Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Albino!, Greyboy Allstars, Bill Kreutzmann Trio: Portland, OR 2/13/-15-09

One weekend in Portland  Oregon reinforced the notion that there is nothing better than a communal vortex of celebrations. All at once we were lucky enough to celebrate Valentines Day, the 150th birthday of Oregon, and the reemergence and rebirth of Portland’s Jazz fest. Any one of these events would have been enough reason to celebrate, but when all were combined in a single weekend, the parade of musical talent that graced our city tapped an energy that transcended any one stage.

It all started with a Friday night triple header of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Trombone Shorty and The Pimps of Joytime, which was followed on Saturday with a Valentine’s night party hosted by Albino! This weekend was concluded with a Sunday soul stirring sermon by the two headed musical monster of The Greyboy Allstars and Bill Kreutzmann’s trio.


Friday night’s triple header show was part of the Portland Jazzfest lineup, which was almost canceled permanently this year. The community refused to give in, and the festival now keeps pushing on. Going into the evening I was most excited to see New Orleans’ brass protégé Trombone Shorty and his oh so funky ensemble.

I had the privilege of seeing them in New York City in December, and they tore the house down. And for this show they did not disappoint. This is an act that shouldn’t be missed. They are young, talented, hungry, and eager to impress. They had the crowd as excited and riled up, which was evident in moments of call and response led by Trombone Shorty himself. Trombone Shorty can fire up a crowd, and somehow in his 22 years he has established the stage presence of a chiseled veteran.   

Highlights from this show included a strong instrumental version of the classic “When the Saints Come Marching in” which was quite appropriate during the Mardi gras celebration. Another major highlight was the mid-set combo of an instrumental version of Al Green’s sensual anthem “Let’s Stay Together”, that was followed with Shorty’s own dance party “We Gonna Make you (Stomp Your Feet)” that lived up to the song’s stated goal. This show was the heat, and it delivered to the audiences’ high expectations.

The surprise of the night actually came from the opening band, the Pimps of Joytime. This band has only been playing together for 3 years, but they have something special brewing. They have a funky soulful sound that is straight out of the 70’s, but they combine that flavor with a Latin percussive rhythm, and even a little straight up rock and roll. I stumbled into this show with no expectations, and I left this show knowing this is a band that I am going to have to keep tabs on. For those living in N.Y., this is a band that you should check out now, because their future is surely bright.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band closed down the night, and held strong in the role of a show closer. They handled their own original tunes with energy and focus, and they took classic covers such as “Fiyo on the Bayo” and “Big Chief” with fire and flair all their own. With this much brass coming at you, the New Orleans classics seemed to come alive.

The D.D.B.B.  also brought a variety of guests on stage throughout the evening including Trombone Shorty, which was a collaborative feast for the eyes and ears. For the encore they played “Dirty Old Man”, and they lived up to the title, by bringing some of the younger women in the crowd on the stage to dance with shall we say some of the band’s more stately gentleman. All in all this was a hell of a night of some funky and soulful music.


Saturday night was Valentines Day and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the holiday of love and lust, than with the passionate tribal rhythms of Albino! at Portland’s favorite underground musical laboratory The Goodfoot. For those unfamiliar with Albino! imagine a funky and tribal rhythmic band, celebrating life in both song and sound, that carries 10 skilled members on stage, with most members covered in the antithesis of war paint, love paint.

Albino! easily can turn a room full of aimlessly meandering folks, into bouncing sweaty bodies that ungulate in all directions to their sweet and sexy sound. They packed the house this evening, and had us moving all night long. This groove driven band packs the stage with musical talent, and its instrumental and vocal charge is led by both the powerful vocals of lead singer Michael Bello who can command from the stage and Kim Agnew whose rhythmic dancing and drumming can be hypnotizing.

Songs weaved in and out of each other all night, and the intensity of the sound seemed to be continually growing till the last notes of the evening. Not only was this Valentine’s Day, but it was also the state of Oregon’s 150th birthday, and spirits were high, and parties were a-plenty throughout the city this evening. Love was in the air, and Albino! worked long and hard in making this night of passion an evening to remember.


Opening for the Greyboy Allstars, on another Jazzfest celebration was Bill Kreutzmann’s trio that also included musical standouts Oteil Burbridge and Scott Murawski. This trio played a variety of Dead covers, including standout versions of “Bertha”  and a “Help on the Way>Slipknot” combo that had the crowd roaring, but unfortunately they did not complete the “Franklin’s Tower” triumvirate, which was my only complaint on the evening.

The Greyboy Allstars did what they do best. They created a deep pocket of sound that was robust enough to hold the power of all these talented musicians together, and then they dared everyone in the venue to jump into that pocket to keep up with the groove. It was a dare that we all accepted, as the incessant bouncing floor of the Crystal Ballroom can attest to.

Opening up with a strong run through “Wynder K. Frog”, “Still Waiting”, and “Jack Rabbit”, it took little time to bring the already hyped crowd to a dancing frenzy. Midway through the set they really turned the funk dial all the way up with a hot combination of  “Cramp Your Style” and “Hot Pants Breakdown.” This was a one-two punch that featured some super hot jams led by both guitarist Elgin Park and keyboardist Robert Walters.

A Greyboy Allstars show seems to always run like clockwork. Regardless of your mindset you will; dance, even if you are lacking rhythm, you will be impressed with the tightness of the musicianship displayed, even if you are a skeptic, you will be moved by Karl Denson’s vocals and horn playing, and you will definitely leave with a huge satisfied grin every single time.

Portland Oregon may not be the biggest city in the nation, and our population may be dwarfed by some other urban behemoths, but after living here for 7 years I can easily say that what Portland lacks in size, we make up in heart, and for this three day weekend, we let our heart shine bright.


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