Noted author tells ‘Jazz Stories’ in library performance

Find out why Lynn Darroch has been presenting his word-and-music programs at libraries across East Portland this month …

Lynn Darroch, with the help of keyboard player Randy Porter, and with David Evans’ tenor saxophone, brings characters prominent in Portland’s jazz scene to life.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Some might think that author and performer Lynn Darroch has taken on quite a challenge: telling entertaining stories about songs and musicians. But, in his presentation called “New Stories of the Jazz World”, as presented at Sellwood Branch Library on a couple of weeks ago, Darroch adeptly demonstrated his unique skill.

As he was setting up for the program, Darroch commented, “These stories – musical stories, I call them – are meant to be performed live, with live musical accompaniment. The stories I’m sharing today are about a number of local jazz performers and characters – some of them are also internationally well-known.”

The library’s meeting room provides an intimate setting for Randy Porter David Evans, as they play jazz tunes that heighten Darroch’s stories.

Music brings stories to life
With the help of keyboard player Randy Porter, David Evans’ tenor saxophone, the history of jazz music comes alive, Darroch said, in a way that no other lecturer or musical performance can do with words.

“I give the music equal time with the words; the music’s an integral part of the story.”

Darroch’s work is drawn from experience as a music journalist for magazines and newspapers. He’s been an author, college teacher, and radio broadcaster. His stories are based on personal encounters, interviews, and historical study, he said

“We’re doing our best to bring these musical cultures to life for the people of Portland,” added Darroch.

Storyteller, performer and journalist Lynn Darroch says, “We’re doing our best to bring these cultures to life”.

From crows to international recording stars
His program at the library began with a story called “Crows”. It was about one woman’s struggle with crows. “Since crows are so much of the landscape in Portland, it sets the scene for Portland.”

Darroch’s second story was about Warren Bracken, an important musician in the N. Williams Avenue “jazz scene” during the 1950s. He also recounted the story of Chesney “Chet” Baker Jr., whose good looks and smoldering, intimate singing voice established him as a promising name in pop music – but who was badly hampered by drug addiction.

After weaving more stories around the musical lives of George Page and Clare Fischer, the storyteller told about Salem-born Native American musician Jim Pepper – a jazz saxophonist, composer, and singer of Native American ancestry, who garnered international fame, and whose near-hit single “Witchi Tai To”, was covered by many artists, including the hippie duo Brewer & Shipley.

Darroch’s skillful performance at the library was entertaining and educational. But, as he says, “My focus is always on telling a good story.” Some of his presentations are now on CD; find out more at his website:

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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