Portland ‘jazz genesis’ free concert Esperanza Spalding celebrates East Portland today
Jarrell Hosley, the organizer of the free Sunday concert at Ventura Park in Southeast Portlandlights up when we talk about headliner Esperanza Spalding, a five-time Grammy-winning artist who shared recording studios or stages with Prince, Stevie Wonder and the best jazz performers in the world.
“Esperanza and I were born and raised here, and we understand East Portland,” said Hosley, supervisor of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Summer free for all program, which launches the East Portland Summer Arts Festival on July 9 and 10.
The free weekend event, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ventura Park, 460 SE 113th Ave.also offers hands-on, family-friendly arts and music activities.
The theme of East Portland’s first festival is music and expression, said Hosley, who hopes the event that brings the community together to celebrate arts, culture and hometown pride east of the Willamette River will become an annual summer tradition.
The two-day festival, which is part of the Free-for-all summer program of free movies, concerts and recreational activities across Portland, is the East Side’s version of the long-running Washington Park Summer Festivalwhich began in 1949 at the Rose Garden Outdoor Amphitheater in Southwest Portland, and ran in various forms for decades until funding forced the free concert series to come and go.
Spalding has performed at the Portland Jazz Festival before, but this time she flew in from North Carolina to take the stage Sunday at Ventura Park.
The Portland jazz prodigy and “genesis of jazz” plays instruments that include bass and piano as well as her voice and the poetic lyrics she wrote in English, Spanish and Portuguese. His compositions are judicious fusions of classical, jazz, South American folk and world music.
She grew up in a multilingual and multi-ethnic family. Her mother is of Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American descent, and her father is African American.
Through her talent, her tools and her disciplines, she wishes to “transmit care and beauty through vibration/sound/presence”, according to her. Songwriters Apothecary Lab website.
Born in Portland in 1984, she learned to play the violin after seeing cellist Yo-Yo Ma in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” From age 5 to 15, she played with the Oregon Chamber Music Society.
She left high school at age 16 and went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she was hired, at the age of 20, to teach. Since 2017, she has been a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Norah Jones and Spalding lead the 2022 Newport Jazz Festival lineup at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island July 29-31.
The East Portland Summer Arts Festival open saturday with Aaron Nigel Smitha Grammy-nominated Portland-based musician who performs with One World Choirthe non-profit organization he founded to give underserved youth access to quality arts enrichment training.
Earlier Saturday afternoon in the Big Up Music Show area, “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley and the Wailers played while Nigel Smith encouraged children to create and film a skit or original music to promote peace and other positive values. He will be at the festival on Sunday.
Also on stage Saturday was performance artist sora shodowho paints inspired by live music.
Most of the audience sprawled out on the grass in front of the stage, but Portland’s Timothy McNair had a clear view of the performers from the street where he parked his modified red 1995 Cadillac Eldorado. He opened the two Lamborghini-inspired pocket doors and sat down in the leather front seat.
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, at Community Music Center stand, the children took a violin, a ukulele or a drum set to join a group of musicians, and the Multnomah Arts Center had long tables filled with supplies for people to create art.
There was also a board with information about Portland Street Responsea program within Portland Fire & Rescue that sends mental health workers instead of police to most low-level mental health crisis calls.
Activities, including Family Fun Drumming, continue on Sunday.
Check out the list of Portland Parks events at portland.gov/parks/arts-culture/sffa.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072