The Wishermen Give Jazz a Chance

One local group is working to modernize the jazz tradition by incorporating modern influences ranging from postrock to hip-hop.

By Nathan Tucker August 21, 2013

There are two common stereotypes about jazz music: that it is either a dead genre or that it is too inaccessible and heady, what some call “musician’s music."

The Wishermen, a group of young Portland musicians who have been playing together since 2010, are working to change those misconceptions. Playing contemporary improvised music that advances the jazz tradition by incorporating modern influences ranging from postrock to hip-hop, they skip the temptation to retread the tired ground of 70’s and 80’s smoothjazz and fusion groups.

The nucleus of the group is bassist Chris Friesen, drummer/composer Barra Brown, and guitarist/composer Grant Sayler, the three of whom met while studying with drummer and Portland jazz luminary Alan Jones.

Brown is explicit about the group’s desire to blur genre lines.  “We’ve really seen that music is music and great musicians are great no matter what genre they associate with,” he says.  In that spirit, the band tries to focus on “writing what we want to play, rather than what we should play.” 

The Wishermen
August 28 at 8 pm 
Ivories Jazz Lounge 
October 1 at 8 pm 

The Wishermen’s live performances are energetic affairs that showcase some serious improvisational chops, but there’s no need to fear self-indulgent ten-minute saxophone solos. Instead, the band uses improvisation as a compositional tool, never letting it overshadow the core element of their sound: good pop songwriting.

Catch them August 28 at Habesha or October 1 at Ivories Jazz Lounge, and check out their groove below.

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