It’s where Mel Brown grew up and, in the late 1950s, wove through the North Williams area on his paper route. In the meantime, he spent his paper route pennies on drum books. That put him in the jazz scene, hanging out at music stores along with the working musicians of the day. “That was really important to Mel because they let him come and learn,” local jazz historian Lynn Darroch said. Brown was only about fifteen years old, and as he listened to the older generation play and talk in rooms with the furniture pushed to the side, he was beginning to learn not only about the fun of jazz but the work behind it, not only its magic, helping audiences escape (or better understand) everyday tedium and heartache for a moment, but its possibilities for true life transformation.

The younger generation learning from the older is a theme repeated at this year’s Montavilla Jazz Festival as Brown and Gordon Lee lead the multigenerational Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) in the headlining session. With Brown on drums and Lee on piano, PJCE will be performing original compositions by Lee, newly arranged for this big-band performance. PJCE Executive Director Douglas Detrick also plays trumpet in the ensemble. Detrick said this will be his first time working with Brown. He wondered, “What’s the impact on younger musicians getting to play with Mel? We have a lot to learn from older musicians on how we relate to the audience.”

And do Brown and Lee ever relate. Vocalist Sherry Alves was the coordinator for the Mel Brown Jazz Camp. She called Brown and Lee both “very giving and kind,” “warm,” and “an inspiration.”

Charlie Porter remembered having Brown on his most recent album. During the recording, he said, “I got the pleasure of seeing Mel do kind of a four-drummer duel [with Alan Jones, Carlton TK, and Christopher Brown, Brown’s son].” “He just had this kind of this delicate touch and this real sensitivity musically that was just super attractive.” Porter said he notices that finesse every time he hears Brown play—that and Brown’s unbridled joy. “His smile is infectious, which is why I called that song ‘Mel Smiles.’” 

Porter didn’t even know Brown’s work when Porter first sat in with Brown’s sextet at Jimmy Mak’s, but that didn’t matter to Brown. “He was super cool and nice about it,” Porter remembered. Ezra Weiss, composer and pianist, used to hear Brown play in Portland—twice a week, every week. At the time, Weiss “never imagined that I’d be playing on the same festival as him.”

The MJF 2019 musicians are also looking forward to working with Lee. Porter called Lee “a hell of a writer and arranger.”

Work is a resounding theme for these “living legends,” as more than one MJF musician called Brown and Lee. Lynn Darroch said Brown emphasizes how hard he worked as a young musician. Though we don’t often think of musicians as working-class people in the same vein as tradespeople, Darroch noted, they too work with their hands. Playing music is incredibly physical labor. Michael Gamble, the artistic head of the Creative Music Guild, said what he’s taken from Brown includes the drummer’s work ethic and consistency. In his seventies, Brown continues to take the stage regularly. Kathleen Hollingsworth said Brown and Lee “are the real deal; they’re playing the real deal, and thank God for that. We need to hang on to that.”

All this is happening in Montavilla, the Southeast neighborhood that is a relative newcomer to the Portland jazz scene. But that’s exactly how jazz operates—it is just as likely to spring up in garages and music stores, as it did in Brown’s childhood, as it is to hold court in a landmark like Jimmy Mak’s was (and still is, in memory). A newcomer doesn’t have to be a newcomer for long—and sometimes it offers exactly the right spot for innovation. Darroch called the MJF organizers “jazz activists,” in that they’re “people who help to promote the art and various forms not in any one particular way and who do so because of their passion for the music and also their feeling that it works as a community resource.”

This too is a part of the Portland jazz scene—the way it emphasizes community connection. Along with showing up nights on stages around town, by day, Brown ran his own accounting and bookkeeping firm. “So you could get your taxes done by one of the top jazz drummers in town,” Darroch said. More than that, Brown helped tie jazz to the community by being a part of his neighbors’ lives in more than one way. 

