For almost 100 years jazz music has been building bridges and connecting cultures across the globe. From the Voice of America broadcasts of the 1950’s, to the historic State Department tours of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Dizzy Gillespie, to ground-breaking visits by jazz artists to China and the Soviet Union, jazz has opened the doors of dialogue and reached across borders, languages and cultures to create goodwill.
The Jazz Bridge Project is a collaborative cultural exchange between Portland, Oregon and its sister city Khabarovsk, Russia that is inspired by the role that jazz has played in bringing cultures together. The Jazz Bridge Project is organized by PKSCA and Portland State University’s Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute. Supporters of the project include PDX Jazz, presenters of the Portland Jazz Festival, and KMHD Jazz 89.1. If you would like to be a part of the Jazz Bridge Project, please donate now by clicking the button below.
In October 2010, seven artists and students from Portland’s sister city of Khabarovsk, Russia visited Oregon. They sat in on classes, performed concerts, jammed in clubs, visited schools and generously shared their culture and their music with us in Portland. Both sides were inspired by our interaction and its future possibilities. Their residency resulted in an invitation from the Mayor of Khabarovsk to Portland to bring a similar delegation to their city to perform, teach, present and meet with local educators and cultural leaders. A delegation of five Portland jazz performer/educators and four PSU students traveled to Khabarovsk from December 12 -December 22, 2011. The group, which includes PSU professors Darrell Grant & Charley Gray drummer/educator Alan Jones, saxophonist/educator Scott Hall and vocalist Marilyn Keller, served as ambassadors from the Pacific Northwest, by presenting public concerts, giving presentations about jazz history, offering workshops and clinics at colleges, and local music schools, and interacting with members of the local and regional arts community.
"As a cultural initiative, the Jazz Bridge Project celebrates the many commonalities between our two cities—including vibrant civic culture, universities with strong emphasis in fine & performing arts, a love of nature, and an ongoing connection to jazz music. The deeper purpose of the Jazz Bridge Project is to explore the possibility of building meaningful, ongoing connections between communities using the arts as a bridge." - Darrell Grant
Portland’s rich and vibrant jazz heritage is well documented. Jazz helped shape the social and cultural fabric of our city and continues to enrich its quality of life in numerous ways. Home to internationally acclaimed performing artists, nationally recognized education programs, an award-winning jazz festival, several notable venues, numerous jazz organizations and appreciative audiences, Portland is the envy of many an American city.
How might we then be enriched by actively sharing this wealth of resources? Can they help forge a connection- not between governments, or corporations, but between people? And might some of the benefits that we enjoy create possibilities for those far beyond our geographic boundaries, while enriching us with new experiences and insights from abroad.
More than an Exchange: A Community Cultural & Goodwill Initiative
The Jazz Bridge Community Cultural Initiative that seeks to harnesses the support and goodwill of our community to share the best of Portland with Khabarovsk, and provide meaningful resources to their jazz education efforts. Through community participation, volunteers and fundraising, we have pursued the following six cultural and educational projects.
- “Amur Suite” - The Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute has commissioned seven Portland jazz composers to create a suite for Jazz Bridge ensemble, which will be performed in Khabarovsk. Based on traditional folk songs from the Khabarovsk region, the suite is inspired by photographs by visual artists from Khabarovsk. The ensemble premiered the work in Portland at PKSCA’s “Bridge to Russia” fund-raiser event on October 27th.
- Portland Jazz CD Collection - Portland’s jazz radio station 89.1 KMHD collaborated with LVJI to compile a collection of 50CD’s by Portland jazz artists, representing the varied sounds and styles of Portland’s jazz scene. This collection has been donated to the jazz program at the Khabarovsk Territorial College of Arts (KKCA).
- Video portrait of Portland Jazz Scene - Students in the senior capstone course at PSU will collaborate with LVJI to create a 10-15 minute video about Portland jazz scene. The video features interviews with musicians and jazz community members, musical footage from Portland jazz venues, and a glimpse inside some of Portland’s outstanding jazz education. This video is expected to be broadcast on statewide television in the region and to provide both information and inspiration to the arts community in Khabarovsk
- Jazz Fakebook DVD’s - The Jazz Bridge Project will purchase and donate a set of Jazz Fakebook DVDs. These extremely useful teaching tools, which include leadsheets to approximately 5000 jazz songs, are easy to acquire in the US, but very hard to come by in other parts of the world.
- Aebersold Play Along CD’s - The Aebersold series of play-along CD’s are a staple of modern jazz education, providing high quality accompanying tracks for students to practice hundreds of songs in the jazz repertoire. The Jazz Bridge Project will seek to acquire a complete set of Aebersold play-along CD’s to donate to the jazz program at the Khabarovsk Territorial College of Arts (KKCA).
- Jazz Ensemble Teaching Resources - Jazz instructors at Khabarovsk Territorial College of Arts (KKCA) have requested pedagogical materials to assist them in developing a jazz big band program. The Jazz Bridge Project seeks to acquire and make Russian translations of selected jazz educational resources
In addition, the Jazz Bridge Project seeks to share information, resources and expertise to develop long-term initiatives between Portland and Khabarovsk. Projects currently under discussion include:
- Assistance in developing the first college audio engineering program in the Russian far east at Khabarovsk Territorial College of Arts. We would offer technical assistance and donated studio equipment from the Portland music community.
- The creation of a school that will make music education available to the many underserved youth in Khabarovsk. We would connect Khabarovsk with the experience and expertise of Portland’s thriving non- profit music education community.
To read more about the Jazz Bridge experience from the perspective of Darrell Grant, click here.