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PJCE “From Maxille to Vanport” @ Eastern Oregon University
April 12, 2018 @ 7:30 pmFree!
(PORTLAND, OR)—Supported by the Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights program, the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s (PJCE’s) concert of original songs and film shorts inspired by the stories of the multicultural populations of Maxville and Vanport, Oregon debuts in April 12–14, 2018 in La Grande, Enterprise, and Baker City, Oregon and May 26, 2018 at Portland, Oregon’s Vanport Mosaic Festival. This collection of songs and short films produced by composer Ezra Weiss with writer and speaker S. Renee Mitchell providing lyrics and vocalist Marilyn Keller performing with the PJCE accompanied by shorts by filmmaker Kalimah Abioto to celebrate the shared history of African-American Oregonians, focusing on two towns that represent distinctive viewpoints of the state’s under-discussed Black history. Tickets to PCJE’s concerts are on sale now and are available online at pjce.org.
It isn’t widely known, but among the homesteaders, loggers, ranchers, and other hardy folks who were Oregon’s early settlers, African-Americans played vital roles. Songs like “Oregon Sounds Like Freedom” weigh the relative freedom of living Oregon against the hardship of staying in the Jim Crow South. MAXVILLE TO VANPORT may leave listeners wondering if the dangerous work falling logs in the woods of Wallowa County was worth the pain of leaving one’s birth community.
The project invites the audience to ponder these questions through joyful music composed by Portland jazz composer and pianist Ezra Weiss. Writer, speaker, and self-styled creative revolutionist S. Renee Mitchell has written lyrics featuring legendary jazz vocalist Marilyn Keller. The songs will be interspersed with two short films by Kalimah Abioto focused on the work that women did in Maxville, and a young boy playing in an imagined Vanport who encounters rushing waters that foreshadow the flood that destroyed the city in 1948.
PJCE Executive Director Douglas Detrick serves as artistic director for the project which employs a five-member creative team aiming to speak with the communities that are connected to these stories, not for them. The team drew heavily on records and research of Gwendolyn Trice, Executive Director of Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center, whose father worked at Maxville.
MAXVILLE TO VANPORT’s public events are:
- April 12, 7:30 pm, Groth Hall, Eastern Oregon University, One University Boulevard, La Grande, OR 97850 – Concert, Free admission, no ticket required.
- April 13, 7 pm, OK Theatre, 208 W Main St, Enterprise, OR 97828 – $20 general, $15 senior & veteran, $10 students, Tickets available online.
- April 14, 5 pm social hour, 6 pm dinner, 7 pm concert, Grand Ballroom, Baker Heritage Museum, 2480 Grove St, Baker City, OR 97814 – $50 includes concert and dinner, tickets available online, or by calling 541-523-5369.
- May 26, 7 pm, Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR 97211 – Concert, $35 preferred GA, $25 general, $20 senior & veteran, $5 Arts For All tickets available at the door day of show only. Tickets available online or by calling 503-764-4131.
Other events not open to the public include:
- April 12, 1 pm, OK Theatre, Enterprise, OR | Concert for Wallowa County students
- April 13, 1–2 pm, Josephy Center, Joseph, OR | Improvised performances for art students
The year-long project that began with community discussion events in Portland and Joseph in the fall culminates in a performance tour to La Grande, Enterprise, and Baker City, as well as a studio album, a short documentary film and a performance in Portland in conjunction with the Vanport Mosaic. The project was generously funded by the Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights program and was sponsored by the Oregon Historical Society. Project partners include Vanport Mosaic, Josephy Center for the Arts, Crossroads Carnegie Center for the Arts, Eastern Oregon University, and the OK Theatre.
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM
Lyricist: S. Renee Mitchell is an award-winning writer and published author, multimedia artist, social justice advocate, and teacher/facilitator. Mitchell’s more than 25 years of journalism experience has groomed her exceptional communication, analytical and grant-writing skills, yet, Renee is also a community-grounded visionary. She is the 2015 Yolanda D. King Drum Major Award winner in recognition of dedicated community service; was the librettist of “Sherman: A Jazz Opera;” has published a novel, children’s story, and several small-press zines; and teaches writing to children as the leader of the Saturday Academy Social Justice Camp as well as many other Portland institutions.
Composer: Ezra Weiss has recorded seven albums as a bandleader, most recently “Before You Know It,” recorded live Portland, and composed songs and book for Northwest Children’s Theatre’s “Alice in Wonderland.” He has led his own bands at major venues throughout the U.S., including several week-long engagements at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club. He has won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award three times and has been listed in DownBeat Critics Polls in the Rising Star Arranger category. He currently teaches at Portland State University and holds a Bachelors in Jazz Composition from the Oberlin Conservatory and a Masters in Jazz Piano from Queens College.
Vocalist: Marilyn Keller is a singer who performs a diverse range of jazz, gospel, and musical theatre throughout Oregon and abroad and was voted into Oregon Jazz Society’s Hall of Fame 2016. She joined Black Swan Classic Jazz Band in 1997 and has toured throughout Europe and the US. She has also remained active in a wide variety of other performance ensembles and styles: The Don Latarski Group, Darrell Grant’s The Territory, Thara Memory, Tall Jazz, Disciples in Song, and the Augustana Jazz Quartet among many others.
Filmmaker: A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Kalimah Abioto began playing the drums at age three, writing in elementary school, and makings films in high school centered around dreams, sexuality, and the nexus between Black people, humans, freedom, and the natural-spirit worlds. She received her BA in film and video from Hollins University and is a co-creator, along with her four sisters of The People Could Fly Project, a multimedia project documenting the dreams and stories of people in the African Diaspora. Abioto has worked with different artists and groups including Afropop Worldwide, Holy Mojo, The Black Portlanders, Spirit Law Center, Diamond Law, and others that value life force. She was a 2017 Artist in Residence at Open Signal.
Historian: Gwendolyn Trice founded Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center, a non-profit cultural heritage center in Wallowa County, Oregon and currently serves as its Executive Director. She also provided support and information for OPB’s 2009 video Logger’s Daughter. Currently, she serves on the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs and is part of a Leadership cohort for the Center for Diversity and Environment.
The Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble is a 12-piece jazz ensemble which commissions and performs original works by its members and by other jazz composers in the Portland music community and beyond. It is our mission to operate a large musical ensemble, to commission and perform original works by members of the ensemble and by other jazz composers in the Portland music community and elsewhere, to act as a forum for the development and presentation of works for large ensemble by established and emerging jazz composers, and to engage and enrich community awareness and appreciation of contemporary music.
PJCE’s guiding principles are to:
- Enrich the first uniquely American art form.
- Cultivate the development of new music.
- Encourage and promote established and emerging living composers.
- Provide a forum for experimentation without commercial concern.
- Disseminate contemporary American music through publicity, recordings, newsletters and affordable concerts in varied venues to promote jazz appreciation both locally and nationally.
- Collaborate with artists, other nonprofits, and creative organizations in multiple disciplines.
- Foster relationships with educational institutions.