That may be Brown and Lee’s ultimate gift to Portland. Brown was born in Portland, and both have made the city their home for decades. As working artists who have never stopped performing, teaching, and yes, simply being neighborly, Brown and Lee show us where we’ve been and help suggest where we’re going. And like each individual musician in a jam session, Brown and Lee’s MJF admirers have unique takes on the elders’ powers. Darroch has called Brown a “golden thread,” running through, and holding together, Portland’s jazz scene. Detrick said the multigenerational experience of Brown and Lee with the PJCE will be exciting. Like viewing a cross-section of a tree, this concert will show “where jazz has been in the last several decades.” Hollingsworth said, “And that history is good for Portland, is good for the scene, to have all of that mixed into the soup pot of jazz.”

Saturday, August 17, 2019 (doors open at 1:00 pm)

  • 1:30 – Kerry Politzer: Bossa PDX
    Lineup: Kerry Politzer, piano; Joe Manis, woodwinds, Dan Balmer, guitar; Phil Baker, bass; George Colligan, drums

  • 2:50 – Bryan Smith: Let Me Take You There
    Lineup: Bryan Smith, alto sax; Ryan Meagher, guitar, Matt Tabor, piano; Andrew Jones, bass; Jonas Oglesbee, drums; Matt Spohn, poetry

  • 4:10 – Dana Reason: Torque Songs
    Lineup: Dana Reason, composer/piano/computer/fixed media; AJ Layague, text setting; Paris Myers, animation/live visual artist; Holland Andrews, voice; Alissa DeRubeis, synth/computer; Mike Nord, guitar/electronics; John Savage, flute/reeds; Todd Sickafoose, bass; James West, drums/percussion; Paula Josa Jones: choreographer/dancer (images and video from her work: Fluid)

  • 5:30 – Charlie Porter Quintet
    Lineup: Charlie Porter, trumpet; Joe Manis, saxophones; Greg Goebel, piano; Jon Lakey, bass; Alan Jones, drums

  • 6:50 – Mel Brown B3 Organ Group
    Lineup: Mel Brown, drums; Renato Caranto, tenor sax; Dan Balmer, guitar; Louis Pain, organ

  • 8:10 – Ezra Weiss Big Band: We Limit Not the Truth of God
    Lineup: Ezra Weiss, conductor; John Nastos, John Savage, Renato Caranto, Joe Manis, Tina Richerson, reeds; Greg Garrett, Charlie Porter, Douglas Detrick, Farnell Newton, trumpets; Stan Bock, Jeff Uusitalo, David Bryan, John Ohnstad, trombones; Jasnam Daya Singh, piano; Jon Lakey, bass; Alan Jones, drums; Carlton Jackson, percussion

Sunday, August 18, 2019 (doors open at 1:00 pm)

  • 1:30 – Kathleen Hollingsworth: Mad Love
    Lineup: Kathleen Hollingsworth, vocals/keys/compositions; Brent Follis, drums/compositions; Bill Athens, bass

  • 2:50 – Ian Christensen’s Rolling House
    Lineup: Ian Christensen, Noah Bernstein, alto sax; Noah Simpson, trumpet; James Powers, trombone; Chris Higgins, bass; Jonas Oglesbee, drums

  • 4:10 – Sherry Alves with George Colligan
    Lineup: Sherry Alves, vocals; George Colligan, piano; Jon Lakey, bass; Tyson Stubelek, drums

  • 5:30 – Bobby Torres Ensemble
    Lineup: Bobby Torres, congas; Julana Torres, vocals; Cameron Morgan, guitar; Dan Gaynor, piano; Al Criado, bass; James Travers, drums

  • 6:50 – CMG Sound Foundry presents Wayne Horvitz
    Lineup: Wayne Horvitz, piano; Mike Gamble, guitar; Todd Sickafoose, bass; Mike Lockwood, drums

