A quick note to the Portland Jazz Festival: Thanks for making the “Portland” in this year’s festival more prominent. The cluster of “outlying” shows at the hotels and clubs seemed better organized and feature more of the best local players. And featuring both the new-ish Portland Jazz Orchestra and legend Nancy King — that was sweet. In all possible ways.
Let’s start with Nancy King,who played Friday night. The Oregonian’s Marty Hughley turned me on to Nancy King: Live at the Jazz Standard with Fred Hersch a couple of years ago, and things started to fall into place for my relationship with jazz, specifically with jazz vocalists, whom I used to find irritating — at best. King brought me in from the cold. I listened to that CD — a lot. I’m listening to it right now (she’s scatting a chorus of “Ain’t Misbehavin'” as I type), and it’s still a delight.
King’s singing style is so unadorned — easy on the vibrato, light on the pyrotechnical displays — that it’s tempting to call it “unpolished,” as Nate Chinen did in a variable review in the New York Times in 2006. But Chinen got the basics right. Her voice is expressive from the “raspy” bottom to the “reedy” top. And she scats with the best of them (including Kurt Elling who sang with King on Friday night at the Newmark Theater), thanks to superior pacing and musical logic.
Continue reading Putting the PDX in the Portland Jazz Festival