5 shows not to miss at the PDX Jazz Festival 2022

After a completely virtual year 2021, the people of the PDX Jazz Festival are not hiding: in 2022, everything is live, baby. (Proof of vaccination and mandatory mask wearing, of course.) Programming takes place in more than 50 events from Thursday February 17th to Sunday February 26th, including big names, niche acts, free workshops, public talks, and more. To view the full program, go to here.

We at Portland Monthly just started marking our calendars to make the most of this year’s festival—this is what excites us the most.

Makaya McCraven Jazz Conversation with Ashley Kahn

3 p.m. Sun. Feb. 20, P5 Art Bar, FREE

While much of the festival’s lineup is performance-driven, a series of free talks, workshops and conversations will be peppered with intoxicating riffs and flowing solos. Our money is on this conversation between drummer/producer Makaya McCraven and music historian Ashley Kahn at Portland5’s Art Bar at its main SW Broadway complex. McCraven played with Kamasi Washington, created an acclaimed redesign from Gil Scott Heron’s latest album and released a dizzying array of cutting-edge mixtapes. Any chance to dig into its spirit of research and conservation is worth taking, especially at this price.


8 p.m. Sat, Feb. 19, Holocene, $20-25

Mndsgn, aka Ringgo Ancheta, seems independent of a particular musical genre or era. His interests fluctuated from chillwave to trip hop to psychedelic 80s boogie music that ran throughout his 2016 effort, Shower geland now the 70s R&B that defines his latest release, rare pleasure. Indeed, it’s rare for such vast and varied genres to coalesce (well) into one singular form, but here it works. And it will be even more of a pleasure to witness Ancheta’s craftsmanship live and in person, which you can do at Holocene on Saturday, February 19, where Mndsgn will be joined by the Rare Pleasures, more Omari Jazza Portland-based musician and visual artist.

Flower of Toloache

6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 20, Newmark Theater, $30-40

Name a genre that is more devastatingly beautiful than mariachi music. It’s a tradition that might sound like a relic of Mexican folk music that became background noise in a Baja Fresh or gets used to when white characters take a wrong turn to Mexico, but it’s as alive as culture, and Flor de Toloache, a new all-female Mariachi Ensemble based in York, proves it. Although they have been making music since 2008, their 2019 album, Indestructible, showcases their talent for original compositions, reimagined covers and collaborations with John Legend, Alex Cuba and many more. At the jazz festival, they will perform with Mariachi Tradición, a mariachi ensemble from Forest Grove High School, at the Newmark Theatre.

Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group

8 p.m. Thurs, Feb. 24, Jack London Revue, $25-30

Drumming legend Mel Brown, who played with Albina mainstays Billy Larkin & the Delegates in the 60s before a deal with Motown brought his talents to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross, held a regular concert at the Pearl, now closed. Jimmy Mak’s district jazz club throughout the 2000s. It still plays the occasional Jack London Revue downtown, and luckily for us the jazz festival is one of those occasions: the quartet Brown’s current will play with his son, drummer Christopher Brownon site on February 24.

Robert Glasper

8 p.m. Saturday, February 26, Portland Art Museum, $50-55

There are many words to describe Robert Glasper; we’ll go with “prolific”. At 43, the pianist, producer and songwriter has created a solid catalog that spans hip-hop, blues, gospel, R&B, experimental soul and jazz. But if you need a few specific names, here we go: Pianist on Kendrick Lamar’s To pimp a butterfly, co-producer of the Nina Simone tribute album Nina revisited, which has featured collaborations with Usher, Common and Mary J. Blige, and member of jazz supergroup R+R=Now with Terrace Martin. Glasper is in progress black radio The series manifests his defense of black music throughout his career, and on February 26, he will present a special production of black radio at the Portland Art Museum’s Kridel Grand Ballroom with the Portland jazz singer-songwriter Memory of Tahirah and DJ Klyph of Numberz.

Willie J. Johnson