Cornucopia of music at this year's Riverfront Park concerts
This summer, the July Sellwood Riverfront Park "Concerts in the Parks" volunteers, now an official ad-hoc committee of SMILE – the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association – programmed what they think may have been their best musical lineup ever.
"Our five volunteers who serve on the committee are truly excited about this year's series of concerts, which offers a diverse mix of musical entertainers addressing different genres, with appeal for a broad spectrum of audiences," exclaimed the committee's Chair, Jim Friscia, as the July 9 concert was about to begin.
"We're grateful for the major sponsors lined up by Portland Parks & Recreation; and for us, it's our local sponsors who really make this happen," Friscia told THE BEE. (Disclosure: THE BEE is one of the sponsors.)
That first night of the four, Farnell Newton & the Othership Connection lived up to their promise of "revitalizing funk and soul with a new twist". As they began, rain showers briefly swept over the park, but everyone stayed put and enjoyed the music.
Next, on July 16, the concert was by internationally-renowned local music living legend, Lloyd "Have Mercy" Jones, who holds a Cascade Blues Association Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.
Before he went on stage, "Groove Merchant" Jones told THE BEE that he is, indeed, a "local" – having lived near Westmoreland Park for 44 years now.
"I've played large venues, such as the Portland Blues Festival, for 29 years, and I've toured in Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Holland, and Germany – but that's for business – the show, here tonight, is my fun," Jones grinned.
"Here, it's my back yard! And I feel so relaxed and joyful playing music with my friends," Jones said. "I'm so in love with this area; in fact, after the concert, I'm going to play at the Muddy Rudder [on S.E. Tacoma Street] on the way home!"
Jones didn't come to Sellwood Waterfront Park alone that night; he invited 2017 Oregon Music Hall of Fame "Sideman of the Year" Louis Pain, who brought his Hammond B3 organ, complete with a genuine Lesley speaker; Ben Jones provided bass and vocals; drummer Carlton Jackson came along, and also provided vocals; Rudy Draco played tenor sax; and trumpeter Joe Macarthy was also on stage.
In addition, part-way through thei first set, Jones invited "Portland's First Lady of the Blues", singer LaRhonda Steele, to join the band on stage, and she went on to wow the crowd with her songs and stories.
It didn't take long for hundreds of folks in the audience to get on their feet as the band entertained with songs that combined New Orleans rhythms, the simplicity of Memphis music, and the rawness of the blues.
On the third Monday evening, the original harmony-driven Americana trio Skybound Blue enthralled the audience; and on July 30, at the fourth and final Monday night concert of the year, the passionate, acoustic Latin funk music of Sabroso had audiences up and dancing again.
Cheers to the volunteers who put on this year's concerts; one would ordinarily pay dearly to hear these bands – but the neighbors who filled the park enjoyed all these concerts, beside the Willamette River, for free.