Free concert by Portland ‘jazz genius’ Esperanza Spalding celebrates East Portland today


Jarrell Hosley, the organizer of the free Sunday concert at Ventura Park in Southeast Portlandlights up when we talk about headliner Esperanza Spalding, a five-time Grammy-winning artist who shared recording studios or stages with Prince, Stevie Wonder and the best jazz performers in the world.

“Esperanza and I were born and raised here, and we understand East Portland,” said Hosley, supervisor of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Summer free for all program, which launches the East Portland Summer Arts Festival July 9-10.

The free weekend event, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Ventura Park, 460 SE 113th Ave.also offers hands-on, family-friendly arts and music activities.

The theme of East Portland’s first festival is music and expression, said Hosley, who hopes the event that brings the community together to celebrate arts, culture and hometown pride east of the Willamette River will become an annual summer tradition.

The concert begins at 6 p.m. Sunday with Spalding scheduled to appear after performances by Family Fun Drum, Manifest Dance Agency PDX and Hip Hop Soulsation Academy.

The two-day festival, which is part of the Free-for-all summer program of free cultural events across Portland, is the East Side’s version of the long-running Washington Park Summer Festivalwhich began in 1949 at the Rose garden amphitheater in southwest Portland. The outdoor concert series took place in various forms for decades until funding forced him to come and go.

This year Washington Park Summer Festival will take place from August 5 to 7 with Flamenco Space, Albina Music Trust Jazz reinvented and dramatic soprano Angela Brown in Verdi’s opera “Aida”.

Spalding has performed at the Portland Jazz Festival in the past. This time, however, she flew in from North Carolina after a concert Saturday to take the stage Sunday at Ventura Park.

The Portland jazz prodigy and “the genius of jazz” plays instruments that include bass and piano as well as her voice and the poetic lyrics she wrote in English, Spanish and Portuguese. His compositions are judicious fusions of classical, jazz, South American folk and world music.

She grew up in a multilingual and multi-ethnic household. Her mother is of Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American descent, and her father is African American.

Through her talent, her tools and her disciplines, she wishes to “transmit care and beauty through vibration/sound/presence”, according to her. Songwriters Apothecary Lab website.

Born in Portland in 1984, she learned to play the violin after seeing cellist Yo-Yo Ma in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” From age 5 to 15, she played with the Oregon Chamber Music Society.

She left high school at 16, but quickly obtained a bachelor’s degree in music at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she was hired, at the age of 20, to teach. Since 2017, she is professor of music at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Norah Jones and Spalding lead the 2022 Newport Jazz Festival lineup at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island July 29-31.

The East Portland Summer Arts Festival open saturday with Aaron Nigel Smitha Grammy-nominated Portland-based musician who performs with One World Choirthe non-profit organization he founded to give underserved youth access to quality arts education.

Earlier Saturday afternoon in the Big Up Music Show area, Bob Marley and the Wailers “Buffalo Soldier” played while Nigel Smith encouraged children to film their original sketch or music to promote peace and other positive values. He will be at the festival on Sunday.

Also on stage Saturday was performance artist sora shodowho paints inspired by live music.

Most of the audience sprawled out on the grass in front of the stage, but Portland’s Timothy L. McNair had a clear view of the performers from the street where he parked his modified red 1995 Cadillac Eldorado. He opened the two Lamborghini-inspired pocket doors and sat down in one of the leather front seats.

Portland’s Timothy L. McNair had a great view of the stage on July 9 from his modified, fire-red 1995 Cadillac Eldorado with Lamborghini-inspired pocket doors.Janet Eastman / The Oregonian

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, at Community Music Center stand, the children took a violin, a ukulele or a drum set to join a group of musicians, and the Multnomah Arts Center had long tables filled with supplies for people to create art.

There was also a board with information about Portland Street Responsea program within Portland Fire & Rescue that sends mental health workers instead of police to most low-level mental health crisis calls.

Activities, including Nigel Smith’s Family Fun Drumming, continue on Sunday.

Check out the list of Portland Parks events at

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman


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