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Best Show of PDX Jazz Festival

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Friday March 02, 2018

From Oregon Artswatch

PDX Jazz Festival reviews: music and more
By: Angela Allen

From elite jazzers to startling up-and-comers, the 2018 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival spread the music around Portland Feb.15-25 with a 100-plus gigs, twice as many musicians, and a wide spread of venues and event prices, many free. Following are some highlights, and trust me, I missed dozens of others worth talking up.

Regina, Swing Queen

Not a lot of jazz violinists are making the rounds these days, though Stephane Grappelli and Jean-Luc Ponty were among those who set the stage for Regina Carter’s virtuosity.

Classically trained and jazz-hungry (she transferred from the New England Conservatory of Music to Oakland University in Rockland, Mich. because NEC’s curriculum had a limited jazz violin curriculum), Carter has earned the queen of swing fiddle title. She and her quintet were the closing act on Feb. 18 at Revolution Hall.

Carter, too, is on a mission to save the world from darkness. “We could use some good vibes,” she said in her charming onstage banter, using recordings on her cell phone to illustrate previous arrangements of tunes. Her recent project and CD, “Accentuate the Positive,” is a tribute to her longtime heroine Ella Fitzgerald. It’s packed with diverse interpretive styles of some of Ella’s B-side hits.

Ella sang “Judy” and won first prize at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night in 1934, opting to sing rather than to dance after watching the Edwards Sisters perform. We heard Carter’s version along with arrangements of “Crying in the Chapel,” “Accentuate the Positive,” “Undecided,” among others. She gave each quintet member (Xavier Davis on keyboards, Marvin Sewell on guitar, bassist Ed Howard, and Carter’s husband, drummer Alvester Garnett) room to solo and duet with her as much as she was front and center. Garnett, from her hometown of Detroit, pulled off an orgasmic solo at the end of the hourlong set. From certain angles, you could glimpse his red-shoed feet frenetically pumping the drum pedals. He made magic with his sticks and brushes, bells and whistles, too.

A recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant in 2006, Carter swings and innovates like the best of them, including Ella. Her music was in the pocket. Everyone felt the pulse at the same time. This was the best show of the week that I saw, and I saw some good ones.

Read the reviews of the rest of the shows at PDX Jazz here