Jimmy Mack's 15 Year Anniversary Concert

B y S i n g u l a r N e w m a n

This article will be about Jimmy Macks1), an upscale Jazz Club located in the Pearl District of Portland Oregon. A sort of mecca of Jazz musicians in present times. Please bear in mind that I consider myself a newbie to the Jazz world. I have been an outsider most of my life and I’ll be honest, I’ve never considered Jazz among my top five musical choices. I have to find myself in a very particular mood to be able to enjoy Jazz. Perhaps Jazz as I have found out, is meant to be experienced live and local, sipping on some good wine or an expensive cocktail will most definitely sweeten the occasion. Although not a drinking man by choice, I found this particular venue to offer an award winning, fresh and local selection of cocktails. Paired with the Happy Hour2) steak bites and you forget that you came for the live music.

As my life always turns out, and since I wasn't even particularly supposed to revue this venue, I found myself at Jimmy Mack's at a very opportune time. I originally stopped by the Secret Society3), another Jazz club located on the East Side of downtown Portland, to observe a jazz guitarist by the name of Dominic Castillo4) who plays and croons the standards with lightness and ease. The Secret Society website5) had this to say about him: “For fans of Chet Baker, Mel Torme, Johnny Mercer, and of course Ol' Blue Eyes himself he is a delight “.

However, he unfortunately was sick that evening, as I found out after I had most comfortably arranged myself at a choice table cornering the stage. So I decided to go with plan B which was club Jimmy Mack, a much more expensive route but the venue was showcasing two bands, one of them being the house band, The Mell Brown Quartet6), and as I remember, my college professor’s favorite Jazz band. As I mentioned in the title, Jimmy Mack had quite the show that evening, celebrating its15th anniversary. Not to be taken lightly this venue is rated amongst the best in the United States and perhaps worldwide according to Jazz magazine Variety7).

And so I swapped my Nikes and jeans for evening leather man shoes and slacks, put my best foot forward, and took a step into history with Jimy Mak's. Although still a teenager, this club is very sophisticated, starting with the red velvet on the walls and ending with the semi private upstairs sitting areas, where by the way I wrote this article from. I actually scored a top eagles eye spot for the evening, next to the camera man. He wasn’t here but basically what I am saying is that I had the eagle's nest, affording me quite the view of the place, pretty much the best seating the house had to offer. I even had an AC vent close by and believe be the place was stemming hot, especially after the Mel Brown Quartet wrapped up their set .

There is absolutely no way I one be disappointed here, if anything I know the top sirloin steak bites are amazing as I have tried the Happy Hour before. But let’s get to the music as that really is the purpose for which I went there. The evening’s performance was labeled The Battle of the Sextets. The first set was played by The Alan Jones Sextet band. I read the description of the night’s performance on the website and wondered at the same time where seven plus musician will fit on the somewhat tiny stage. Well it suffices to say, it looked quite uncomfortable but they all fit, rubbing shoulders but they fit. Barely keeping from hitting each-other, but they made it work. All in all there were twelve musicians on the stage at times battling it out.

What I was drawn to and attracted to the most, was the drum solos performed by The Mel Brown Sextet8). Man this guy is intense, as he should be. I think the drummer is the time piece of any musical performance really. He kept a really fast beat and did a couple of crescendos where he gradually increased his volume and his tempo all the way until the end where he finished with a hi hat. A robust finish to a hot number. I could see how the trumpets and sax played together at times and they also traded with each other.

The second part of the night's performance started with a sweet sounding number reminding me of the Glenn Miller Orchestra9). Very fine, melodic and yet lively as the back beat was constantly in the background with a muted hi hat rhythm. The trumpet would perform a solo and the piano would chime in with sparse accompaniment. The trumpet really started letting go towards the middle and the piano joined it in a long trading session, well it wasn't really trading, more like they were playing together. The two Saxes joined together sounding off a short hello, after which the people approved with loud and profound clapping. The sax had a long and very syncopated solo after which the people clapped again with pleasure. Then the entire lineup said goodbye for the final outro however the drummer kept drumming.

Leading into a new set, the drums opened up for the single melody line, composed of all the brass instruments that sang on one single note. A multiple voice musical sentence, spoken with a single note. That was followed by a beautiful soprano sax solo where the walking base could be really heard and appreciated. What a sweet performance, this band is really well organized and professional. No mistakes really that I can make out, although I must confess, this is my first live jazz performance that I have ever attended so I most likely am not an expert. I just know that they sound really professional, by way of comparison to the previous Jazz CD's I have listened to.

This is a lot of fun and the people really get into it. I am afraid that's as close as I can come to describing a live Jazz event at Jimmy Mack’s in Portland. My recommendation is that Jazz should really be seen live, otherwise it is dull, bland and uninspiring. I recommend Jimmy Macks Jazz Club to anyone looking to experience and interact with the spirit of Jazz. If you dislike Jazz or at best don’t care for it, you should still go, it will make a believer out of you and you've got nothing to lose, and when you go, please order the Steak Bites, you’ll thank me!


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