Singer-songwriter and producer Mndsgn is one of our most-anticipated acts at this year's fest.

Image: Shane Sakanoi

After an all-virtual 2021, the folks at the PDX Jazz Festival aren't hedging their bets: in 2022, it's all live, baby. (Proof of vaccination and masking required, of course.) The lineup packs in more than 50 events stretching from Thursday, February 17, to Sunday, February 26, including big names, niche acts, free workshops, public discussions, and more. To check out the full schedule, head here.

We at Portland Monthly have just begun marking our calendars to get the most out of this year’s fest—here’s what we’re most excited for.

Makaya McCraven Jazz Conversation w/Ashley Kahn

3 p.m. Sun, Feb 20, P5 Art Bar, FREE

While most of the festival's programming is performance-focused, a series of free lectures, workshops, and conversations will be sprinkled throughout the heady riffs and smooth solos. Our money is on this chat between drummer/producer Makaya McCraven and music historian Ashley Kahn at Portland5's Art Bar at its main SW Broadway complex. McCraven has performed with Kamasi Washington, created an acclaimed rework of Gil Scott Heron's final album, and put out a dizzying number of forward-thinking mixtapes. Any chance to dig inside his searching, curatorial mind is one worth taking, especially at this price.

Mndsgn

8 p.m. Sat, Feb 19, Holocene, $20–25

Mndsgn, a.k.a. Ringgo Ancheta, seems unbound by any particular musical genre or era. His interests have fluctuated from chillwave to trip hop to the psychedelic ’80s boogie music that coursed throughout his 2016 effort, Body Wash, and now, the ’70s-era R&B that defines his latest release, Rare Pleasure. Indeed, it is rare that such vast, wide-ranging genres coalesce (nicely) into one singular form, but here, it works. And it’ll be even more of a pleasure to witness Ancheta's craftsmanship live and in person, which you can do at Holocene on Saturday, February 19, where Mndsgn will be joined by the Rare Pleasures, plus Omari Jazz, a Portland-based musician and visual artist.

Flor de Toloache

6:30 p.m. Sun, Feb 20, Newmark Theatre, $30–40

Name a genre that’s more devastatingly beautiful than mariachi music. It’s a tradition that might seem like a relic of Mexican folk music that's become background noise at a Baja Fresh or gets used when white characters make a wrong turn into Mexico, but it is as alive as the culture, and Flor de Toloache, a New York–based all-female mariachi ensemble, proves it. Though they’ve been making music since 2008, their 2019 album, Indestructible, showcases their talent for original compositions, reimagined covers, and collaborations with the likes of John Legend, Alex Cuba, and more. At the jazz fest, they'll perform with Mariachi Tradición, a Forest Grove High School mariachi ensemble, at the Newmark Theatre.

Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group

8 p.m. Thu, Feb 24, Jack London Revue, $25–30

Drum legend Mel Brown, who played with Albina mainstays Billy Larkin & the Delegates in the’60s before a Motown deal brought his talents to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross, held down a regular gig at now-shuttered Pearl District jazz club Jimmy Mak’s throughout the 2000s. He still plays on occasion at downtown’s Jack London Revue, and lucky for us, the jazz fest is one of those occasions: Brown's current quartet will play with his son, drummer Christopher Brown, at the venue on February 24. 

Robert Glasper

8 p.m. Sat, Feb 26, Portland Art Museum, $50–55

There are many words with which to describe Robert Glasper; we’ll go with "prolific." At 43, the pianist, producer, and songwriter has crafted a robust catalog that spans hip-hop, blues, gospel, R&B, experimental soul, and jazz. But if you need a few specific name-drops, here you go: pianist on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, coproducer of the Nina Simone tribute album Nina Revisited, which featured collaborations with Usher, Common, and Mary J. Blige, and member of the jazz supergroup R+R=Now with Terrace Martin. Glasper's ongoing Black Radio series manifests his career-long championing of Black music, and on February 26, he'll perform a special Black Radio Production at the Portland Art Museum’s Kridel Grand Ballroom with Portland jazz singer-songwriter Tahirah Memory and DJ Klyph of the Numberz.

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