Portland Smooth Jazz 2001

A Party at PGE Park
Portland Smooth Jazz
by Carmen Miller

The newly-renovated minor league baseball stadium is a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon. The smell of hot dogs and hamburgers in the air, people all bustling about buying beer and soda and popcorn. The sky stayed overcast all day but it was nice and warm. The PA system crackled once, then out came the sound of … smooth jazz! More specifically, one of the pioneers of smooth jazz, Jeff LorberCarmen with Jeff Lorber playing his current hit Snakebite. He followed this with a few more tunes from his past and current albums with a lot of energy for the opening act. Pete Belasko was very strong on sax, and Nate Phillips bass was funky-hard throughout the set.

Next up was another of the old-line smoothies, Jay Beckenstein’s ubiquitous Spyro Gyra. They did After Hours and a few other familiar-but-not-super tracks that kept the audience going, but lacked some of the real energy that Lorber had laid out there. Groovin’ for Grover was nice but a little flat. I was taking this part of the show to get another ‘dog when I heard it – dee-dee dee dee dee – Morning Dance!, one of the cleverest, catchiest songs ever written, and by far the best that Spyro Gyra ever put out. It is one of my all time favorites, and apparently that of the crowd too. The energy seemed to return and swell as people perked up, some even began to dance on the newly-laid astroturf. I must say that the newer tunes that Beckenstein put out there that day were original and tinged with a latin flavor, hinting at new directions for the aging group. Good move lest they become a Morning Dance cover band.

Then came the highlight of MY evening – Marc Antoine. Let me say that his new CD, Cruisin’ is top-notch and a solid buy for anyone that likes guitarists. Let me also say that as good as the CD is, it does not do him justice! Marc got on the stage and turned the audience out! He brought the stadium back to the level of excitement where Lorber left it, then kept going. At the end of his set, the audience demanded (and received) an encore performance that was every bit as good as any I’ve seen. Marc Antoine has a way of playing to the crowd that the great musicians are born with.

The final set of the evening featured Dave Koz and friends, but I was unable to stay beyond the Marc Antoine set. Friends told me that after a short spurt of rain, the show resumed and Koz, Rick Braun and company proceeded to close the evening with a bang. If it was better than Marc Antoine, it was darn good.

This month’s shooting gallery has more than 100 photos from
the Art Porter benefit, the after-show at the Metropole
and the Portland Smooth Jazz Show.