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Jax Restaurant & Bar - March 24, 2006
Marc Fendel

The jazz community is all a buzz over Portland's newest jazz venue, Jax Restaurant & Bar located on SW 2nd between Taylor & Yamhill across the street from the somewhat notorious H2O. Many Oregonians may remember it as the old O'Connor's Restaurant, which is now solely located in Multnomah Village.

Jax has three distinct spaces; a bar on one side and just across the hallway a dining area filled with bentwood chairs, wood tables and padded benches against the back wall on a carpeted floor. During the summer months, Jax opens its front garage-like glass doors to let the city life and the warm breezes in. Up on the rooftop is another area reserved for summer jam sessions, private parties and the like. "A place where everyone knows your name," seems a fitting description of this unpretentious and inviting venue.

On this particular Saturday evening, Seattle saxophonist, Marc Fendel, the son of beloved KMHD DJ and long-time JSO member, George Fendel, and graduate of the Berklee College of Music is performing many of his original compositions as well as some standards with his pick-up band, comprised of Dan Balmer on guitar, Willy Blair on bass and Brad Gibson on drums. Marc starts in, a mop of black curly hair swaying as he draws out the delicate and tasty melody of On Green Dolphin Street. He instantly reminds me of Miles Davis, laying well behind the beat and selecting only the sweet & necessary notes to enlighten us with. Although these guys are playing together for the first time, their union grooves. Dan Balmer shines with his unmistakable style that is both commanding yet tender, his harmonic choices float from some higher musical plane.

Marc has been playing professionally since 1988 and is in search of a "new sound." He plays and listens to all music styles saying, "I want to adapt the sax to all kinds of music." Currently he has two bands keeping him busy: Bebop & Destruction and his rock band, The Swampdwellers, who have been signed to a label and have recorded two CDs, one out and the other in the can. "I don't want to be pinned down to one type of music, I want to keep pushing the envelope," says Marc. Although, he states, it is hard to make a decent living in jazz, he loves it, and because of his dad, jazz is where his roots are.

Marc will be performing at the Old Church on Sunday March 25th beginning at 4pm with his regular band members of Bebop Destruction: Dan Heck, guitarist & electric bassist who writes many the original compositions on their four CDs, Geoff Harper acoustic & electric bass, and Jose Martinez on drums.

For Jax music performance schedule go to: http://www.jaxbar.com/events.php. Come on by for a drink or a meal and some great jazz -- Jax is located at 826 SW 2nd in downtown Portland. 503-228-9128.


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