Monday, September 15, 2008


The annual Portland, OR Jazz Festival (PDX Jazz) has closed down, due to, what else, not enough money. In its five year history it brought to town such notables as Cecil Taylor, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Ravi Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and many others.

Besides the loss of the music, it is sad to see the loss of the educational emphasis the Festival embodied. A lot of young people were involved. And of course, there is the economic loss to the city of 36,000 absent fans. The Portland Jazz Festival was nominated as one of the top five jazz events by the Jazz Journalists Association last year.

Is Jazz dying out in America? It is a hotly debated topic. Much depends on how you define “Jazz.” Still, I think it is indisputable that jazz is not as accessible as pop music. You have to train your ears or you can’t hear jazz. Few people are willing to put in the time to learn, pleasurable though that learning is. For anyone who wants to learn jazz, rent, borrow or buy the Smithsonian collection of classical jazz, 5 CD’s that go from the dawn of recording through the mid-60’s. If you don’t find a few items there that turn you on, there’s something wrong with you.

The 2009 PDX festival was supposed to be a tribute to Blue Note Records. But sponsors (many of them in the past were banks) did not step up this year. Ticket sales are never enough. So it’s over. I’ll miss it.

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