Special Features

Oregon Coast Jazz Party, October 5-7, 2012

A terrific weekend of intimate live jazz each October at Newport, OR.

Published on October 24, 2012

Oregon Coast Jazz Party, October 5-7, 2012

The ninth annual Oregon Jazz Party took place last weekend in Newport. It has had a name change this year from its former Jazz at Newport name. The three-day festival, which takes place about this time each October, features musicians from all over the U.S., performing in a sort of “jazz party” setup.  In other words, the players all appear in different combinations at different times over the course of the schedule. Most of the sessions take place on the stage of the Newport Performing Arts Center, but some late-night events happen at one of the “jazz hotels” in Newport: the Shilo Inn Suites—not far from the Arts Center. Local restaurants also offered live jazz before, between and after the Jazz Party.

The organizational sponsor of the event is the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, with the participation of local businesses and over 60 volunteers. Flutist Holly Hofman is the music director of the Jazz Party, and she put together one of the best assemblies of jazz greats yet this time. On the Thursday before the event, young jazz guitarist Graham Dechter gave a Guitar Jazz Clinic. On Friday, Jeff Clayton, of the Clayton Brothers Band, gave an Alto Sax Clinic. Friday night at 7:00 was the real opening night, which got underway with Japanese B-3 ace Atsuko Hashimoto and her trio, which consisted of Graham Dechter on guitar and Jeff Hamilton on drums. She coaxed some very unique and unusual percussive sounds out of her well-traveled Hammond B-3, and one of her big hits was her own lovely arrangement of Lehar’s “Yours Is My Heart Alone.”

The 8:00 hour brought a fine quintet let by multi-reed man Ken Peplowski (also in charge of the annual September jazz event in Eugene, OR), with the amazing Wycliffe Gordon on trombones, Bill Mays at the piano, with Dave Captein on doublebass and Chuck Redd on drums. Wycliffe has been described as a “one-man band.” He has an extremely aggressive approach to trombone playing. Breaking down to a trio setup, three of the performers turned in a lyrical version of Johnny Mandel’s “Emily.” 9:00 brought the Clayton Bros. Band, which bassist and leader John Clayton described as consisting of either actual relatives or jazz artists they had adopted. In addition to John it included brother Jeff on alto sax, and 28-year-old son Gerald on piano. The adopted included Terell Stafford on trumpet, Obed Calvaire on drums, and later Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. Trumpet and sax made a strong front line, the John’s son was a top-flight pianist in all the sessions he played on. One of their finest moments was a touching duo performance of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain”—just bowed bass and piano. Holly Hofman joined in on flute, and John Clayton presented an award to her, as well as a portrait of her painted by Jeff’s daughter. Jeff had a pixish, Fats Waller/Groucho-sort of humor about him. The evening ended with “Nightcap at the Shilo,” with a hot quintet featuring diminutive vocalist Kenny

Washington and his amazing Yma Sumac-style vocal range.

At the early hour (for jazz people) of 9:30 AM Saturday, Ken Peplowski did a clarinet and sax clinic at the Performing Arts Center studio theater. An hour later, “The History of Jazz Piano” was onstage, with Bill Mays playing 15 piano solos by his various mentors, each one described in front by jazz expert Doug Ramsey. This duo had been done before in Japan and the idea was imported here, and done in English. The versatile Mays ended his 15 solos with a fantastic rendition of James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout.”  Each hour starting at noon Saturday featured, as part of a Jazz Sampler, first Solos, then Duos, and finally Trios and Quartets. Many of the musicians participated in these sessions, with Tony Pacini on piano, Tom Wakeling on doublebass, and Gary Hobbs on drums not before mentioned.  I really enjoyed the duo of Peplowski and Mays. A Cole Porter classic was first on the program, with Peplowski on clarinet, and later they did a Percy Faith number, “Come September,” on sax and piano, as well as an original composition by Mays featuring Ken on clarinet. The second duo of John Clayton and his son Gerald on bass and piano included one of the most moving lyrical versions I’ve ever heard of my favorite jazz number, John Lewis’ “Django,” originally popularized by the Modern Jazz Quartet. Another performer not mentioned before joined in for the Trio and Quartet sessions: vocalist Denise Donatelli.

Saturday evening began with the Clayton Bros. Band of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon,, trumpeter Terell Stafford, John Clayton on bass and Gerald Clayton on piano, only with Jeff Hamilton on drums instead of the band’s usual drummer. Wycliffe sometimes played with a plunger, and the band got the audience to participate on “It Don’t Mean a Thing…”  At 8:00 Denise Donatelli returned, but this time sharing the stage with fellow vocalist Kenny Washington—who appears and sounds something like a shrunken Jon Hendricks.  Bill Mays was the pianist during this set. 9:00 brought a quartet led by striking young guitarist Graham Dechter. They did a down-home blues, “Grease for Graham,” written for the guitarist, and ended with a wonderfully evocative version of Basie’s “Lil’ Darling.”  There was another Nightcap at the Shilo session later, with a front line of Chuck Redd—this time on vibes, and Ken Peoplowski on reeds.

Sunday morning was an interactive Jazz Panel with John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, Ken Peplowski and Kenny Washington.  Holly Hofmann hosted and asked some of the questions audiences had asked before. No music, just verbal, fun exchanges. One of the facts that came out of the discussion of the challenges of being a jazz artist was that jazz only represented 1% of music sales nationally.

The Wrap Session of four parts started at 11:30 to give everyone the opportunity to set out for home by mid-afternoon.  It first had pianist Bill Mays with his trio in “Mays at the Movies.” Among the film themes was one Bill had written and another for the movie Fargo, in which he had played on the film track. He also did a theme in ¾ time he was asked to create for a film in the style of Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” because the studio didn’t want to pay the huge fees in order to use that theme on the soundtrack. Next Atsuko Hashimoto returned with her B-3 for a swinging hour with Ken Peplowski on tenor sax and Jeff Hamilton’s drums. They really tore into Horace Silver’s “Opus de Funk,” and closed out with a shining “Shiny Stockings.”  The Clayton Bros. Quintet with Wycliffe Gordon came on about 1:30, with plenty of high-energy blowing from the front line of Gordon, Stafford and Jeff Clayton.   After that a grand finale titled “The Closing Tune” involved all the artists who had participated in the Oregon Jazz Party. The tune was “Perdido” and some of the performers cut up good, such as all the drummers fighting to alternate a few bars at the drum set. At one point three of the pianists were all attacking the keyboard at the same time. I should mention that Ken Peplowski’s dry humor was a perfect addition to the relaxed and convivial mood of the whole Jazz Party.

For details on next year’s Jazz Party, visit www.oregoncoastjazzparty.org

—John Henry
—All Photography by Nancy Jane Reid, Newport




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