Now Playing:

Arts & Life

Arts | Music

Jazz Pianist Darrell Grant Explores More 'Territory'


Darrell Grant has finished the mastering on a suite of gorgeous jazz music he recorded last year. Grant’s a pianist, composer and educator at Portland State University.

Grant says the band he recorded with drew equally from his colleagues in Oregon and New York.

Grant says the band he recorded with drew equally from his colleagues in Oregon and New York.

April Baer/OPB


In 2012, he started work on a song cycle called “The Territory.” It’s about his relationship with Oregon, its history, its geography.

“The Territory” premiered last January in New York. And it’s now being released on a label for contemporary jazz composers, PJCE Records. The release show is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland

We love this work, not only because it’s lush and gorgeous, but also for how Darrell’s thinking about his adopted home. (He grew up in Colorado and moved here in 1997).

In addition to doing the recording, Darrell Grant has spent time this year getting oral histories from other artists, asking about what Oregon means to their work. Grant stopped by KMHD Jazz Radio this week. Matt Fleeger asked him about the genesis of the project. Click the link above to hear the interview. Here are just a few highlights:

  • On his early fixation on Oregon: I’ve had an attraction to Oregon for a long time. When I was a kid we came here on a church choir tour. I remember being struck by how green it was here, and I didn’t forget that. And then I was a big fan of (fusion keyboardist) Jeff Lorber growing up. I read his biography in Keyboard magazine. He was from Portland. As a young teenager, I was, like, ‘I’m going to Portland to be a jazz musician!’ Fate drew me here, and I wound up with this PSU job.
  • On Oregon’s appeal to the creative imagination: In people’s imaginations, it’s always been this quasi-utopian place, beautiful and verdant and abundant. What I remember when we came here, my wife from Toronto and me from New York, was how friendly everyone was. It freaked us out! I haven’t thought about that for years. I feel like Portland was always a place where there was a sense of community, a small town vibe.
  • On how Oregon’s musical environment affects collaboration: I remember, moving here from New York, hearing musicians who in New York never would have played together. Maybe New York has changed — the industry has shrunk — but at that time the scenes were so separated. I was really struck by how, in Portland, different musicians rubbing together made the scene different.
  • On releasing the record with the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble record label: What makes this particular place unique is this sense of connection, living together. Anymore, I don’t think putting out a physical CD is a business proposition — a way to make a significant amount of money. But it is a way to build connections, to build community. PCJE is the brainchild of two of my former students: Andrew Oliver and Gus Slayton, I remember when they started it. And now Doug Detrick and Ryan Meagher have expanded it and grown it. That’s something I want to put my energy behind.

More info about “The Territory” release show and CD is available on Darrell’s blog.

The film based on his interviews with other artists is scheduled for completion this spring.

More Arts & Life

More OPB