Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.19.09

Stars in Their Multitudes
Modest musicians come to Eugene
by Brett Campbell

SF Jazz Collective

Back in jazz’s salad years, record companies would sometimes dub impromptu ensembles assembled for quickie studio sessions with hyperbolic names like “all stars,” like a sports team. And often enough, they really were, as names that today we revere as among the 20th century’s greatest artists could be enlisted for the price of a week’s rent — or a fix. So it’s a little surprising that, in today’s age of hype, the superb group of master musicians appearing at the Shedd tonight (Thursday, March 19) modestly call themselves the SF Jazz Collective, after the San Francisco Jazz Festival that brought them together for annual spring residencies. In fact, this octet is an all-star band in everything but name, and their concert is a must-see for any serious or casual fan of contemporary jazz. After legends like Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano is probably the leading tenor saxman in jazz, as his powerful performances at last month’s Portland Jazz Festival demonstrated. Trumpeter Dave Douglas may be jazz’s finest active composer, triumphant in an astonishing variety of settings. Stefon Harris has succeeded Bobby Hutcherson as jazz’s reigning composer/vibraphonist. Alto saxist/flutist Miguel Zenon has not only topped the jazz polls on his instrument but also garnered one of those precious MacArthur Foundation genius grants last year. Trombonist Robin Eubanks is likely the leading composer/performer on  his instrument. Pianist Renee Rosnes is one of jazz’s most imaginative pianists, and so it goes for the rest of this terrific aggregation. The ensemble reinvents itself every year, playing new arrangements of works by jazz’s greatest composers (most recently focusing on Wayne Shorter) and also performing new compositions by every member. Half a century from now, we’ll marvel at the thought that once upon a time, you could see all these great
musicians exchanging musical ideas on the same stage.

If you bolt out of  your seat at the Shedd as the last notes fade and make the short sprint down the street to Cozmic Pizza, you can probably catch most of the set by Seattle’s Reptet, one the nation’s leading new indie jazz bands, whose members (drawn from various Seattle groups) concoct an impressive range of improvised sounds influenced by punk, avant garde classical, eastern European folk and, yes, even jazz. Green is for Go and Muke open. And on that same night, you can hear a team of local all stars (Asher Fulero, Tim McLaughlin, et al) at the McDonald Theater when Matt Butler leads the current version of the rotating cast of the Everyone Orchestra with Hot Buttered Rum String Band in progressive jam and bluegrass sounds. And if the night still hasn’t whetted your jazz appetite, you can head over to Jo Federigo’s to hear or play in a jam session. Joe Fed’s also has the excellent saxman Joe Manis on the 22nd.

Speaking of all stars, if you’re a cello fan, there’s a couple of opportunities to revel in polycellomania at the WOW Hall. On March 25, the latest incarnation of Rasputina returns, this time in a “power trio” version featuring only two cellists (including founder Melora Creager) and drums, down from the seven cellists they used to include. And on March 28, the ever-inventive, always delightful Portland Cello Project hauls up to a dozen of the big axes down I-5 to the WOW Hall, where they’ll play everything from Beethoven to Arvo Part to music by Portland indie stars like Weinland (who will also appear at this show) and Laura Gibson. There’s only one cello — Amy Danziger’s — in Mood Area 52, but it’s enough, along with Michael Roderick’s accordion and vocals and various other musicians. This full-
band show is at Luckey’s on March 20. 

Classical fans have a couple of choices. On March 29, virtuoso pianist Thomas Pandolfi plays Gershwin, Chopin and Liszt at First United Methodist Church (1376 Olive) for a freewill offering. And on March 19, pianist Benedetto Lupo joins the Eugene Symphony in Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto. The program, led by incoming conductor Danail Rachev, includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4. 

Finally, head back to the Shedd on March 25 for Madeleine Peyroux’s performance. The captivating Georgia-born, Paris based singer first drew attention, and acclaim, for her Billie Holiday-style singing on classic songbook repertoire, which attracted both pop and jazz fans. On her fine new album, she co-wrote all the songs and performs them in a warm, acoustic guitar folk jazz style, so the Shedd should provide an ideal venue for her relaxed, intimate singing.