I don’t know about you, but the crisp hint of fall in the air drives me delirious—a feeling somewhere between a perfect bite of apple and a wild electrical storm. Soon, so soon, Portland evenings will mean rattling leaves, rainswept streetlight haloes, and sudden shivers in too-light coats. For many, jazz is the soundtrack to autumn: shifting patterns (like those fallen leaves), bittersweet chords, and virtuosic moods.
Drum roll, then, for fall’s hottest jazz tickets; these are the five shows that score the season.
Zakir Hussain’s Jazz
Wednesday, Oct 7, at 7:30 pm, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
In the 1970s, Mumbai’s master tabla player broke into the Western mainstream with John McLoughlin’s band Shakti (that’s him, a few years later, rocking the hand drums for the soundtrack of Apocalypse Now). According to many, he's been the world’s best percussionist ever since—playing with the likes of Bela Fleck, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Hancock, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Friday, Oct 9, at 7:30 pm, Alberta Abbey
Somi’s father worked for the World Health Organization; in the 1980s, he temporarily relocated his family from Illinois to Zambia—sowing the first seeds of the elegant young composer’s “New African Jazz.” Since her first album in 2003, Somi’s smoky, sultry, and very smart compositions have drawn comparisons with Nina Simone, Dianne Reeves, and Miriam Makeba. New album The Lagos Music Salon, born of an 18-month stay in Nigeria, also features Angelique Kidjo, Common, and long-time mentor Hugh Masakela (scroll down).
Wayne Shorter Quartet
Tuesday, Oct 13, at 7:30 pm, Revolution Hall
Primary composer for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Saxophonist with Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet. Co-founder of Weather Report. Winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The 82-year-old legend has written and/or performed some of jazz music’s best tracks—from “Nefertiti,” with Davis, to “Children of the Night” with Airto Moreira on percussion, to the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja. (His band mates—John Pattitucci, Brian Blade, and Danilo Perez, are no slouches themselves.)
Anat Cohen Quartet
Wednesday, Nov 11, at 7 pm and 9:30 pm, Jimmy Mak’s
The young Israeli-born composer’s got major chops on saxophone and (unusual since the days of Benny Goodman) the clarinet. According to DownBeat, the globe-trotting bandleader is a “Rising Star,” now with seven eclectic studio albums to her name. Her latest, Luminosa, is suffused with tributes to tango, choro, classical music, and—perhaps most dominant—trilling improvisation in the vein of Brazil’s Milton Nascimento.
Thursday, Nov 19, at 7 pm, Revolution Hall
Masekela, now 76, is South African jazz royalty (and a longtime friend of US pianist Willis). Exiled to New York City in the 1960s, the young trumpeter and cornetist met John Coltrane and played with Dizzy Gillespie. Masekela’s own music made him an icon for the anti-apartheid movement. Today, critics call his stage rapport with Willis “blazing” and “effortless.”
As autumn deep dives into winter, we’ve got our eyes on one more show—details still forthcoming from PDX Jazz—which just might have the heat to melt the frostiest streets:
The Spirit of John Coltrane: From Birmingham to Alabama
Wednesday, Dec 9, at 7:30 pm, Alberta Abbey