By Bob Hicks
One of the signs that a town is turning into a city is that it can’t squeeze everything into a box. So, for instance, while the newest Portland Jazz Festival kicks into high swing (and bop), some terrific jazz is popping up in spots that aren’t connected to the festival at all.
While the likes of jazz festival headliners Regina Carter, Joshua Redman, Poncho Sanchez, Maceo Parker, Dave Frishberg and the newly Grammy-fied Esperanza Spalding are picking up a whole lot of highly deserved attention in Puddletown, they aren’t the only games in town. You might also have spent Saturday night at an under-the-radar gig with about 75 other people at TaborSpace, in the company of Andy Stein and Conal Fowkes.
Who’s that, you ask?
Stein is a violinist, a fiddler, an old-time jazz guy with his feet also planted in classical music and rock ‘n’ roll. He’s recorded with Perlman, Domingo, Marilyn Horne and Von Stade; toured with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen; played with Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Tony Bennett, B.B. King and a whole lot more. And he has a special affection for the music of Joe Venuti, the granddaddy of jazz violin.
Fowkes — born in Zambia, raised partly in Mexico, an Englishman now living in New York — is a pianist with equal affections for early New Orleans jazz (he’s a stalwart of Woody Allen and His New Orleans Jazz Band, which is led by banjoist Eddy Davis and features Allen on clarinet) and the traditions of Tin Pan Alley, the great American songwriting system that runs parallel to jazz, routinely jumping the tracks to interlace with it along the way.