Where We Live: PDX Jazz Festival

The biamp PDX Jazz Festival runs Feb. 18-28

The Mel Brown Quartet at Jimmy Mak's, March 2013 (BING)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland is already considered one of the best jazz towns in the nation, but starting Thursday, Portland will become center of the jazz universe.

The biamp PDX Jazz Festival brings in over 100 jazz acts to perform over eleven days. Two of the performers are some of the best in town, and they happen to be father and son.

Mel Brown, Feb. 2016 (KOIN)
Mel Brown, Feb. 2016 (KOIN)

Mel Brown is called The Godfather of Jazz. He was a longtime Motown drummer, touring with greats like the Temptations and Diana Ross and the Supremes.

Now his son Christopher is establishing his own reputation as one of the top jazz musicians in Portland, a town that’s filled with talent.

“We’re the best kept secret,” says Mel.  “We’ve got more jazz here than a lot of larger cities.”

Christopher says that is partly because of the many festivals that showcase Portland talent.

“I think the reputation of Portland as a great jazz town is generated by the success of the Portland jazz festival,” he says.

Christopher Brown, Feb. 2016 (KOIN)
Christopher Brown, Feb. 2016 (KOIN)

Both father and son will perform at this year’s festival, a homecoming of sorts.

Mel spent decades in airplanes and hotels before returning to Portland. Christopher was a Marine. He honed is craft in New York city and New Orleans, becoming friends with the Marsalis family. But his greatest influence is still his dad.

“My dad’s reputation is pretty expansive, and everyone loves him,” says Christopher. “That’s nice to hear — no one’s upset with me,” Mel chuckles.

Both say some of the best jazz musicians in the world call Portland home, keeping a truly American art form alive. But Mel says it’s often overlooked by people who live here.

“I try to tell them, enjoy what you have in your own backyard, because when it’s gone, then you’ll be crying the blues.”

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