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Best Live Performances Of 2016


Bryan M. Vance and MacGregor Campbell/OPB

A great live show is just one aspect of music that separates the talented artist from the legendary icon. In 2016, KMHD and OPB staff were honored to experience some special performances from newcomers, industry veterans and even a tribute to a jazz icon.

Here’s a look at some of the best shows of the year and the artists you’ll want to experience live for yourself if they come your way again.

Alice Coltrane Tribute at the Newmark Theater
Put together as a one-time performance by the Portland Jazz Festival, this tribute program featuring the compositions of the great Alice Coltrane was a transcendental musical experience. 

“To have the great pianist Geri Allen and today’s top jazz harpist Brandee Younger playing the role of Alice Coltrane on her primary instruments — and to have longtime collaborator Pharoah Sanders on stage with Alice and John Coltrane’s son, Ravi — well, lets just say this was a once in a lifetime experience.”


— Matt Fleeger, Music Director at KMHD

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids at Doug Fir Lounge
Sometimes you miss the show if you don’t make it in time to see the opener. That’s what happened at the Doug Fir on the May 1.  Underground spiritual jazz messenger, Idris Ackamoor wielded his saxophone and creative fire with the precision that comes with 40 years of experience.

 “Have you ever seen this many 20-somethings screaming for more spiritual jazz?!”


— Derek Smith, Host of “The Morning Session” on KMHD

Bilal at Star Theater
Armed with one of the most unique jazz voices today, Bilal tackles live shows with a mixture of improvisation, musical history and comedic bits. One of the original Soulquarians, Bilal has played and recorded with everyone from Robert Glasper to Jay-Z and can command a stage all by himself.

“The thing about seeing Bilal is that you’re going to think he’s weird. Then you’re going to think he’s hilarious. Eventually you’re going to dance and sing along. And at some point he’s going to absolutely blow you away with his voice. That’s what he does. Period.”


David Stuckey, Digital Producer at OPB

Bilal performing at the Star Theater in Portland.

Bilal performing at the Star Theater in Portland.

Bryan Vance/OPB

Eryn Allen Kane at Wonder Ballroom
A charismatic talent that merges soul, rock, jazz and more, Eryn Allen Kane opened for rising star Gallant but may have been the performer everyone left talking about on their rides home. The Chicago-based songstress started the night by introducing herself, but by the end, Kane had the entire Wonder Ballroom, literally, following her every command.

“At one point during the show, the friend I was with asked me, ‘Was this what it was like to see Tina Turner perform?’ … I think that sums up what kind of show Eryn Allen Kane puts on.”


— David Stuckey, OPB

Anderson .Paak at Roseland Theater
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals brought their touring show to Portland during the Soul’d Out festival in April 2016. The program was sonically dynamic, but the raw energy that .Paak exuded truly is what made this one so special.

“For, me, this was one of the most fun shows of the year. .Paak had the sold-out crowd eating out of the palm of his hand all night, and was a terrific showman. Part hip-hop show, part soul review. A special treat was seeing a mic battle onstage with BJ the Chicago Kid.”


— Matt Fleeger, KMHD

Anderson .Paak performs at Roseland Theater in Portland for the Soul'd Out Music Festival on April 16, 2016.

Anderson .Paak performs at Roseland Theater in Portland for the Soul'd Out Music Festival on April 16, 2016.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Gogo Penguin at Alberta Rose Theater
This year’s Soul’d Out Music Festival ended on the jazziest of notes. Manchester’s Gogo Penguin brought their forward-thinking sound to the Alberta Rose Theater, dazzling the audience with an interplay bordering on the telepathic.

“I never imagined that piano, bass and drums could sound like this. Without question, this is one of the greatest jazz shows I have ever seen.”


— Derek Smith, KMHD

Kamasi Washington and the West Coast Get Down at Roseland Theater
By the time Kamasi Washington and his WCGD compatriots took the stage at the Roseland Theater on this cold first day of December, the crowd was practically foaming at the mouth — rabidly anticipating the band’s first appearance in over a year in the Portland area. They did not disappoint, playing one of the most vital jazz shows in recent memory.

“One of the top 10 jazz experiences of my life. Kamasi and his band played and improvised with an energy rarely seen in today’s jazz landscape.”


— Matt Fleeger, KMHD

“I’m really not sure if that was a jazz show. But I’m also not sure if we’ve come up with a word for what that was.”


— David Stuckey, OPB

Kamasi Washington introduced the crowd at the Roseland Theater to a very unique show, derived from the wild yard of Los Angeles.

Kamasi Washington introduced the crowd at the Roseland Theater to a very unique show, derived from the wild yard of Los Angeles.

Courtesy of Sean Patrick Martin

Jaimeo Brown Transcendence at The Goodfoot Lounge
The voices of convicts singing through their misery drifts through the sparse crowd on a Thursday night in late October. This sample underpins Jaimeo Brown’s deft drumming and the anguished saxophone of Jaleel Shaw. Each member of the audience stands alone, letting the greatness of this young drummer’s creative vision wash over them.

“That show should have been standing room only. Thirty fortunate people know what the rest of town missed tonight.”


— Derek Smith, KMHD

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