Mt. Hood Jazz Festival 2002
Back from the Grave
August 3-4, 2002
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the recently bankrupt, 20-year-old Mt. Hood Jazz Festival is back. It seems the Mt. Hood Jazz Association got a group of sponsors together, including the city of Gresham Oregon, and held a festival at the Gresham city park.
The affair was intimate and the acoustics were clean and clear and the volume was good. I only made part of the second day, but that part was wonderful! As we arrived at the venue I heard the unmistakable voice
of songbird Jenna Mammina, flowing and lilting with pianist Darrell Grant. Jenna was scatting and telling the story about how Joe McBride was on the way, running a little late, but every thing would be fi-i-ine!.. every word and phrase tinged with a smile, every piano chord a springboard for her pixie-ish creativity.
Pianist Joe McBride and Saxman Wayne DeLano followed with a set that was
inspired and rocking. At times you had to remind yourself that there were only two people on the stage, the sound was so full and vibrant. McBride tickled the ivories with a passion, accompanying his gravelly voice with clever runs and intricate phrases. DeLano held a mastery over his sax, and the audience, that will ensure success when he steps into the
limelight as an album leader in his own right. The synergy was incredible, piano and horn intertwining, then DeLano brought out his flute and jammed some more!. The set was hot and the audience was truly loving it. Joe McBride is known for his live performance, and he was in form this afternoon. Vocalist Kevin Mahogany closed the evening with his full, rich vocals singing Motown hits from his ‘Pride & Joy’ CD. When we left he was crooning and jamming with the audience.
One of the problems with the Mt. Hood Jazz festival in recent years was the Bloat … I guess it just got too big. Patrons were treated more like cattle than jazz fans, the price was too high, the acts were (usually) too far away, the concessions required BIG dough, the sound was usually so-so and the line-ups were not very diverse (read NO Smooth Jazz). This was all because the nice little festival got way too big for it’s britches and it’s formerly-cool venue. The fact that it went under was sad, but I now think it may have been a blessing in disguise. This new incarnation of an old favorite festival brings back the intimacy and enjoyment that Mt.Hood jazz used to exemplify. People were actually able to sit and picnic and hear and SEE the music… imagine that! Kudos to the folks that put it together. I hope they can keep it going.. as long as it doesn’t get TOO big.
Day One featured sets by Russell Malone & Benny Green, Melissa Walker, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Rick Braun, as well as the Beacock all-stars who opened both days. What a line up. Everyone I spoke with said that the show was great all day. Wish I’d gotten back in town a day earlier…