Our Top Picks for the 2020 PDX Jazz Festival

Thundercat, Douyé, and more featured in this year's lineup

By Gabriel Granillo and Conner Reed February 17, 2020

Thundercat will take the stage at PAM on February 29

Is there anything more February than a jazz festival? Coats; alcohol; being sad but pretty sure that later you will be less sad.

PDX Jazz doesn’t think so! For the 17th year in a row, the organization—which, in addition to programming music, runs a jazz outreach and education arm—presents its flagship jazz festival to warm us through the winter. It kicks off on Wednesday and runs through March 1 at various venues across town. Most days pack in anywhere from three to ten shows, so we’ve sifted through the schedule to bring you our top picks, sure to satisfy everyone from the casual listener to Ryan Gosling, Inventor of Jazz.

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

8 p.m. Weds, Feb 19, Hollywood Theatre, $10
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper. Blue Note Records has given (and continues to give) a voice to some of the most prolific and influential jazz artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Kicking off 2020’s PDX Jazz Festival is Sophie Huber’s captivating music doc Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, which delves into the history and legacy behind the pioneering label.


8 p.m. Sat, Feb 22, Jack London Revue, $20
The Nigeria-born, LA-based bossa nova powerhouse released the excellent Quatro last spring, and she’ll bring cuts from it (and more) to her opening weekend Jazz Fest set. Her music fuses Brazilian beats, African rhythms, and retooled American jazz standards—it’s smooth, singular, and warm as hell: ideal for a crisp February night.

Miguel Zenón Quartet

7:30 p.m. Thurs, Feb 27, Lincoln Recital Hall, $15–25
Saxophonist Miguel Zenón lives at the crosscurrent of tradition and innovation. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Zenón’s compositions twist and turn whimsically, blending Latin American folk and high-concept jazz for music that’s artistically, culturally, and socially minded. Check out his 2014 spoken-word album Identities Are Changeable, in which he interviews fellow transplanted Puerto Ricans about their ethnic and national identities. 

Mel Brown with Michalangela

8 p.m. Thurs Feb 27, Jack London Revue, $15
The legendary drummer from bygone jazz hotspot Jimmy Mak’s (and not, alas, Mel B of the Spice Girls) teams up with gossamer-voiced Portland crooner Michalangela for a set downtown at the Jack London Revue—a tiny jazz club in the Rialto basement. The result, we imagine, will be a smooth survey of the Northwest’s best.

Thundercat with Georgia Anne Muldrow and Brown Calculus

9 p.m. Sat, Feb 29, Portland Art Museum, SOLD OUT
Strip away his solo output as Thundercat, and Stephen Bruner still has an impressive resumé: bassist with Suicidal Tendencies and Snoop Dogg; producer and musician on various Flying Lotus albums and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Nobody move. There’s blood on the floor. And Thundercat’s performing with the powerful Georgia Anne Muldrow and the ethereal Brown Calculus at the Portland Art Museum.

While you wait for things to get going on Wednesday, give Portland Monthly's official 2020 PDX Jazz Fest playlist a spin:

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