A Portlander’s Guide To Jazz

Vortex Music Magazine

From jazz in pop culture to the essential PDX jazz records to where you can experience it live, here's a crash course in local jazz.

“A lot of jazz is bleeding into soul, hip-hop and pop scenes.” —Portland’s Coco Columbia on a rising class of young, popular artists influenced by jazz including Kendrick Lamar“A lot of jazz is bleeding into soul, hip-hop and pop scenes.” —Portland’s Coco Columbia on a rising class of young, popular artists influenced by jazz including Kendrick Lamar



From rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 record, To Pimp a Butterfly, to David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, released two days before his death, to those who blend hip-hop, electronic and jazzy vibes, exemplified by Brainfeeder artists like Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Kamasi Washington—all three of which collabed on Lamar’s album while his effort reportedly influenced Bowie too—it’s all coming full circle. Read the liner notes of these jazz-inflected albums and check out what else the artists are doing.


The score of the 2014 best picture winner Birdman is almost entirely solo jazz percussion by drummer Antonio Sánchez.

Whiplash: The tense 2014 indie drama tells the story of an ambitious young jazz drummer and his mentally abusive instructor.

What Happened, Miss Simone? The 2015 biography of Nina Simone has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as a Grammy for Best Music Film.

Jaco: The 2015 documentary about innovative, influential bassist Jaco Pastorius who died at age 35.

Chuck Israels: Rhythm and Romance: Portland filmmaker Elijah Hasan’s just­-released brief portrait of the world­-renowned bassist, from his younger days playing with Bill Evans to current collaborations in PDX today.

Ethan Hawke is set to star as American jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue, due out this spring.


“YouTube is one of the best places to discover new music these days,” bassist Damian Erskine says. “Looking up one artist immediately leads you down a rabbit hole of suggested videos that can take you anywhere in the world.” Drummer Barra Brown echoes this: “It’s a huge thing with us in the scene because we can watch concerts in New York and see who is playing with whom and then check out the sidemen.”


Jimmy Mak’s
Solae’s Lounge
Wilfs Restaurant
Clyde’s Prime Rib
Portland Prime
Camellia Lounge
Vie de Bohème
Bijou Cafe
Jo Bar & Rotisserie
The Secret Society
WineUp On Williams
Living Room Theaters
Goodfoot Lounge
Portland Piano
Michelle’s Piano
Turn! Turn! Turn!


Radio: KMHD, KBOO, The Changing Same (XRAY.fm), Sundays on Portland Radio Project

Record Labels: Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble (PJCE), FNBeatsGalore, Ninjazz Records, Origin Records (Seattle)

Record Stores: Music Millennium

Nonprofits: Jazz Society of Oregon, PDX Jazz, Creative Music Guild (hosts bi-weekly Outset Series at Turn! Turn! Turn!)

Online: Jazz Truth (George Colligan’s blog), Portland Jazz Co-Op (Facebook group)


Portland Jazz Festival
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival
Montavilla Jazz Festival
Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival
Willamette Valley Wine & Jazz
Oregon Coast Jazz Party
Seaside Jazz Festival
Oregon Jazz Festival (Eugene)
Jazz Festival at University of Portland

Cathedral Park Jazz Festival in the shadow of St. Johns' iconic bridge: Photo by Image MCathedral Park Jazz Festival in the shadow of St. Johns' iconic bridge: Photo by Image M



Mel Brown, Ron Steen, Bobby Torres, Carlton Jackson, Alan Jones, Christopher Brown, Charlie Doggett, Michael Raynor, Reinhartd Melz, Tim DuRoche, Ken Ollis, Chris Johnedis, Barra Brown


Damian Erskine: Photo by Jason QuigleyDamian Erskine: Photo by Jason QuigleyDan Balmer, Dan Duval, John Stowell, Mike Gamble, Cameron Morgan, Chance Hayden, Andrew Endres


George Colligan, Darrell Grant, Louis Pain, Greg Goebel, Tom Grant, Gordon Lee, Randy Porter, Dan Gaynor, Ramsey Embick, George Mitchell, David Goldblatt, Mark Simon, Grant Richards, Ezra Weiss, Jarrod Lawson, Matt Tabor


Chuck Israels, David Friesen, Dave Captein, Andre St. James, Damian Erskine, Tim Gilson, Andrew Jones


Renato Caranto, Mary-Sue Tobin, Rich Halley, Reggie Houston, Devin Phillips, Tim Willcox, Rob Davis, Warren Rand, Joe Manis, John Nastos, Nicole Glover


Thara Memory, Farnell Newton, Thomas Barber


Stan Bock


Rebecca Kilgore, Nancy King


Oregon, Blue Cranes, Trio Subtonic, GRAMMIES (listen below), 1939 Ensemble (watch a live video below), Coco Columbia, Moongriffin, Cartridge, DoveDriver

Get more jazz in the current issue of Vortex: An Open Letter to Jazz Musicians, Why Isn’t Jazz Popular? and The Sounds of Portland Jazz.

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