Feb 11, 2013
Last month I posted a podcast interview with Javon Jackson, one of the many jazz stars who are converging on Portland, Oregon this coming week to perform in the 10th U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival presented by Alaska Airlines. From February 15 to 24, 2013 there will be large and small events in and around Portland, creating an exciting mix of music.
One of the local bands to be featured in the Festival will be Blue Cranes. While they might no consider themselves to be “jazz musicians” per se, they have found a way to make musical exploration and improvisation in a way decidedly different than their indie band compatriots.
The group, composed of Reed Wallsmith (alto saxophone), Joe Cunningham (tenor saxophone), Rebecca Sanborn (keyboards), Keith Brush (acoustic bass), and Ji Tanzer (drums), began working together as a quintet in 2007 (originally recording as a quartet in 2006). Since then, the band has begun to reap the rewards of collective articulation: a truly individual sound that depends on the contributions of each member. Their latest CD will be released this Spring, and will be produced by Nate Query of the Decemberists, the first time they have worked with an outside producer.
Blue Cranes will appear with the eclectic pianist Wayne Horvitz on February 16th. Now a Pacific Northwesterner, Horvitz was a darling of the “Downtown Jazz” scene in New York, appearing on more than fifteen albums with John Zorn, most notably with Naked City. He has successfully collaborated with Bill Frisell, the late Butch Morris, Bobby Previte, and Marty Ehrlich.
Wallsmith will also participate with Horvitz in the Creative Music Guild Collective Music Ensemble performance during the festival on February 18. The group will be performing music composed and conducted by composer Wayne Horvitz. The instrumentation is similar to a traditional jazz big band. The charts are modified arrangements for large ensemble, but more modular in nature then traditional big band repertoire.
I spoke with Reed about the Festival, what it means to the City of Portland and the Portland music scene, and the future of Blue Cranes. Click here to listen to Podcast 333, which features musical selections including:
Blue Cranes – “Love, Love, Love” from Observatories. Looking for an interesting cover tune to flesh out their recording, Blue Cranes came across this Wayne Horvitz composition and were delighted with it. They sent the recording to Wayne, sparking a sense of collaboration between him and the band. Assisting the Blue Cranes on this track is guitarist Timothy Young.
Wayne Horvitz & The President – “Yuba City” from Miracle Mile. This avant-electric piece comes from a 1992 recording that featured the twin guitars of Bill Frisell and Elliott Sharp. Some of the other participants included Horvitz on keyboards, amplified piano and harmonica; Kermit Driscoll on bass, and Bobby Previte on drums.
Blue Cranes – “Returning to Portland” from Lift Music! Flown Music! Reed wrote this tune which opens the band’s quartet release in 2007. The band was Reed Wallsmith on alto sax, keys, and vocals; Rebecca Sanborn on keys, piano, and vocals; Keith Brush on acoustic and electric basses; and Ji Tanzer on drums.