PJCE kicks off the 2019-2020 mainstage season, fusing its eight-piece horn section with the iconic Portland band Blue Cranes for a collaborative concert featuring new arrangements by Reed Wallsmith, Joe Cunningham, Todd Sickafoose, Kyleen King, and Quinn Walker (who is an alumnus of PJCE’s Grasshoppers Young Composers mentorship program) of Blue Cranes compositions. Blue Cranes will both play on their own and with the PJCE Horns in five original arrangements for two sets at the Holocene (1001 SE Morrison) on Thursday, November 21 at 8pm. Tickets and information at pjce.org/event/cranes.

Among Portland jazz bands, none has a greater sense of itself than Blue Cranes. Where most jazz bands rely on shifting groupings of players, Blue Cranes have forged an ensemble sound, emphasizing the collective over the individual. Their Venn diagram of influences includes indie rock, free improvisation, and jazz, putting at its center “Rich melodies and dynamic interplay,” as the Los Angeles Times put it. Their tight-knit synergistic approach, dramatic musical vision, and compositional originality make them a perfect companion for PJCE, a rapidly growing organization committed to building an inclusive, creative, and verdant present and future around jazz in Portland. 

Concert details:

Thursday, November 21 | 8 pm concert, 7 pm doors.
Holocene  | 1001 SE Morrison St, Portland, OR 97214 | (503) 239-7639
Tickets on sale at pjce.org/event/cranes
Advanced tickets: $25 seated, $20 Senior seated, $10 Standing, $5 Arts for All.
Day of Show tickets: $30 seated, $25 Senior seated, $15 Standing, $5 Arts for All.

About the Collaborators  

Since their formation in 2007, Blue Cranes have become a key player in the Portland, Oregon creative music/DIY scene and one of the most exciting groups to keep tabs on in the Northwest. They’ve developed a singular musical voice grounded in melody and explosive improvisations–marking off their unique microcosmic territory in post-jazz circles. The members of the quintet–Reed Wallsmith on alto saxophone, Joe Cunningham on tenor saxophone, Rebecca Sanborn on keyboards, Jon Shaw on bass, and Ji Tanzer on drums–bring a unique array of experiences to their group-centered aesthetic, including work with AU, The Decemberists, Laura Veirs, Golden Retriever, Wayne Horvitz, Like A Villain, Rebecca Gates, Laura Gibson, Ethan Rose, Dirty Revival, Loch Lomond, and Portland Cello Project.

Blue Cranes’ latest full-length album, Swim (on the Washington, D.C.-based Cuneiform Records), is a departure from their previous, in some ways simpler, releases. Steered dutifully by producer Nate Query of The Decemberists, it is a window into the sometimes messy emotional space of a group struggling with and celebrating the ephemeralness of life. This work is the culmination of several between-album projects, including a 30-day crowd-sourced Amtrak train tour, and a seven day group composition retreat, supported in part by a grant from Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council. However, the heart of Swim lies in indelibly profound life events–the passing away of two dear friends, a serious injury, two weddings, and the birth of a child–events at tragic and uplifting extremes, both cathartic and celebratory.

In 2020, Blue Cranes will release an album several years in the making of composition collaborations with Portland vocalists, including Edna Vazquez, Holland Andrews, Laura Gibson, Peter Broderick, Laura Veirs, Redray Frazier, Luz Elena Mendoza, Gavin Castleton, and Annalisa Tornfelt.  The band will also be recording their sixth full-length album of new instrumental compositions for quintet.

Portland Jazz Composers’ Ensemble is a 12-piece jazz ensemble that commissions and performs original works by its members and other jazz composers in Portland and beyond. It is PJCE’s mission to act as a forum for the development and presentation of works for large ensemble by established and emerging jazz composers and to engage and enrich community awareness and appreciation of contemporary music. It also runs the Grasshoppers Young Composers mentorship program, PJCE Records, and the PJCE Records Presents concerts on 1st Sundays at The 1905.