Watershed Moments

Jazz and contemporary percussion liven up Eugene

Tamolitch Pool on the McKenzie River near Blue River is one of our area’s most magnificent natural spaces. Its allure inspired Salem-based composer-pianist James Miley’s evocative, ambitious new “Watershed Suite, which Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) performs in a free show Aug. 16 at (appropriately) Roaring Rapids Pizza Company.

Miley, a Willamette University music professor and Willamette Jazz Collective director, combines classical and jazz influences in a multifaceted work that translates the complex beauty Oregon’s watersheds into music performed by PJCE.

One of the state’s most valuable music institutions, PJCE features top Portland area performers. It also continuously nurtures both performances and recordings of new, original jazz music compositions by Oregon’s finest emerging and accomplished musicians. 

On Friday, Aug. 10, at The Jazz Station, you can hear another of the state’s most valuable and versatile musicians, who’s also a jazz composer/keyboardist/educator, when award-winning pianist, organist, drummer and trumpeter George Colligan joins with New York saxophonist Caroline Davis. Between them, the pair has performed with most of today’s top jazz stars, and Davis has won top rising star awards in both composition and saxophone artistry.

Along with this new jazz, there are a few more chances to catch some jazz classics. This time of year, everything from TV shows to podcasts tend to recycle earlier content while the creators take a break. Even in the age of on demand streaming, this allows those of us who might have missed a gem the first time around — maybe it conflicted with another appealing event — to catch up, and for the musicians to really nail the music the second time around. In fact, I wish we could have more reruns, say of Eugene Symphony concerts, where the orchestra invests so much time preparing a concert — only to perform it once on a solitary Thursday.

It’s a welcome treat to see The Shedd’s Oregon Festival of American Music replaying some of its earlier shows for those of us who were traveling or camping or otherwise enjoying Oregon’s summer before the smoke descended. 

Thursday afternoon’s show, Aug. 9, reprises Shedd stalwart and OFAM artistic director Vicki Brabham’s jazz piano improvisations on American Songbook standards like “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” “September Song,” “Send In The Clowns” and more. 

At Thursday night’s concert, chanteuse Siri Vik returns with a chamber jazz quintet (including cello and violin) in mid-century Euro-standards made famous by French chanteuse Édith Piaf, including “The Windmills Of My Mind,” “Just a Gigolo,” and of course “La Vie en Rose.” 

Vik returns on vocals (in English this time) for Friday night’s concert featuring one of jazz’s greatest living vibes masters, Chuck Redd. She leads a quintet, including young Oregon trumpet titan Tony Glausi and guitarist Howard Alden, in songs made famous by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie: “Where Or When,” “One For My Baby,” “Luck be A Lady,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and more. 

Saturday’s matinee nostalgia trip, Aug. 11, is more than a concert, taking the form of one of the old TV variety shows. Vik and Michael Stone lead a jazz combo in tunes like “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Days Of Wine And Roses” and more — and leavening the tunes with comedy, skits and other fun foolishness thanks to singer-actors like Bill Hulings and Ian Whitcomb. This year’s festival closes Saturday night when Brabham leads a quintet of singers and a dectet in a celebration of music by Guys and Dolls songwriter Frank Loesser, who also wrote so many other classics: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “If I Were A Bell”, “Two Sleepy People” and more. 

If you like Chuck Redd, there’s more melodic percussion in store at the first Beta Percussion International Institute, which concludes this weekend at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall. Award winning master marimbist Eriko Daimo joins other marimba masters in Thursday’s concert tribute, Aug. 9, to one of today’s most acclaimed percussion composers, Michael Burritt, who heads the percussion department at the renowned Eastman School of Music and even designs mallets.

Hearing Burritt is the percussion equivalent of getting a ticket to a Joshua Bell recital, but he’s not just about flash and virtuosity. Burritt’s soft touch can make the marimba whisper and coo as well as shout. In fact, other composers have written for and dedicated percussion music to him. The concert features some of those works, like Alejandro Viñao’s “Burritt Variations” as well Burritt’s own hits, such as the evocative “White Pines,” delicately dreamy “The Islands,” and the recent “Sweet Dreams and Time Machines.” 

Friday afternoon’s closing Student Marathon concert at Beall, Aug. 10, features new music (some written during the institute) performed by rising young percussion stars from the U.S, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Austria and Venezuela.