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Passion, Jazz, and Edna Vazquez

Passion, Jazz, and Edna Vazquez

Guest blogger Douglas Detrick, Executive Director of Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE), shares his thoughts on jazz and working with the wonderful Edna Vazquez. PJCE and Ms. Vazquez will be performing live in the CCA Theatre on February 17 at 7pm. Tickets available here.

Passion, Jazz, and Edna Vazquez

When I was planning Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble’s 10th Anniversary Season, I knew I wanted to work with Edna Vazquez because the passion she brings to her music is astounding. As a jazz ensemble, we look for a collaborative partner whose music stands on its own, but is flexible enough to give us room to put our stamp on the music. Edna’s music does this, and so much more.

In an interview on our podcast, Edna Vazquez said that jazz and mariachi are from “two different universes, two different dimensions,” but at the same time they’re “not so different after all.” In mariachi music and jazz, strong melodies, bold rhythms, and the unpredictability of improvisation are common values. There are many differences too, of course, but our concerts with this unique singer-songwriter will show how two different universes can come together beautifully, if guided by sympathetic hands.

Edna Vazquez is a Mexican American singer songwriter who lives in Portland, Oregon. She was born in the state of Colima, began writing her own songs at 17, then moved to Portland over 20 years ago, in order to build a new life for herself as a gay woman and a mariachi musician. She talks about finding not just a place to live in Portland, but a welcoming community. Undertaking such a journey is nothing if not courageous, and to me, this is the defining feature of Edna’s music. Hear that courage on her latest album, Sola Soy.

Though Edna’s roots are in mariachi, her music doesn’t sound traditional. Rather, it is wide ranging in it’s influences, including jazz, rock, and other latin music styles ranging from cumbia to salsa. Most of her songs are in Spanish, but even for those who don’t speak the language, her performance comes across without translation. She generally introduces her songs in English, but even without that, you’ll be able to understand the songs, even if you don’t understand the words.

The five arrangers we’ve chosen for this concert, Kathleen Hollingsworth, William Seiji Marsh, Alex Koehler, Lars Campbell and myself, have each realized Edna’s songs for the ensemble, with each presenting the song in a new way. You’re going to hear one of the region’s most dynamic and energetic performers with Oregon’s most daring jazz ensemble, playing music that’s both familiar and unexpected. Don’t miss it!

PJCE and Ms. Vazquez will be performing live in the CCA Theatre on February 17 at 7pm. Tickets available here.

This event is sponsored by the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Salvador Fund.