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PDX Jazz Festival highlights music icons

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Events mark 100th birthdays of Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Buddy Rich

COURTESY: PORTLAND JAZZ FESTIVAL - T.S. Monk helps pay tribute to his late father, Thelonius Monk, at the Portland Jazz Festival.The Portland Jazz Festival always highlights one of the greats of yesteryear.

Now, it's highlighting three greats who would have turned 100 years old in 2017: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich. There'll be musical performances feting each of the jazz icons.

"They're 100 years old — it's an appropriate milestone to acknowledge them. They were all innovative in their own ways," says Don Lucoff, the jazz fest's executive artistic director.

There are scores of events each day during the jazz festival, Feb. 16-26 at various venues, and only two — the opening-night Branford Marsalis Quartet and the Ralph Towner solo on Feb. 20 — have sold out. For info/tickets: www.pdxjazz.com. The Heath Brothers and 91-year-old Jimmy Heath, John Scofield with "Country For Old Men" and Roy Ayers are other highlights.

The Gillespie tribute comes courtesy of Mel Brown, the great Portland drummer who has assembled his first big band — the Mel Brown Big Band — that will be joined by Jon Faddis with the Jimmy Mak All-Stars. The "Groovin' High: Celebrating Dizzy Gillespie at 100" concert takes place 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Revolution Hall.

"There'll be Mel with his septet and Mel with his big band," Lucoff says.

Faddis was Gillespie's trumpet protege, mentored by him, and he sounds like him. Faddis became a noted studio musician and played on pop recordings such as "Disco Inferno," and later produced such solo jazz albums as "Legacy," "Into The Faddisphere" and "Hornucopia." He later became first chair soloist of the Dizzy Gillespie 70th Birthday Big Band. Gillespie died in 1993.

Gillespie, a trumpet player, bandleader/composer/singer, also will be remembered through a week-long residency at Al's Den.

The tribute for Monk, the pianist and composer who died Feb. 17, 1982, involves his son, drummer T.S. Monk — it'll be John Beasley Presents Monk'estra & T.S. Monk Sextet.

Beasley, an arranger who has worked with Miles Davis and others, has re-imagined Monk's compositions to produce contemporary harmonies and fun, and Monk'estra joins the sextet.

"You'll hear a lot of dynamics with instruments," Lucoff says. Four local musicians will join the drummer T.S. Monk and other musicians.

It takes place 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at Revolution Hall.

In addition, Bobby Torres will be joined by John Santos and Alex Conde for a Latin sojourn to pay respects to Gillespie and Monk, "Descarga Monk," 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at Fremont Theater.

The Rich tribute was originally set up for Jimmy Mak's, but the noted jazz club closed in December. The "Drum Battle: Celebrating Buddy Rich at 100" show is now at the Fremont Theater, starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, and it features Rich's music re-imagined for the Alan Jones Sextet and four drummers playing off each other. Rich, the world's preeminent drummer in his time who died in 1987, always played with a second drummer.

"Celebrating Buddy Rich's 100th birthday means a celebration of the drummer's overt, exciting style and also his boundless energy," say jazz fest promotions of the event. "There's no one better to execute that plan than Portland native Alan Jones," who has toured with the likes of Esperanza Spalding and Towner, and who has recruited Mel Brown, Chris Brown and Carlton Jackson to play with his sextet. There'll be a second show at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 21.

The jazz fest is thrilled to have Heath and his brother Albert for a performance, and it's Heath's first appearance in Portland since the early 1990s. "He has played with everybody and everybody has played with him," Lucoff says

Scofield is coming off two wins at the Grammy Awards for his "Country for Old Men" album.

And Ayers, the "godfather of neo-soul," makes his first appearance with the jazz fest.

Of note, because of the closing of Jimmy Mak's, there'll be additional concerts at The Old Church and Winningstad Theatre, and The Mission Theater will be used again along with first-time venues McMenamins Lola's Room and the Fremont Theater.