Armstrong and Portland


As board president of PDX Jazz, I have been busy of late in preparation for the Feb. 16 – 26 PDX Jazz Festival…Great lineup this year, including Maria Schneider, John Scofield, Jimmy Heath, Roy Ayers, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling and countless others.  To keep up on the events of the Festival, check out Doug Ramsey’s blog Rifftides.

Portland has a long history of presenting jazz.  In Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942 – 1957, author Bob Dietsche reports on the neighborhoods where jazz thrived, the clubs, the local artists, and of course the national artists who came to town.  This mid-1950’s poster announcing the performance of Louis Armstrong and the Esquire All Stars is an example of some of the history Dietsche writes about.  The Jantzen Beach venue this show was performed in, Dietsche writes, “did not sit well with certain civil rights advocates, who objected to the segregated policy there.”

According to Dietsche, “Some say Armstrong played Portland so often because he was crazy about the food at Myrtle Barno’s gumbo restaurant on NE Broadway, or maybe it was the scrumptious sweet potatoes and barbeque at Nance’s.”   Dietsche also writes that when visiting Portland Armstrong “would stay with his close friend Monte Ballou of the Castle Jazz Band, whose attic at one time was filled with rare Armstrong memorabilia.  It was Monte Ballou who discovered two of Armstrong’s recordings thought to be lost, ‘Lulu’s Ball’ and ‘Workingman’s Stomp,’ records he found in the bottom of a barrel in a junk shop.”



Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942 – 1957,

by Bob Dietsche