Jazz Fest Silenced

A Portland, Ore., entertainment staple for the last five years will not take place next year unless a substantial funding windfall shows up to save it.

Organizers for the Portland Jazz Festival posted a statement on its Web site that said lack of funds and sponsors have killed the event’s future.

“Operations and planning for the 2009 February event could not continue because of a decline in funding and sponsorship support. New sponsors could not be found and other shortfalls accumulated, making it impossible to survive on ticket sale projections and related forms of earned revenue,” the statement said.

“Even with the anticipation of the ’09 festival dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records, recent attempts to develop support throughout the community were not successful.”

Organizers were hopeful they could continue operations because this year’s jazz fest, headlined by saxophonist Ornette Coleman and pianist Cecil Taylor, reportedly attracted about 36,000 fans to 150 events over 10 days.

However, artistic director Bill Royston told the Oregonian that the loss of title sponsor Qwest in April, which usually contributed $50,000, and other sponsors cutting back because of the economy put the festival budget about $100,000 in the hole.

“Jazz in this market has always been a hard sell,” Royston told the paper. “We haven’t been able to generate any new revenue.”

Staff changes, including the departure of managing director Rachel Trice in February, also affected operations. Festival board members voted to discontinue the event instead of scaling it down or skipping a year.

“If we decided to reduce it to four or five ticketed shows, that’s not a festival, that’s a series of concerts,” Royston said.
Coleman, Taylor, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Dianne Reeves, McCoy Tyner, Ravi Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Pat Metheny are just some of the national and international artists who have been featured at the Portland Jazz Fest over the years.

Royston was not available for comment at press time.