Elegantly bald and gracious, possessed of soulful piano skills, Darrell Grant, 45, is out to remake the Portland jazz scene—as a promoter and an educator. Grant is an adviser to the Portland Jazz Festival (February 15 to 24, www.pdxjazz.com.); a professor in Portland State University.s jazz studies program; and the founder of LV.s Uptown, which is morphing into a supper club, Rafati.s Encore 310. For details on Grant.s upcoming performances, log on to www.darrellgrant.com.
Q Jazz? In Portland?
A Actually, there.s a rich jazz history. In the 1940s, African Americans came from the South to work in the Kaiser shipyards. They brought jazz and blues with them. Later, there was an incredible afterhours scene. In the 1950s, Count Basie and Charlie Parker played Portland clubs like the Chicken Coop.
Q But now?
A Portland's got a full-time jazz radio station, KMHD, and jazz elders like Thara Memory [a trumpet player] and Mel Brown [a drummer]. There.s a bunch of young cats coming on, like the Fiction Junkies who play jazztronica.
Q Your latest CD, Truth and Reconciliation, quotes famous speeches by Nelson Mandela and Franklin Roosevelt, among others. Why?
A I was impressed by their sincerity. And now that I.m in my 40s, now that I have a young son, my aim is to be sincere and to help change the world.
Q Just by bringing people to jazz?
A Jazz promotes individuality and courage—to play it, you have to improvise. And it is democratic. Everyone gets their moment to shine, but your solo is always in relation to the music that came before. The whole thing is a conversation, a dialogue, and the world needs more dialogue, doesn.t it?
Photography by Phyllis Lane
This article was first published in January 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.