Portland Jazz Festival, Portland, Oregon

 NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston performing a solo piano concert on opening night of the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival. Photo by Fran Kaufman, courtesy of Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air

NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston performing a solo piano concert on opening night of the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival. Photo by Fran Kaufman, courtesy of Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air

As part of the Jazz Masters Live program, the recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Randy Weston provided the opening night performance for the 2011 Portland Jazz Festival on February 18, 2011, with a rare solo concert. He played compositions from all the eras of his long career for more than 90 minutes, punctuating his songs with anecdotes about the great performers he worked with over the years, such as Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. A new composition was dedicated to some of the musicians who passed away over the last couple of years, including James Moody and Weston’s longtime collaborator, Benny Powell. The 300 audience members were clearly moved; Weston received two standing ovations.

In addition to the performance, Weston participated in outreach activities as well. The first was an interview as part of the festival’s Jazz Conversation series. Weston spoke for more than an hour with Marty Hughley, critic and performing arts feature writer for the Oregonian, Oregon’s statewide daily. The interview took place in front of a live audience at the PCPA Art Bar, a public venue in the lobby of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, with more than 60 people attending the event. The interview also was recorded to be aired over KMHD public radio and is available as a podcast through theOregon Music News website, reaching thousands more listeners across the state.

The next day, February 19, Weston participated in a second outreach activity, a moderated presentation to the students of the jazz studies program at Portland State University. This one-hour conversation with PSU Jazz Studies Director Darrell Grant took place in a classroom with 60 students. Weston talked about his life and experiences as a jazz musician, composer, and bandleader, as well as his travels in search of the musical origins of jazz in Africa. This conversation was followed by a question-and-answer period with Weston.

Both outreach activities were greeted by engaged and interested audiences. For many of the students at PSU, Weston’s talk brought history to life with discussions  about the civil rights movement and his experiences in Africa, and their connections to jazz.