Written by peeohgee on February 27, 2020
This week we’re celebrating black history month by exploring some of -the great music made by black Portlanders.
You probably know that Albina has long been an important part of the national Jazz Scene; that before I-5 was routed through N Williams avenue and most of the clubs were bulldozed folks like Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Duke Ellington could be regularly encountered on the sidewalks out front of the Savoy, Lil Sandy’s, Acme Club, and the Dude Ranch.
We’ll hear from some of the musicians who were part of that scene as well as many contemporary Portlanders–both full-interval and welcome additions–but first today is also John T Williams Day.
John T Williams was a seventh generation Nuu-chah-nulth wood carver who was murdered by the Seattle Police department in the person of one officer Ian Birk back in August of 2010.
No crime had been committed John was just crossing the street and while he had a small pocket knife for carving it was folded close. Officer Birk chose to approach John, chose to escalate a non-situation into a deadly one when he shouted a demand for compliance at John–who was partially deaf–waited less than five seconds and then shot John four times in the side as he was turning.
It was murder and the shooting was correctly ruled unjustified. John T Williams should have turned sixty years old today.
To mark the occasion I’m honored to be able to play you a new track off the forthcoming Spider Moccasin album, Return to the City of Rust. It’s a song written about the shooting of John T Williams and features additional vocals by Megan Moles and piano by James Sartor of Lofty.
Then we’ll hear two tracks featuring beloved Portland artist and King of Sludge, David Parks, who is the percussionist for both brass-house-buskers turned-international-phenoms Too Many Zooz and Portland experimental outfit Hitting Birth. First we’ll hear a track titled King is Queen off the album Hits of Birth which was recorded in 1990 @ Smegma Studios and produced by local legend Mike Lastra who also produced the very first track we heard today by Spider Moccasin. Spider and David are part of the same Satyricon centered scene so it seems fitting to place their songs together.
After hitting birth we’ll hear Zombie Party off the recent Too Many Zooz concept album Zombie.P which precedes a great track called Jupiter & Neptune by Jonny Cool and we’ll finish our first block of music with a chill song called Hot by The Last Artful, Dodgr.
Sadly our next artist is no longer with us but we’re blessed to still have these recordings from the late Janice Scroggins. Local Poet Emmet Wheatfall recently came by the KPSU offices where he shared gifts of spoken word and poetry as well as some wonderful personal remembrances he had of recording with Janice. So gone but not forgotten. Here we hear her playing a grammy-nominated Scott Joplin piece called The Cascades.
Next we’re treated to a song from one of the leading lights of Portland’s modern jazz era–the incredibly talented Esperanza Spalding–on a track called City of Roses which you may remember from 2012 when it won her a grammy.
Following Esperanza we’ll hear from Leroy Vinnegar and his walking bass. Leroy played with the greats because he was one. He held his own with folks like Pepper Adams, Stan Getz, Chet Baker and so many more. The track I’ve selected for this list is one called Damn Somebody Stole My Pants!
After Leroy we’re treated to the unique sounds of Caleb & The Monsters on a track called Golden Dandelions featuring Nefertiti Porter alongside Caleb Alejandro. They’ll be playing at Ringler’s Annex March 22nd and if you’re able you should definitely check them out!
In the last block of songs we’ll hear from recent addition and Raised By The Internet founder Jelani Aryeh on a song called Decide. Then Chanti Darling will take us to another timeline–where the hot pink never faded and everyone’s aura looks like it was painted by Lisa Frank–on a track called Boogie.503.
Lifesavas emcee Vursatyl does his thing with help from Dion on a track called Super and we finish our hour together with hip-hop pioneer and lifelong Portlander Cool Nutz as he teams up with Bosko Kante, Drae Steves, and Maniac Lok on a joint called 503.
I hope you enjoyed today’s selections as much as I did. Until next time,