Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) reconvenes the creative team for its acclaimed From Maxville to Vanport project to create a new song and talk about the unique towns of Maxville and Vanport in Oregon’s history. This event continues PJCE’s monthly PJCE Online series focused on new jazz music by and discussion with Portland-based artists. It is offered with sliding scale tickets as part of Vanport Mosaic’s annual Vanport Mosaic Festival. 

Online event information:

Vanport’s Siren Song | PJCE Online with Vanport Mosaic
Friday, May 28th, 2021, 7:00 pm PDT.
Information, registration and the online event at: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/siren
Tickets: Sliding Scale $0 to 25, (Suggested: $10 General Admission, $5 for those 65 or older and 35 or younger, free for PJCE Sustainers and anyone for whom the ticket price is a barrier.)

Lyricist S. Renee Mitchell, vocalist Marilyn Keller, and composer/pianist Ezra Weiss have collaborated to create a new song, “Vanport’s Siren Song,” as an addition to the From Maxville to Vanport suite, originally composed in 2018.

The new song adds more detail and emotional urgency to the suite, further depicting the impact of the 1948 flood that destroyed Vanport in a matter of hours, rendering nearly 20,000 residents homeless overnight. It was a terrible day for all Vanport residents, but the tragedy was compounded for Black Oregonians because they were actively excluded from living in Portland proper.

The “siren song” of the title was the promise of good jobs during the war, where Black Portlanders hoped to turn this opportunity into a long lasting livelihood. The song celebrates the creativity and resilience of these people who persisted in Portland by forming new communities despite the resistance of racist Portland leaders and residents, in addition to recounting the terror of the flood.

About the Artists

Marilyn T. Keller, 2016 Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame Inductee, is a 38-year veteran of music and stage performance in Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Pop, Blues, and theater, nationally and internationally. Her musical roots are diverse. Marilyn has built a career that has taken her as a feature artist to Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Russia and the UK for concerts, festivals, nightclubs and recording work. Her voice can be heard on multiple recordings, movie sound tracks, commercials and documentaries. Marilyn’s formative jazz training was as a member of the Mt. Hood Community College Vocal Jazz Ensemble and as the vocalist fronting the award-winning MHCC Jazz Lab Band. She can be seen frequently at clubs, restaurants, festivals and holiday events throughout the Pacific Northwest. She remains active, performing with Don Latarski, Darrell Grant, Tom Grant, Black Swan Classic Jazz Band, Pressure Point Band and the Augustana Jazz Quartet, among many others.

Renee Mitchell, a 2019-20 Spirit of Portland winner, is best described as a Creative Revolutionist™,  which includes being a published author, lyricist, playwright, spoken word poet, curriculum designer, multi-media ARTivist, and visionary behind I Am M.O.R.E. (Making Ourselves Resilient Everyday), a heART-focused, nationally ward-winning youth development initiative that supports youth of color to move from trauma to empowered resilience. Renee is also well-known for her years as a columnist for The Oregonian, where she was nominated twice for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and was voted the No. 1 newspaper columnist in five Western states. Now an expert on trauma-informed healing practices and culturally relevant social emotional learning, Renee will receive her Doctor of Education degree from the University of Oregon in June 2021. Motivated by intention and heart, Renee’s deepest desire is to help others use their creativity to let go, gather up and move on in order to find their voice, inner sources of healing and joy, and their own unique place in the world. Find out more at www.ReneeMitchellSpeaks.com

Composer/pianist Ezra Weiss is “a bold, inspired figure in the contemporary jazz arranging scene.” (DownBeat) He has released seven albums as a bandleader to international acclaim from press and radio. Additionally, Ezra composed the music for the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s From Maxville To Vanport and the big band arrangements for Derek Hines’ Long Journey Home, which led to the formation of the Ezra Weiss Big Band. Ezra currently leads his own big band and sextet, performing at major venues throughout the U.S., including several week-long engagements at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club. He further served as arranger for drumming legend Billy Hart, and co-led the Courtney Bryan/Ezra Weiss Jazz Orchestra in NYC. Ezra has won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award three times and has been listed in DownBeat Critics Polls. He holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and Queens College, and teaches at Portland State University. 

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create original jazz music that engages and supports our community’s diverse artists, cultures, and place. In operation since 2008, PJCE is the only organization dedicated to commissioning and performing original music by Portland musicians, building a broad audience through unique, collaborative, and community-oriented programming that builds bridges between communities in this vibrant city. http://pjce.org.

The Vanport Mosaic is a memory-activism platform. We amplify, honor, present, and preserve the silenced histories that surround us in order to understand our present, and create a future where we all belong. https://www.vanportmosaic.org/