oregon-stories green logoThe Oregon Stories Project is a program of three new radio documentary pieces with original music produced for broadcast on public radio and for live performance throughout Oregon featuring the stories of three exceptional Oregonians who achieved great things despite coming from minority communities.

We’ll share the stories about DeNorval Unthank, a Portland African-American physician and civil rights leader as told by his daughter Lesley Unthank; George Akiyama, a Hood River resident threatened with violence after serving in WWII – and a fellow citizen who stepped forward to support him as told by historian Linda Tamura; and Captain Deborah Dempsey, the first woman river pilot to guide ocean-going vessels over the Columbia River Bar, telling her own story.

Jessica Rand, KMHD Jazz Radio host and producer, will produce three interview-based audio stories by interviewing our subjects. Then, three prominent Oregon jazz composers will score the stories with original music—Mark Orton, a renowned film composer and guitarist; Darrell Grant, Professor of Music at PSU and celebrated pianist; and PJCE Executive Director Douglas Detrick, an award-winning composer and trumpeter—for broadcast on public radio and live performance in Hood River, Astoria, and Portland.

The Artistic Team

The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, a performing ensemble, is a 12-member jazz chamber orchestra dedicated to the performance of new works by Portland and Oregon-based composers. It’s exclusive commitment to new music, its unique instrumentation and its conductor less performances (since 2014) set it apart from traditional big bands and small jazz groups in Oregon. These qualities, combined with the record label and community roundtables, makes it an organization unlike any other in the state and beyond.

The Ensemble is directed by Douglas Detrick, the PJCE’s Executive and Artistic Director since 2013 and a composer and trumpeter with a broad range of experience in ensemble direction from his award-winning chamber-jazz quintet AnyWhen Ensemble to the Eugene Jazz Composers Orchestra. He was awarded Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works and Presenting Jazz grants, and the resulting 10-movement suite “The Bright and Rushing World” was performed throughout the United States, including the Jazz Gallery in New York, The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and Constellation Chicago. He is also a 2015 RACC Individual Project grantee for his “Boldy Launched Upon the Deep” project featuring Chicago violinist, singer, songwriter and writer Ellen McSweeney.

Darrell Grant has built an international reputation as a stellar pianist, skilled composer and committed educator. Since being introduced to international audiences in 1988 as the pianist in vocalist Betty Carter’s trio, Grant has performed with jazz luminaries including Frank Morgan, Sonny Fortune, Roy Haynes, and a host of others. As a composer he has written commissions for the Portland Jazz Festival, and for Reed College Black History Month among others.  Grant is the recipient of a 2012 Chamber Music America Jazz New Work Grant and a 2015 RACC Project Grant.  

A professor of Music at Portland State University since 1997, Darrell is the founding Director of the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute, an independent Institute housed within PSU’s College of the Arts with a mission to preserve and promote the art form, cultural heritage, and social history of jazz music in the Northwest through education, outreach, and historical documentation.” Grant was inducted into the Jazz Society of Oregon Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2011, he was the first recipient of the Kamelia Massih Outstanding Faculty Prize in the Arts from Portland State University.

After attending The Hartt School of Music and The Peabody Conservatory school, composer Mark Orton relocated to San Francisco with the other members of the newly formed Tin Hat Trio, a composer collective that has gone on to produce seven critically acclaimed albums. The group has also afforded Mark the opportunity to work as an arranger and producer with some iconic singers including Tom Waits, Mike Patton, Madeline Peyroux, and Willie Nelson.

Outside of Tin Hat, Orton is active as an award winning film composer. A recipient of a Sundance composer fellowship he was nominated Best New Composer by The International Film Music Critics Association. He has written scores for and contributed music to films including The Good Girl (dir. Miguel Arteta), The Real Dirt on Farmer John (dir. Taggart Seigel), and Sweet Land (dir. Ali Selim).

Orton is both a multi-instrumentalist (performing on all manner of strings, keyboards, and percussion) and a collector of unusual and antique instruments, which are often employed in his scores. He has written extensively for modern dance, the circus and the concert hall – collaborations include: Pilobolus, Donald Byrd/Spectrum Dance, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Big Man Arts, Do Jump, The Pickle Family Circus, Project Bandaloop, Magik Magik Orchestra, and Le 7 Doigts de la Main.

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