Sit down and chat with the host of Keeping Time, the new KMHD Monday 7pm show connecting modern jazz with touchstones of the past. Elise, an Oregon-born DJ, musician and designer, talks about everything from favorite Portland neighborhood joints to the music she grew up listening to.

Grant Lemons/Copyright Grant Lemons Productions LLC

What was the first music you got into growing up, and how did you start listening to the music you play on KMHD?

Thanks to my parents, I listened to a wide variety of music growing up. A fair amount of jazz, classical, 60’s folk rock, and R&B. My affinity for jazz music grew when I picked up saxophone and started playing in jazz bands and seeking out the original recordings of the charts we were playing. My relationship to jazz music has fluctuated over the years from something that feels academic to something purely emotional. However, I’ve consistently found comfort in the unique mix of complexity and simplicity that jazz seems to offer.  

In your life outside of KMHD, you’re a saxophonist and musician in your own right. How would you describe the music you write and play? What’s your favorite thing about playing music?

I play a lot of different kinds of music outside of KMHD, but I think there is a consistent approach to my playing and writing that I strongly attribute to studying jazz. I find that I rely heavily on improvisation, experimentation, and general “feel” when creating something new or playing with a new group of people. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned from jazz is a re-definition of “failure” as something that is useful, if not essential, for creating authentic music. I still make mistakes while I play, but learning how to quickly move on from a mistake, and even incorporating it into the music, is something that I am very grateful to have learned from jazz.

One of my favorite things about playing music is that it requires a lot of me but also gives me a lot in return. I also appreciate the way music forces me to be extremely vulnerable and objective at the same time—it’s a unique challenge that I like to think makes me a better person. Finally, I am so grateful for the overwhelming amount of incredible people I’ve met through playing and listening to music. 

You’ve lived in Portland since high school. What are some of your favorite musical acts to come out of the Portland scene and why?

Ah, I think I’d say Esperanza Spalding, Haley Heynderickx, and Coco Columbia. In additional to being a huge admirer of the music they make, I am inspired by their exceptional abilities as performers and bandleaders.  

Where in Portland do you live, and what are some of your favorite neighborhood spots?

I live in SE Portland right now. I’ve discovered I like pie thanks to Lauretta Jean’s so that spot ranks pretty high for me. On the subject of baked things, I’ll also say Spielman Bagels and Tabor Bread for a good gluten fix. 

Any interesting hobbies or talents?

I try some woodworking projects every now and then.

When you aren’t tuned into the music you play on KMHD, what are you listening to?

Hmmm, good question. I am very grateful for the many music folks in my life who send me amazing music on the reg. Most recently I’ve been listening to “Quiet Signs” (new Jessica Pratt album), the EP “direct line to My Creator” by the NYC artist duendita, and Big Thief’s 2017 album “Capacity.” 

If you could bring someone back to life from jazz history and hang out with them for an afternoon, who would it be and why?

Breaking all the rules for this game and saying I’d like to bring back Miles Davis AND Jimi Hendrix. I’d rent them a studio for the afternoon and the world can finally get a taste of the album they never got to make together (due to Hendrix’s early death). 

Hear Elise host Keeping Time, a mix of contemporary, New York-based bop, beat-oriented modern jazz, and the labels throughout history that influenced these sounds, every Monday from 7-9pm on KMHD.