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Jazzing it up for 55 years

Musician Jim Beatty has a long, colorful career playing his clarinet
by: submitted photo, 
Jim Beatty, shown here in 1964, during his time in New York City, celebrates 55 years of music Sunday.

While most people his age have long-since retired, Jim Beatty is not only still working at 72, he's about to celebrate it. On Sunday, May 6, Beatty will perform with his jazz band to commemorate his 55 years of professional clarinet playing.

But even though the event is in his honor, Beatty doesn't get the night off. The concert, which will take place at Tuxedo Charley's in the Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach, will feature Beatty's current quintet and multiple guest musicians and, of course, Beatty.

The current West Linn and former Lake Oswego resident has hardly slowed down at all in 55 years. He still travels around the country and to Europe to perform and has a monthly gig at Tuxedo Charley's.

'I don't turn anything down. I still love playing,' Beatty said.

Beatty grew up in Jamestown, N.Y., and started playing the clarinet at a young age. During that time, living close to New York City was heaven for a jazz enthusiast.

And as Beatty improved his craft, he had the opportunity to watch Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and others perform in jazz clubs.

'Back then when the nightclubs were booming, jazz was the popular music,' Beatty said.

In 1956, Beatty was drafted into the Army and played in its band, eventually becoming a featured soloist for high-profile concerts, including one in front of Queen Elizabeth.

After his time with the military, Beatty began to make a name for himself as a talented jazz musician around the Northeast but, in 1967, he moved to Lake Oswego.

It didn't take long for Beatty to make a splash as a musician on the West Coast either. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the jazz scene in Portland was thriving. Shortly after arriving in Oregon, the Jim Beatty Jazz Band landed a gig at the Hoyt Hotel, playing six nights a week until the building closed in 1972.

Beatty traveled actively with his band, touring the United States and playing in Canada, the Bahamas and China over the years. He also garnered a reputation in Europe and was nearly as popular in England as he was in the United States.

'I've always had a good reception in Europe. I think there's still more interest in jazz over there,' Beatty said.

This summer, local residents will have multiple opportunities to catch the Jim Beatty Jazz Band. They will be performing at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts and in the summer concert series for both Lake Oswego and West Linn.

Over the years, Beatty has played with a number of exceedingly talented musicians and a number of those individuals will be his special guests at the 55th anniversary party.

'This just seemed like quite a milestone and was a good opportunity to get friends together,' Beatty said.

Pete Pepke, Pat O'Neal, Blake Maddox, Jim Goodwin, Jim Buchmann, John McKinley, Craig McKinley, Jerry Heermans, John Walling and Chris Sheik will all sit in with Beatty along with his current band, featuring Reece Marshburn on piano, Dave Duthie on bass, Dave Johnson on guitar and Jack Dawes on drums.

Pepke will be an honored guest as the trombonist was a member of Beatty's original band and is flying in from Pennsylvania for the event.

'I think the secret has been surrounding myself with such great musicians. If you have good people with you, things are probably going to work out,' Beatty said.

Needless to say, it will be a special event for anyone who has been involved with Beatty or enjoyed his music over the past 55 years. When asked if he will be hosting a 60th anniversary part in five years, Beatty just laughs.

'We'll keep our fingers crossed. I feel like I'm sort of living on borrowed time. I never anticipated this would happen. I thought maybe, if I was lucky, I could just be a weekend player, but one thing led to another,' Beatty said.

The concert will be from 4 to 9 p.m. and tickets are $12 in advance by calling 503-656-5620 or $15 at the door.