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Soul'd Out cranks up Scratch Perry, adds a dash of Doc's keyboard

Elliot Blair, Nicholas Harris and Haytham Abdulhadi want you to know there’s a lot more to Portland’s music scene than what the indie rock hipoisie may want you to know.

“Portland often gets pigeonholed as a certain type of city, with certain types of people playing or listening to certain types of music,” Harris says. “The truth about the city, as often is the case, is much more diverse than sometimes is recognized, and that’s where we wanted to focus our energies.”

Indeed, Portland has numerous thriving music scenes ranging from Celtic and Latin music to blues and folk. The goal of the Soul’d Out Festival, now in its third year, is to let folks know Portlanders also love the funk, rap, reggae and jazz, the festival organizers say.

The festival takes place from Wednesday, April 10, through Sunday, April 21, at such venues as: Dante’s; the Star, Mt. Tabor, Hawthorne, and Roseland theaters; Mississippi Studios, Rotture, Refuge, Peter’s Room, Holocene and Doug Fir. You can check out the info at www.souldoutfestival.com.

The impressive lineup includes famed keyboardist Booker T. Jones (in a first time-ever show with stellar guitarist Charlie Hunter) as well as soul king Lee Fields & The Expressions. Other acts include Snarky Puppy, AfroMassive, Future, Petunia & The Vipers, Shy Girls, Anuhea and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Harris is particularly excited about Lee “Scratch” Perry, the legendary dub reggae performer and producer who will play an all-ages show at Refuge, 116 S.E. Yamhill St., at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21.

“Perry is one of those rare foundation artists that has stood at the crossroads of genres and styles for decades,” Blair says. “There is no dub, no electronic music or culture without his influence.”

The festival organizers also cite rapper and Wu-Tang Clan co-founder Ghostface Killah’s upcoming show with a live band at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, in Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi St., as another highlight.

Anuhea, 27, a soul-pop-reggae guitarist and singer from Hawaii, will also help kick off the festival with a show at Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. The romantic artist says she loves playing in Portland, but urges folks here to shed their reputation as good listeners but reluctant dancers.

“I’m going to try to break them of that and get ‘em on the dance floor,” she says with a chuckle.

Prior to the festival kickoff, acid jazz pioneer Lonnie Smith and underground rapper Sapient also shared their thoughts.

Lonnie Smith

From George Benson to Etta James, Gladys Knight to Dionne Warwick, more than a few well-known artists have been backed by “Doc” Lonnie Smith, the Buffalo, N.Y.-bred Hammond B-3 organist sporting the oh-so-fine turban.

“I loved the warmth of the sound,” Smith says of his B-3, which older music fans will associate with numerous jazz, blues and rock records of the late 1960s as well as the 1970s. “It embodies the soul of the universe. It has all the elements of the earth, the sun, the moon. It’s an orchestra.”

Smith will be playing at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 21, in the Star Theater, 13 N.W. Sixth Ave.

As a teenager, Smith played trumpet and other instruments in school and sang in professional vocal groups, but gradually fell in love with the keys. He got his first instrument when a Buffalo music store owner, Art Kubera, noticed he was hanging around his store all the time. The owner told him he could have a free organ as long as he could haul it out of the owner’s house. To this day, Smith still calls Kubera his “angel.”

Immersing himself in secular and church organ music in the 1960s, the doctor was eventually noticed by guitarist George Benson in a Buffalo jazz club. Benson invited him to play in his band, and Smith wound up on several of Benson’s albums. Smith made his first recording as a leader on “Finger Lickin’ Good” for Columbia Records in 1966. He then played with saxophonist Lou Donaldson and can be heard on the million-seller “Alligator Boogaloo.”

Donaldson’s label, Blue Note, eventually gave the organist his own recording contract, a deal that would produce such soul jazz classics as “Think!,” “Turning Point,” “Move Your Hand,” “Drives” and “Live at Club Mozambique.”

After leaving Blue Note, Smith recorded for several record labels, and he’s jammed on tribute albums for Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and Beck. He’s even been sampled for rap, dance and house records, which is just fine as far as he’s concerned.

“A lot of young people that are into jazz music never saw me,” he says. “They like the music, and they sample the music. It’s their take.”

And a lot of folks, period, probably don’t even know Smith is arguably the best organist on Earth. In 1969, Downbeat magazine called him “Top Organist,” and he’s won several awards since then, including being named “Organ Keyboardist of the Year” five times in the past decade by the Jazz Journalist Association. Yet, he’s never rested his fingers, and is promoting his latest album, “The Healer,” with this show. His advice to aspiring musicians?

“Play life,” he says. “If you’re feeling good, play that. If you’re feeling bad, play that. Play life, and you can’t go wrong with that.”


Portland-based underground rapper Sapient, 29, is well known in Northwest hip-hop circles for his solo work as well as his collective efforts in Sandpeople, Debaser, The Prime and other acts, not to mention producing Aesop Rock and Slug from the group Atmosphere. So Sapient’s laid his substantial cred on the line and taken some big chances with his latest record, “Slump.” Sounding more like an indie rocker who’s overdosed on the Beatles and Weezer than a hip-hop artist, Sapient says he wanted to take his music somewhere new.

“I’m flexing more musical muscles than just rapping,” he says, noting the modern rock flavor of his latest release. “I put a lot of effort into it, and it would be what I consider my best work.”

Sapient says his latest record grew out of a habit of placing songs, as opposed to raps, at the end of his past few albums. Fans seemed to like the idea, so he decided to devote a whole album to the concept. The record may be more melodic than what we’ve heard from him before, but it certainly has patented hip hop attitude, especially on such tracks as “Pieces of Paper” and “Shotgun in my Spaceship.” The former track is a neo-classical slow-tempo take on the money chase; the latter employs a music hall piano riff underlaying the first-person narrative by an astronaut attempting to woo a lady with his nerdy prowess.

Sapient says his live show will feature him on guitar and vocals and his partner A.E.D. on keys and drum machines, performing a chronology of his work culminating with songs off of “Slump.”

Sapient shares the stage with Portland R&B group Shy Girls and neo-soul duo Magic Fades at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in Holocene, 1001 S.E. Morrison St.; $8 in advance, $10 day of show.

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