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State of Wonder

Past And Future Tense: A Jazz Roundtable


This week, our guest curator, Matt Fleeger got us thinking about the tensions between jazz’s glorious history and its relentless drive toward great new sounds.

Tension is good, in a creative sense, right? But you can’t help but notice how this dyad has driven some of the most ferocious conversations about the nature of jazz and the rightful path for the American art form.

Witness the fury over Stanley Crouch and James Mtume’s epic head-to-head about Miles Davis’ electric period, provided here (with added commentary from the always-excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates). Crouch basically suggests Davis was pressured by label execs to go for a broader audience. Mtume insists the decision to plug in was an artistic one, born of “technical exhaustion.” It’s a sample of a debate that consumes both fans and musicians.

 With Matt’s help, we lined up three musicians who share very different views on the subject.


Chuck Israels

Composer, arranger, educator and bassist Chuck Israels is one of the most experienced and eminent jazz musicians in the Northwest. He’s shared a stage with some of the most brilliant stars in jazz — most prominently, Bill Evans, but also Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, and John Coltrane. He directed the National Jazz Ensemble for eight years, taught for many more, and now lives in Portland.

“I’m not overly concerned with the definition of jazz. I’m more concerned with what communicates an abstract idea and makes me feel more connected.”

Chuck Israels’ latest record is “Second Wind: A Tribute to the Music of Bill Evans.” He’s almost ready to release a new album, “Joyful Noise: The Music of Horace Silver.”

Chuck and his band have a gig at Vie De Boheme this Sunday night.


Chris Brown

Chris Brown‘s quartet keeps up a busy schedule of gigs around Portland. He plays both saxophone and drums. A Marine Corps veteran, he still plays once a year with military bands and has degrees in jazz studies from Rutgers. He’s performed with Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spaulding, Branford Marsalis, and scores of others.

“The most transformative knowledge is knowledge of the body. These feelings get interpreted in such a way that they construct your worldview. There’s some music that can be very well constructed, but other music is based on spontaneity.”

Brown is working on a book about the development of jazz musicians. PDX Jazz finds Chris playing five different gigs: Feb. 21st with Devin Phillips at Jimmy Mak’s, Feb. 22nd opening for Lee Konitz, Feb. 23rd at the Old Church, Feb. 24th with Darrell Grant and Feb. 28th at Wine Up On Williams. (Can you tell the guy’s in demand?)


Tim DuRoche

Drummer Tim DuRoche keeps up a voracious pace, thinking and writing about music and culture. He’s the author of “Occasional Jazz Conjectures,” an exploration of the edges and center of jazz. And he hosts a weekly free jazz show that tracks the boundaries and beyond.

“I was taught that it’s incumbent upon you to pick the music up where you found it and find your voice in it. It’s not enough to repeat what has always been done, but find a way to respect tradition while blazing a trail.”

 Tim can be found Monday nights, 8-10 PM on KMHD. He’ll be playing at the Waypost on March 24th with Reed Wallsmith, John Gross and John Shaw.

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