Kerry Politzer leads a vibrant Portland jazz quintet…
Kerry Politzer – In a Heartbeat – PJCE Records #PJCE 051 – 57:06 – ****
(Kerry Politzer – piano; Thomas Barber – trumpet; Joe Manis – tenor & soprano sax, flute; Garrett Baxter – bass; George Colligan – drums)
I am a bit partial, (as I spend at least six months every year in Portland, Oregon), but I am firmly convinced that the Rose City now has an active year round jazz scene. Much of the renaissance is due to two reasons. One is the 1905 jazz club that is booking out of town jazz greats, many from New York City. The reason that Portland is now a major player on the West Coast is largely due to the fact that Portland State University jazz program is led by two major jazz artists, George Colligan and Darrell Grant.
Both George and Darrell have strong East Coast connections, and have spread the word about how much jazz is appreciated here. It has also helped immeasurably by Portland based jazz musicians, Nicole Glover, Charlie Porter, and many others relocating to the Big Apple. When they return for visits, they often bring nationally known artists for local gigs. We also have the privilege of having iconic bassist, Chuck Israels, retiring here .
Portland now has a home grown label, Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE), putting out creative jazz releases. Such is the case with pianist, Kerry Politzer’s new CD, In a Heartbeat. Kerry has had several releases over the last twenty years, and this is her second CD for PJCE. Her quintet is made up of Thomas Barber on trumpet, Joe Manis on saxes and flute, Garrett Baxter on bass, and Kerry’s husband, George Colligan, on drums.
Kerry wrote all ten tracks, and there is nice mix of eclectic straight ahead jazz. As with many musicians during the COVID pandemic, Kerry had the alone time to compose and explore the myriad of feelings an active artist had to face, over an extended period of time where turbulence reigned.
Coming out of this period with renewed hope, Politzer explores light and darkness with creative energy. Opening with “Bad News,” it has a theme that to me is both reflective, and hopeful at the same time. Thomas Barber’s solo is warm and encouraging. “Shaky Ground” features a firm horn blend that stands in contrast to the song’s title. Once again Thomas Barber shines, as do Joe Manis’ tenor choruses. “Spring Day” must have been based on an outdoor revelation for Kerry after a COVID winter here in the wet Northwest.
The title track, a ballad, is sublime with Joe Manis’ soprano sax leading the way with an inquisitive feel, and a warming sweetness. Kerry’s solo swings with passion. “3 A.M.” shows the anxiety that we all faced during the pandemic. There is a sense of unease that builds up throughout the track.
“Marble Maze” is an expression of Politzer’s love of Brazilian music. Joe Manis’ flute leads the way, and Colligan’s drums propel the groove.
Kerry closes with a tribute to her aunt, Arline, titled, “Goodbye”. There is a tender photo in the inner CD cover, of the two of them when Kerry wasn’t much more than a toddler. Both Thomas Barber and bassist, Garrett Baxter have solos that add to the mood.
This winning release will hit the streets in late October. Let’s hope it gets national airplay. There are good jazz things happening in Portland. We’re now on the jazz map, and this CD is full evidence of this fact.
In a Heartbeat
Lullaby for Messiaen
More information available through Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: