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Downtown Gresham gets ready to bop

Trumpeter Carl Saunders ponders what he seeks in music for a moment and then sums it up eloquently.

“There are exquisite notes out there, and our job is to find them,” he says.

The Los Angeles-based musician has backed Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Stan Kenton and Robert Goulet and is one of several noted jazz players set to share exquisite notes with listeners in downtown Gresham this Saturday, Aug. 3, for the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival’s “Jazz on the Plaza” concert.

Here’s the day’s lineup:

11:30 a.m., Dan Balmer with

Go By Train

Guitarist Balmer has toured and recorded with Grammy-winning singer Diane Schuur, playing in more than 15 countries and 60 cities. Balmer plays one to two Mondays a month at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland and has appeared on more than 80 CDs, including eight of his own. The artist is known for melding pop, country and rock into jazz structures.

“The music of Go By Train is what the future should’ve sounded like,” Balmer says, calling his keyboards-guitar-drums trio a “space-age” group that plays “modern jazz for the people.”

“I’m always amazed when we play that everybody who hears it likes it,” he adds.

12:45 p.m., Stan Bock with

New Tradition

Bock is a trombonist who has played for several groups, as well as in the Air Force. He recorded his first solo jazz CD titled “Of Fathers and Sons” in 1999 and released another, called “Night Grooves” in 2003. His sextet features saxophonists Renato Caranto and John Nastos, and pianist Clay Giberson. The band performs a wide range of originals as well as such standards as “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria” and Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love.”

3 p.m., Marilyn Keller

Keller, a mezzo-soprano, can sing jazz, gospel, r ‘n’ b, pop and blues, and has performed in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Great Britain and America. Keller’s voice can be heard on multiple recordings, movie soundtracks, commercials and documentaries, including the 2004 film “Little Black Book,” which features her and Rue de Blues singing the Lieber-Stoller tune “I’m a Woman.” Among her more recent recordings is a gospel album with the Norwegian band Blue Horn.

Keller often can be found singing in the long-running 6 p.m. Jazz Worship Service at Augustana Lutheran Church in Northeast Portland on Sundays.

5:15 p.m., Thara John Memory & American Music

Thara John Memory, trumpeter, conductor, educator, and jazz and classical composer, is a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and also has been recognized as the Jazz Society of Oregon’s Musician of the Year.

Memory was the mentor and teacher of bassist Esperanza Spalding, the first jazz musician to receive the Grammy Award for Best New Artist Award. He has performed with such artists as Eddie Harris, Arturo Sandoval and Dizzy Gillespie. His current regional youth jazz orchestra, the American Music Program, has won numerous national competitions.

6:30 p.m., Carl Saunders with The Gary Hobbs Trio

Saunders is a brilliant trumpeter who cut his teeth playing with Stan Kenton in the 1960s. His melodic style combines the hard-hitting attack of the be-boppers with the fluidity of classical horn-players. His work ethos has earned him spots in bands with all the big singers, from Tony Bennett to Ella Fitzgerald, as well as such players as Benny Goodman and Maynard Ferguson. The Gary Hobbs Trio, well known in the Portland-Vancouver jazz scene, will back him. Hobbs is also an alumnus of Stan Kenton’s band and says he and Saunders have an easy-going rapport.

“We enjoy the same kinds of music and the same kinds of humor,” Hobbs, a drummer, says with a chuckle.

Indeed, Saunders, who peppers his storytelling with words like “groovy,” could be mistaken for a comedian at times, so witty is his take on the jazz scene. Noting he and Hobbs will play a pretty straight-ahead listener-friendly show at the festival, he stays away from playing avant-garde jazz because he thinks it’s asking too much of listeners unfamiliar with jazz.

“People have intimacy problems with their wives, let alone some bass player who comes along for four hours,” he says with a laugh.

8:45 p.m., Soul Vaccination

The festival wraps up the plaza portion with this funk ‘n’ soul band, a fixture in the Northwest music scene for more than 16 years. Soul Vaccination plays tunes by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Earth Wind & Fire and Tower of Power. The 12-piece group includes Dave Aston on Hammond B-3 organ and keyboards, along with Max Rees on guitar. On bass is Grammy-nominated producer John Linn, and on drums is Edwin Coleman III. Paul Creighton, Mark Wyatt and Regina K are the soulful vocalists. The lineup is rounded out by Lewis Livermore and Dave Mills on trumpets, with Ron Regan, Gary Harris and Timothy Bryson on saxophones.

All that Jazz

Organizers hope to draw up to 1,000 people to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival’s “Jazz on the Plaza” concert, which opens its gates to “early bird” ticket-buyers at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, in the Gresham Center for the Arts Plaza, 488 N.E. Third St.

If you haven’t bought a ticket by Saturday, you can go to the gates at 11 a.m. and get one for $10.

Tickets are available through tickettomato.com and at the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, 701 N.E. Hood St. Children younger than 12 are admitted free.

No alcohol or food may be brought into the event, but vendors selling both items will be on hand.

A free after-hours jam featuring several of the festival artists will take place starting at 10 p.m. “until the last note is played” at The Hoppy Brewer, 328 N. Main Ave.

For more info visit mthoodjazz.org.



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