The city of Portland served as training camp for R+R=Now, a jazz super team featuring Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Christian Scott, Derrick Hodge, Taylor McFerrin and Justin Tyson.
The group recorded an album in February, are set to embark on a European tour and will release their full-length project in June. But before that, the newly formed jazz supernova used the Rose City as a launching pad of their combined musical experiment. These aren’t talented musicians getting together to become great — these are the jazz greats of our time on a journey to hear something greater. Working out kinks, getting to know one another better, being inspired by unfamiliar landscapes — it’s all part of playing music as a cohesive voice. No one in R+R=Now is ready to say the best jazz has already been created and performed. The present and the future of the American musical genre is theirs for the taking.
R+R = NOW
In 2016, OPB’s “Oregon Experience” unveiled its documentary on Portland’s brief, brilliant jazz age. Greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong played Portland’s neighborhood clubs, sometimes staying and playing for days on end in Jazz Town.
That’s a bit what Soul’d Out has felt like to me since we started covering it a few years ago — filled with stars and surprises at a variety of venues. R+R = NOW’s week in Portland gave me an idea of what a modern day Jazz Town might be like.
“This is literally our first week as a band,” trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah said into the microphone, prompting roars from the crowd.
The supergroup’s week seemed to mirror their music: a little bit of structure, some nimble improvisation and a lot of fun. They opened for Erykah Badu. They played a stunning Roseland set. They ate mountains of breakfast food in between. Rumors swept through the Roseland about where the band might show up to play next.
“I love this band,” said pianist Robert Glasper.
Judging by the laughs, the cheers, the sparkling eyes among the crowd, it’s safe to say Portland is gonna love this band too. — Bradley W. Parks
Siren and the Sea, Maarquii and Natasha Kmeto
Right across the river, a gang of local talents and adoring fans would not be outdone. There was a distinctly Portland chill-hedonism permeating the Holocene, succinctly put at one point by Siren and the Sea’s front woman Cristina Cano:
“This one’s about the end of the world. So: dance number.”
This little pocket of Soul’d Out was straight up house party. The space was intimate, the crowd was familiar and — at the front of this gathering — Rose City artists lit up the night with a collective barrage of backdrop synths, horn section, hip hop, live sampling and raw emotions.
“I’m performing all new materials,” said Natasha Kmeto. “Y’all feeling this new stuff?” The audience responded with cheers, claps and genuine affection. Kmeto mentioned how nervous she still gets even with years of touring under her belt — she got a lot of “I love you!”s back. The club was a safe space for this hometown crew, and they happily gave back with musical napalm. — Arya Surowidjojo
Late Night At The Jack London Revue
What’s a great night of music without a late-night jam session? Down in the basement at the Jack London Revue, local musicians and music lovers packed in, ready to mingle, toast and hear some inspired musicians play for the love of community. In attendance was Portland jazz royalty: Mel Brown, Ron Steen, Renato Caranto. Younger musicians had their instruments in tow for a shot at the bandstand already full with talent from all over.
Jarrod Lawson crooned some familiar modern soul, while Farnell Newton strung together several trumpet solos worthy of the old jazz club atmosphere. Need a show-stopper too? Ron Artis II & The Truth (playing Sunday during Soul’d Out Fest), from Hawaii, took their blues set to the stratosphere blowing everyone in London away. It was the kind of evening that could become a staple of the Portland music scene, long after Soul’d Out Music Fest concludes. — David Stuckey