Portland Jazz Fest Wows Students

By Brady Antonelli /// Opinion Editor

Before I even entered the auditorium, I knew the next few hours would be good ones. My first clue was when a middle-aged man barely within earshot told one of the ushers, “she’s the best jazz singer I’ve ever heard.” I don’t know about this man’s experience with jazz singers, but he seemed like a respectable fellow, so I got a little excited.

I’m not normally into female jazz singers. Not for any particular reason, but I just never heard a female jazz volcalist who could pull me in. However, I do have a fair amount of knowlede with jazz in general, from Miles Davis to Buddy Rich, mostly just the classic big-band swingers. Right off the bat, I knew this would be a bit out of my element.

In the hallway, there was LC’s very own jazz combo, Itz. The auditorium was at a low chatter. At 7:30, the lights dimmed, and the announcer strode out on stage to introduce the opening act: Trio Subtonic, featuring LC jazz guitar teacher Dan Balmer. He plays with precise intensity in a genre that is difficult to define. It has a certain element of controlled dissonance and some odd, experimental aspects that all culminate in a very impressive and tight performance.

Balmer wasn’t the only LC community member on stage. About twelve years after obtaining his BA in Music Composition at LC, Galen Clark rejoined us for a night on the keyboard with Trio Subtonic, and he killed it.

When I thought it couldn’t get any better, singer Cyrille Aimèe performed a nearly indescribable set. She grinned her way out on stage after being announced and immediately kicked things off.

She sings with such fluid melody that, as my date put it, “her voice makes me want to be a better person.” The crowd agreed, as they frantically applauded after every song, which included two standing ovations.

The setlist was absolutely intriguing. There were a few songs in French that were undoubtedly gorgeous despite the fact that I had no idea what the words meant. There was one song in particular that she wrote in English about her travels in India and how she had bought a one-way ticket there and traveled all over the country for a month. She also sang covers of songs by Billy Idol and Michael Jackson, played a duet with the bass player, and had a gypsy jazz vs. electric jazz guitar battle.

Ever since I saw the movie “Whiplash” (2014), I’ve dreamt of seeing a band as skilled as this perform the classic jazz song “Caravan,” like they do at the end of the movie. Not only is Aimeè an absolutely heart-melting singer, she is backed by a fantastic group of musicians who performed “Caravan” at a blazing double-time swing over 250 beats per minute as an encore. For those who aren’t familiar with jazz, that’s fast. Really fast.

Both Cyrille Aimeè and Trio Subtonic were an absolute pleasure to see; easily one of the best presentations of highly diverse talent I’ve ever experienced. Before I knew it, the night was over. It was a night full of (as cheesy as it sounds) a fulfilled dream and some of the best jazz music I’ve heard. Easily world-class.

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