  • 8:10 – Mel Brown and Gordon Lee with the PJCE
    Lineup: Mel Brown, drums; Gordon Lee, piano and compositions; Lee Elderton, alto sax; Renato Caranto and John Gross, tenor sax; Mieke Bruggeman, bari sax; Douglas Detrick, Noah Simpson, and Justin Copland, trumpets; Stan Bock, Denzel Mendoza, and Adriana Wagner, trombones; Ryan Meagher, guitar; Ed Bennett, bass

ADDITIONAL CONTEXTUAL EVENTS

Back in 2019! Jazz Lounge & PROWUS Student Stage

With the support of our generous Jazz Lounge and Student Stage sponsors PROWUS, Vino Veritas, Montavilla Brew Works, and Teutonic Wine Company, Montavilla Jazz Festival 2019 is excited to present performances by talented rising young local musicians. Student performances will be scheduled throughout both days of the festival inside Portland Metro Arts in our air-conditioned Jazz Lounge!

Enjoy light fare and wine from Vino Veritas Wine Bar and award-winning beer brewed by Montavilla Brew Works while listening to the next generation of local jazz artists perform between Main Stage sets.

Beverages are permitted in the air-conditioned Main Stage theater performance space and the Jazz Lounge.

Saturday Night After-Hours Jam Session at East Glisan Pizza

To celebrate the community spirit of the festival, we continue the tradition of hosting an after-hours jam session at East Glisan Pizza Lounge on Saturday (8/17) from 9:00 pm to midnight. 

The session will be hosted by the Alan Jones Academy of Music as part of the acclaimed AJAM series of jam sessions and educational events. Musicians from across the city are encouraged to participate, with many festival performers participating on stage and hanging out in the audience. 

East Glisan Pizza Lounge is located at 8001 NE Glisan Street, Portland, OR 97213.


COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Arts for All and Work for Art Programs Make the Festival Accessible to Everyone

As one of America’s original art forms, jazz music has a strong legacy of being created by the people, for the people. It is important for the Montavilla Jazz Festival to continue the tradition by helping to make the festival accessible to everyone.

The Montavilla Jazz Festival is proud to be a member of the Arts for All program, administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Everyone enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is eligible to purchase up to two (2) Montavilla Jazz Festival passes for $5 per pass when they present their SNAP Oregon Trail Card at the box office.

Arts Impact Fund is a program of the Regional Arts & Culture Council serving the Portland, Oregon metropolitan region. Arts Impact Fund’s Arts Card-holders can get 2-for-1 General Admission Passes (subject to availability).

TICKETS: Passes at the box office during festival hours with Arts Card and Photo ID. Re-entry is not guaranteed. No refunds. 

Community Support for Arts and Education

We are delighted that Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association is a lead sponsor of Montavilla Jazz Festival 2019. Our shared vision of community building and support for youth education initiatives, like our Montavilla Jazz Artist-in-Residence program, is a perfect match for the festival and provides critical support for local budding artists. Together, we are supporting a thriving, diverse community. We thank the Montavilla business community for their support, along with more than 80 sponsors of the festival, including our lead partners, KMHD Jazz Radio (89.1 FM), The Skanner, Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association, Fred Meyer, and our Main Stage sponsors, Portland Piano Company, Sound Doctor PDX, and Revival Drums.

In addition to an incredible lineup of emcees to support the event onsite, we are honored to have Oregon House Member, Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer; and Stephen Rice, Executive Director, Montavilla/East Tabor Business Association, join us at the festival as special guest speakers. The broad support from both the public and private sector, along with individual donors, volunteers, sponsors, and partners is a strong indication of the overwhelmingly positive support and sense of community in East Portland.


GET INVOLVED AND STAY CONNECTED

If you are interested in getting involved in the festival for sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, please use the contact information listed below. A healthy artistic community creates a vibrant and open society. Please join us at the festival and support local jazz!

About Montavilla Jazz Festival

The Montavilla Jazz Festival is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports and strengthens local music culture and enriches the community by showcasing the best of Portland’s originally composed, progressive jazz.

Ben Fajen