|Farewell, Winnipeg! Thanks for the memories!|
However, life in academia can be somewhat unpredictable.Back in the early Spring, I auditioned for and won a tenure-track position at Portland State University. And so, my Winnipeg experiment had
sadly come to a close. It was time again to pack up everything and move west, even further west, to Portland, Oregon. I had not spent that much time in Portland before, but the handful of times I had
|This is right across from my apartment......|
My wife and I flew out to Portland in July to look for an apartment. Kerry had never been here before, but she was really struck by how lively the Portland downtown area seemed to be. When you look at many cities in the U.S., like Detroit, Baltimore, Rochester, Toledo, St. Louis, etc…you find that downtown is usually a ghost town-people seem to avoid it at all costs. Even in Winnipeg, downtown is kind of dead at times. Portland is one of the few cities where the downtown is still a destination. Portland also has a pretty good public transportation system, which is also a rare thing to find in our auto-centric hemisphere. We looked for 4 days straight for an apartment; we looked at all the quadrants of Portland (Northwest, Northeast,Southwest,Southeast).We even made a trip out to Beaverton, which is a popular suburb of Portland. The last place we looked at, and decided to take, was an apartment right across from Portland State University! My commute time will be virtually zero minutes…..
Now that I had a job and a place to live, I had to organize the move; we were in New York for most of the summer, but all of our belongings, including my 2006 Toyota Matrix, were still in Winnipeg. I returned to Canada not only to retrieve my car and make sure our stuff got moved, but to teach at the
|Aqua Books, my favorite venue in Winnipeg|
After the moving van was packed and ready to roll, I and one of my former students, trumpeter Simon Christie, got in my Toyota and drove 28 hours to Portland. That was quite an experience in itself: I've traveled a lot over the years, but I've never driven 28 hours straight. We drove down though North Dakota (I had never been there) in through Montana, Idaho(also had never been there), Washington
|Who knew Miles City would be completely booked?|
We pulled up to my new building at 5:58 PM Pacific Time the next day, with 2 minutes to get keys from the managing agent. After parking the car and decompressing over sushi and beer, Simon and I went back to the apartment and slept on the carpeted floor. I noticed before I went to sleep that my feet were swollen.
Simon had only driven through Portland once, so he wanted to check out the city and also some of the music scene. Now, previously, the only thing I knew about Portland's jazz scene was pianist Darrell
|Pianist and Educator Darrell Grant|
But there is a lot going on in the Portland scene; there are a number of great players and venues. Having mostly recovered from our drive, we ventured out to two jazz performances. The first was at a restaurant called the Globe. On the bill was a fusion keyboardist/composer named Mike Prigodich. The performance featured original compositions from his latest recording, entitled "A Stitch In Time" . The band featured Scott Hall,a great saxophonist who also teaches at PSU. Also featured were Damian
After listening to a set and wolfing down some excellent pizza, we drove over to the Northeast to a place called the Afrique Grill. A young trombonist named Javier Nero was performing with his quintet. Nero was a student of mine when I taught adjunct at the Juilliard School of Music; he was in my remedial piano class; thus, I didn't really ever hear him play trombone! Nero impressed me with his virtuosity and musicality; his linear concept remind me of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkle more than the assumed trombone influences. I think Nero has a lot of potential as a trombonist, and as a composer. (It was nice that Nero let me sit in with the band; I was itching to play some music after all that driving.) Nero has one more year at Juilliard; I'm hoping to convince him to do his Master's degree at PSU…..
The next night, we went to a venue in Southeast Portland called The Goodfoot. This venue seemed more like a rock club than a jazz venue. We saw two bands. The opener was a young drummer from Seattle named Sean Hutchinson. The trio, called Still Life, included Canadian Chris Massey on electric bass and Maryland native Erik Deutch on keyboards. (Erik studied with me in the early 90's. I think he was still in high school. Erik has gone on to be a seriously in-demand keyboardist, touring with the
|Erik Deutch in action|
The second band was led by bassist Damian Erskine. This band, which had keyboards, saxophone, and percussion, as well as Reinhard Melz again on drums, was more aggressive, featuring more odd meters and harder grooves. Erskine's playing reminds me of players like Anthony Jackson, Boris Kozlov, or Janek Gwizdala, but maybe a little smoother. (Erskine is the nephew of drummer Peter Erskine, and they play together in Peter's trio; I listened to their new
I drove Christie to the airport very early the next morning. Since my wife and son wouldn't join me in Portland until the beginning of September, I figured I should enjoy being a free man, and go hear some more music! The next spot was in the Pearl District, a place called the Camellia Lounge, which is inside a restaurant called The Tea Zone. I sat with some delicious ginger tea and listened to acoustic bassist David Friesen's band, which featured Greg Goebel on Fender Rhodes and John Gross on Tenor Saxophone. Friesen's music is quirky and intriguing; the melodies aren't necessarily catchy, but they quickly create a mood, which is a great catalyst for solos. Dissonant harmonies pervade Freisen's improvisational vehicles, and yet, because of the absence of drums, the band created a very pleasant, listenable, chamber music vibe.
And Friesen's keyboardist impressed me so much that I went to see the Greg Goebel trio at Wilf's the next evening. Wilf's is a nice restaurant right next to Union Station in Northwest. Gobel's trio featured
The bassist Phil Baker informed me that Sunday nights in Portland are a good time to check out Clyde's in Northeast for the Ron Steen Trio Jam Session. It's a bit of a drive from downtown, but since there's no TV or internet in the apartment yet, I decided to go check it out. It's quite a scene. First of all, I will again say that the food is good at Clyde's; I had a Mediterranean Pasta for $11 that really hit the spot, as well as a delicious Key Lime Pie. I sat and listened to Ron Steen and his trio, which featured bassist Baker as well as someone they kept calling "Professor", Mr. Phil Goldberg on piano. This is a jam session that reminded me of the jam session's I used to attend, and then actually host for a while, at Twins Lounge in D.C.. Clydes was soon packed with horn players and vocalists who were eager to get on stage. It was quite a lively bunch, I must say. However, drummer Ron Steen kept everything civil and organized, and he presided over the affair with a lot of warmth and humor. Of course, I played some piano, trumpet, and melodica. Jam sessions can still be a great learning experience, and I certainly had a good time jamming at Clyde's.
My last stop for the week was Monday night at Jimmy Mak's(which is the main jazz club in Portland). I walked down 10th Avenue (Imagine, a major jazz club within walking distance!) to see guitarist Dan Balmer with his fusion trio. Balmer is a Portland native; he spent years on the road with vocalist Diane Schuur. Balmer reminds me a bit of guitarist Paul Bollenback, who I have worked with quite a bit, in that, like Bollenback, he seems to be able to in almost any musical direction. I'm supposed to play with Balmer in late September;this will probably be my first official gig as a Portland resident. I'm looking forward to it, and also eagerly anticipating becoming more acquainted with the Portland jazz scene.
|Guitarist Dan Balmer|