Cathedral Park Jazz Festival Artist Feature: Becky Kilgore and the Cowhands

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Today's installment of Better Know a CPJF Artist, Rebecca Kilgore from Becky Kilgore and the Cowhands.

JazzScene: What is your main instrument, or role in your group?

Rebecca Kilgore: The group is named after me.  I play rhythm guitar and sing most of the lead vocals.  I usually suggest the songs that we perform, but everyone else makes suggestions too.

JazzScene: Can you describe your set for those that may not know a lot about jazz or blues music?

RK: It will be so-called Western Swing music, very danceable. It originated in the 1930s and 40s in the American south and Texas fiddle player Bob Wills was its biggest proponent. It combined popular dance music of the day with hillbilly, old-time, and county music. The instrumentation is important. Ours is a reduced version of the big Western Swing bands with James Mason on fiddle, Doc Stein on steel guitar and vocals, Pete Lampe on acoustic bass, and myself on rhythm guitar and vocals.

JazzScene: What inspires you to perform, or compose?

RK: Music calls to me, and basically I love to sing and share the joy of music with people. Playing for dancers is especially fun. Composing is another thing altogether.  I get inspiration all too rarely.

JazzScene: How did you end up becoming a professional musician?

RK: I sort of fell into it. I was a “closet musician” playing guitar and singing in my living room by myself.  Then in 1980  I moved to Portland from New England and was checking out the local music scene. I discovered a quartet called Wholly Cats and befriended them. Long story short, I eventually filled the place of the guitarist/vocalist when she quit. It was a watershed moment.

JazzScene: Past or present, where have been some of your favorite places to perform in Portland?

RK: I used to like the Bijou Cafe.  I’m digging the Jack London Revue — great sound there.  The Secret Society Ballroom is a lot of fun.

JazzScene: Who are some of the Portland-based musicians that have had the most influence on your music?

RK: I’d have to say, my friend, the great pianist/singer/composer Dave Frishberg was the person from whom I learned the most.  He has so much taste and such dedication to the music and the song at hand.

JazzScene: If you could wave a magic wand, is there anything about the Portland music scene that you might change?

RK: Gosh, I wish there were more venues and especially one that could present national acts.  In that sense, Jimmy Mak’s is sorely missed.

JazzScene: If you had to pick one moment or professional accomplishment for which you are most proud, what would it be?

RK: I loved creating jazz/cabaret shows with Harry Allen for annual presentations we performed at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency Hotel in New York. Mostly I love collaborating — such interesting and surprising things can come about. Randy Porter is another beautiful player who creates magic and with whom I feel privileged to perform.

JazzScene: If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?

RK: Cannonball’s Bossa; João Gilberto with Stan Getz; Wes Montgomery

Don't miss Becky Kilgore and the Cowhands on Saturday, July 21st at 2:30 pm at the 38th Annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival.