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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Feb 17, 2011

The 2011 Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air Portland Jazz Festival Presented by U.S. Bank boasts over 125 shows and covering a 20 day period, is set to commence Friday, February 18 through Sunday, February 27. This year's 8th annual festival has partnered with 21 multi-cultural venues all across the city in support of this year's theme: Bridges and Boundaries: Jewish & African Americans Playing Jazz.

This is especially true in having historically united Jewish and African American jazz musicians. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and other African American artists reached out to white musicians to travel uptown to Minton’s Playhouse and other Harlem sites to play jazz together. The first integrated jazz band evolved when Benny Goodman, a Jew, hired guitarist Charlie Christian. Later, when Charlie Parker formed his classic jazz quintet, he invited Jewish trumpeter Red Rodney to join his band. Legend has it that when touring through the Deep South, Parker would introduce his trumpet player as a black man named “Albino Red” so that they could travel, eat and sleep together.

Movements in contemporary jazz are leading the way in again creating bridges between American Jews and African Americans. Integration of the two cultures has been a keystone in the development of the new Downtown jazz scene in New York. Simultaneously, jazz has become a popular art form in Israel, and numerous young Israelis have moved to the United States to form a new jazz sub-culture. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen, who has joined forces with his brother and sister, Yuval and Anat Cohen, to become leaders in merging Israeli music with African American Jazz, is also an integral member in the new all-star SFJAZZ Collective, premiering the work of African American pop icon Stevie Wonder.

 Israeli pianist Anat Fort has become a leader within the jazz avant-garde, and is part of the youngest wave of Jewish artists to move to the United States. Famed African American violinist Regina Carter’s newest project Reverse Thread, traces the musical history of African cultures including tribes of Ugandan Jews. NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston has dedicated his entire career to exploring African music with American jazz, and will open the festival with a rare solo piano concert. Portland’s own jazz master Dave Frishberg will present an evening of his favorite songs. African American musician Don Byron pays tribute to the humor of Jewish American klezmer pioneer and comedian Mickey Katz. Joshua Redman, son of African American saxophonist Dewey Redman and Jewish American dancer Renee Shedroff, will lead his new quartet. The most recent collaboration is a group of musicians, 3 Jewish Americans and 3 African Americans who have formed the Afro-Semitic Experience described as a Klezmer Hip Hop with a song titled “A Torah Afloat in a Leaky Boat Lands in Congo Square”.

The Afro-Semitic Experience, includign bass player David Chevan (pictured) and pianist Warren Byrd, has been touted on this site for a number of years now, and their appearance in a major festival is long overdue. They are more New York Downtown than Compton Downtown in sound, and well worth a listen for their melding of traditional Jewish music, modern jazz and AFrican-Americna musical sensibilities. Click here to listen to a track from their recent live album, recorded in Greenfield, MA, entitled "Tivieynu" .