Riding The Jazz Train


August 31, 2010 by David Gillaspie

(inspired by http://www.outerrimbicycles.com/jazz/ and http://oconnorsportland.com/)

Paul Mazzio

My suburban downtown wears the scars of mid-makeover.  The streets widen, parking lots shrink.  The liquor store has seen the most improvement.  It has a water feature out front with big important ‘feature sign’ lettering overhead spelling out LIQUOR STORE. 

The priorities are set. 

If every development needs an anchor, a base, then the liquor store looks like the prime candidate.  It’ll get people downtown, I guess, but then what?

The gallery model might work.  Art exhibits give people a reason to linger.  A gallery next to the glass shop with another next to the hardware store would go well with wine and cheese and glass and hardware.

New ownership of a bar near the light-rail stop changed the name from Manilla Express to Tigardville Station.  I heard a nice band play country the right way. 

Music is the best lure to get people out of their house.  My downtown needs more music, so does yours, but where and what kind? 

Glad you asked.

When you go to a village you expect certain things.  Maybe a village blacksmith?  A village idiot?  In a village it’s all there.  Who would expect a village tavern full of nineteen year old jazz geeks blowing the roof off?  It opened my eyes, and more important, my ears.

I fell into a send-off jam where the alto-sax is headed back to New York today.  Last night he fired up Multnomah Village with the sort of lines you could run all the way to Kansas City and back.  From the saxophones to the trumpet, to guitar, drums, and stand-up base, the band hit their marks and played through.

The sweetness of the moment was seeing the parents in the crowd video taping the jam.  They’ve heard their kids play from the first squawk on a woodwind to seeing them in front of a village crowd.  It looked like a high school wrestling match audience, and some of the musicians were about as fired up.

If those boys are the future of music in America, then we can all rest easy.  They’ll eventually drill the standards and write new music for kids to play when they get old.

But something was missing.  A crosstown trip from southwest to northeast showed what was missing.

A singer, a jazz singer.

The full parking lot outside The Outer Rim Bike shop pushed me to the curb.  Inside the shop the bikes were racked in place of tables and chairs.  The band was playing against the far wall.

Saxophones, trumpets, trombone, drums, stand-up bass, and keyboard filled up the room.  Charlie Parker’s Confirmation wired the crowd.  The players looked a generation beyond the vintage of the video taping parents of O’Connor’s nineteen year old jazzmen. 

The years proved important.

Kids have fears, some real, some not.  I felt a fear going into the Outer Rim.  What spooked me was the singer on stage.  She held the floor, led the band, bailed out solos with impromptu introductions when the well-mannered musicians wouldn’t step on a lead.  This was a woman made for the big rooms of Vegas playing a bike shop with world-class musicians.

To say she was scary-good is a disservice to jazz.  She was a big couch to lounge on, a day bed to lean on.  The moves and gestures she played to the room found an astute audience.  From their response you’d have to think they’d seen Sarah Vaughan at the Hollywood Bowl.  Or Diana Krall. 

When the band played Nora Jones’ Don’t Know Why, the Outer Rim Bike Shop became the Hollywood Bowl.  The singer let it bleed through her.  In a fluke of person, place, and song, the bike shop on NE 106th and Halsey turned into jazz central.  Every musician within a hundred miles should have been there to hear Don’t Know Why.

The singer channeled her song from its roots to the stars, covering time and space the way you hope a song will do, but hardly ever does.  Most of the time you find such a song in front of white-tie orchestra in a downtown music hall full of dapper couples giving a polite round of applause. 

I found it in a bike shop full of a horn section trading eights and fours and twos and then blowing the doors off their hinges.  Tower of Power would have loved it.  The Memphis Horns could have played back-up to these guys. 

Most surprising I found a vibe among the Fuji road bikes and BMX jumpers that spun the night a whole new direction.  From nineteen year old jazz kings to masters playing behind a chanteuse vamping the stage like she was born there, jazz came alive.  The old-guard played like every song was new and did CPR on a street that was down for the night. 

Migration Brewing Co. made sure no one was dehydrated.

The good news is it all happens again next month.

From oregonlive.com, July 23rd:

“Musicians featured include Paul Mazzio on Trumpet, Lee Wuthenow on tenor sax, Stan Bock on trombone, John Nastos on alto sax, Scott Steed on bass, Dan Gaynor on piano and Duncan Branom on drums. From Japan, Hikaro Okada will be performing on piano. To add to the fabulous lineup, vocalists Nancy King and Mary Kadderely will entertain bicycling and non-bicycling jazz aficionados. George Fendel of KMHD will be the host and emcee. Where else but in Portland could you enjoy the likes of these in a bicycle shop?” 

Where but the Outer Rim Bike Shop will you be the next time the jazz train pulls into town?


2 thoughts on “Riding The Jazz Train

  1. Dan Waits says:

    Finally someone with an audience noticed the incredible community service of the Outer Rim and these musicians! Thanks for the article. One additional point, there is no cover charge to get in.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Hi Dan,

      It feels like a labor of love that gives back as well as it gets. Be sure and waunder around while you’re at DG’s B&B.

      Be a subscriber,


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