Jax Bar & Restaurant - March 30, 2006
Grant Richards Quartet
What a way to spend your birthday. I had started the evening with plans to attend a concert at the Aladdin, but due to an untimely illness, the concert had cancelled and my friend and I found ourselves with extra time and no music. This was very fortuitous, because it took us to Jax in downtown Portland, quickly becoming one of Portland's jazz hot spots. This evening the 15-year old phenom, Grant Richards (http://www.grantrichardsjazz.com) was aboard the piano and is he ever smokin'!
Grant, a Cleveland High student, along with fellow student and fine guitarist, Charlie Stanford, head a dynamic, young quartet, accompanied by bassist Patrick Harry (student at MHCC) and drummer TJ Hainley (Univ. of Portland student). These four cats flat out wail and the smallish, but thoroughly tuned in crowd at Jax was most appreciative.
Charlie Stanford kicked off What Is This Thing Called Love with a solid solo, firing up Richards to burn off a solo of his own, then back to Stanford (this would be the pattern often throughout the night), each player pushing the other to greater heights. TJ's constant smile seemed to say it all as his brushwork was first rate. Patrick would have a more active role in tunes to come, but all of these guys were playing beyond their years. It was pure pleasure to experience.
Piano and bass opened the second piece, Frank Loesser's If I Were A Bell, with strength and confidence--I had to keep looking over the top of the upright piano to assure myself that there was a 15-year old kid back there . . . sounded like ages of experience older. Grant shows great leadership skills and the guys eagerly follow his lead. Exhibiting a stellar knowledge of the genre, the group followed with Wayne Shorter's United, the show-offs. Charlie took the early lead and then Grant came in, playing all around the melody as if filling in all the area around the picture in the coloring book, but not the picture itself. Marvelous. Next, was a beautiful rendition of the Brazilian tune, Meditation, with Grant leaving the melody line for a visit to improv-land and only coming back to it at the very end of the tune. The final number was a medley, Naima/Footprints that starts slow with guitar and piano carrying the early load and bass and drums picking it up with the change to Footprints. An excellent drum solo by young Mr. Hainley, featured lots of pedal work and toms. What a great way to end a set. Don't miss these guys when they come to your neighborhood (or anywhere else in the Greater Portland area).
To accommodate musicians this young, Jax has a great performance area, located across the hallway from the bar so that all ages can attend. It's standard tables and chairs, but has an open feel, with windows all across two sides. The menu is very pleasant, prices most reasonable, and the service is great. Jax offers jazz on a no cover basis many nights of the week http://www.jaxbar.com/events.php -- check their website for upcoming events. Located in the old Yamhill Marketplace building on 2nd Street, Jax Bar & Restaurant can help make your evening a true pleasure.