Dear Diary ... My second trip ever to the Jazz at Port Townsend festival was an overwhelming success.
Music director John Clayton, who replaced Bud Shank, has made the festival more diverse and harder swinging. Similar to the grand days of the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, there are great musicians not appearing on the festival's indoor main stage but who perform in clubs after the last evening concert.
My favorite act was the Roy Hargrove quintet. The star wasn't necessarily the great trumpeter either. Instead it was drummer Montez Coleman who is hard driving and always pushing the ensemble style, wowed the crowd and his band mates. I have heard Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Jeff "Tain" Watts, all of whom are real power drummers, but young Coleman was equally as powerful and likely more inventive.
My second favorite was singer Roberta Gambarini, a native of Torino, Italy. No doubt about it, she is the next great singer in line with Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. She has a beautifully clear tone, perfect pitch and diction, and can scat with the best of all time. Her delivery of "I Loves You Porgy" from "Porgy and Bess" cinched it for me.
I first saw legendary bandleader Gerald Wilson 45 years ago at an after-hours session in a Los Angeles theater which began at 2 a.m. It was an unforgettable experience. Now, at age 88, the famed composer-arranger is still leading bands and at Port Townsend led an all star big band. He led the group in performing "Romance," a tune from his "Theme for Monterey" suite. The band featured two Portland musicians, drummer Gary Hobbs and guitarist Dan Balmer, both of whom turned in excellent performances.
The opening act was tenor saxophonist Houston Person accompanied by organist Atsuko Hashimoto. He was his usual blues-drenched self and gave her a lot of room to stretch out. She turned in a lackluster effort but with many grand flourishes.
One artist was a big disappointment. Vibist Joe Locke so dominated his set, that he and his sound drowned out his guitarist. He turned in a treatment of Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun" which obliterated the mood Hampton created with the classic tune.
I caught a great club act with alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton and trumpeter Terrell Stafford out front of a rhythm section of Portland pianist Randy Porter, bassist Christoph Luty and drummer Greg Williamson. That band was high energy and kicked off its first set with "Billie's Bounce," a real burner. They mixed up tempo and ballads very nicely.
At most festivals, during intermissions, you hear grumbles about an act or the sound system or something. At this year's Jazz at Port Townsend, I heard no grumbles … just praise.
Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays on KMHD 89.1. He can be reached at email@example.com.