Musical artistry delights patrons at Montavilla Jazz Festival

Top jazz musicians attract capacity crowds to the new outer East Portland venue …

At the 2015 Montavilla Jazz Festival, Suzanne Bader checks-in volunteer Naomy Rotari, in the lobby of Portland Metro Arts.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The Montavilla Jazz Festival started last year as a way to build community spirit, and to highlight creative musicians in the neighborhood. The event met the expectations of the organizers and audiences.

> CLICK HERE to see our story about and photos of the 2014 event.

Patrons line up for tickets at the 2015 Montavilla Jazz Festival on Saturday afternoon.

The 2015 edition, held on August 15 and 16, was even more successful. It provided a showcase for the best of Portland’s creative jazz community. And, it was held in the air-conditioned theater at Portland Metro Arts.

“Like in our first year, we have two main ideas for the festival,” said the festival’s Managing Director Fritz Hirsch, who is also the Montavilla Neighborhood Association Chair.

Festival volunteers Brian Myers, Elizabeth Mattson, “Groucho Marx”, Luby Wind, and Managing Director Fritz Hersch gather for a photo.

“One reason to hold this festival is to showcase the jazz created by our fantastic community of Portland-based musicians,” Hirsch told East Portland News. “The second thing we do, and what makes it unique from other jazz festivals, is that it’s also a community-building exercise.

“This goes far beyond renting a hall, booking music acts, and selling tickets,” Hirsch explained. “A major reason is to create an event we’re using to help build our community.”

The Alan Jones Sextet plays both jazz standards and original tunes.

Much of the community aspect involves recruiting more than 70 volunteers to help host the two-day festival, serving posts in the box office, selling artist merchandise, and acting as ushers and stage managers.

“And, before any tickets were sold, 56 businesses stepped forward to sponsor the event, donating more than $30,000 in money and in-kind goods and services,” extolled Hirsch.

Jazz aficionados from all over the greater Portland metropolitan area fill the Portland Metro Arts theater.

To simplify logistics, festival organizers again chose not to pre-sell tickets – instead offering both individual tickets and festival passes only at the door. Nevertheless, at mid-afternoon on Saturday, the theater was filled to capacity as the Alan Jones Sextet entertained.

After the festival, Hirsch said that more than 650 music lovers came to the festival, and ticket sales more than doubled from last year.

“Another thing that makes our festival unique,” Hirsch said, “is that this year, a portion of the ticket revenue will seed the Montavilla Neighborhood Association’s newly-formed Montavilla Schools Music Fund. “Money from this fund will be distributed to our neighborhood public schools for their musical education programs.”

The Executive Director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Douglas Detrick, unpacks his flugelhorn to get ready for his set.

Also this year, the festival set aside 20 festival passes, distributed without cost to low-income neighborhood residents, to make the event accessible to all. “We thank the support from our neighborhood coalition, Southeast Uplift, and the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which makes projects such as ours possible.”

Even now, as the sound of the music echoes in their memories, organizers are already beginning to plan the 2016 Montavilla Jazz Festival.

For more information, see the official Montavilla Jazz Festival website: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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