Pictures tagged Bill Athens:

December 31, 2009

2009 in Photos

2009 was a year full of great musical experiences for me.  In this post, I’m going to use photos to outline some of the most fun gigs I had the pleasure of playing.  This certainly isn’t all of the gigs that I played, but it’s a good selection of ones that had photo documentation. Thanks so much to all of the great musicians I got to play with this year.  More photos can be found at the Past Gigs page.

After having a December 2008 gig canceled due to the snowpocolypse, Commotion picked up a January 2009 gig, which was one of the first shows I played in the new year.  Great band, comprised of some of Portland’s younger musicians, including Ben Darwish, Chris Mosley (who has since left Portland for Austin, unfortunately), Damian Erskine, Russ Kleiner, and Chaz Hastings (also gone from Portland now).

In February, I got the chance to record an episode of the local podcast “Strange Love Live.”  The show features interviews with people involved in the local technology scene.  At the time, I was on the show to talk about a couple of websites that I was working on at the time, as well as to play a few tunes with Clay Giberson.  Later on in the year, Clay and I would get to go back on the show (which has grown tremendously in just a few months) to record an episode featuring Duo Chronicles.

In April, I got a call to come play in the pit orchestra for the touring version of Ratpack the musical.  Unlike a normal “pit” orchestra, though, we were on stage on giant translucent risers.

It was a great experience to be part of a show like that, with a great band of Portland musicians (including Tim Jensen, Pete Boule, Dick Titterington, Clay Giberson, Matt Carr, and more) joining the small contingent of touring musicians that traveled with the show.  One of the most entertaining parts to me was that the vast majority of the cast and crew was British, so even though the guys would be doing Frank and Dean impersonations on stage with perfect American accents, as soon as they got off, they dropped back into their Brit accents.

Portland Center Stage was my home away from home in May and June.  After having subbed in the orchestra pit a couple of times during their production of Guys and Dolls, I was asked to play the full run of their Spring musical, Grey Gardens.  We played a pretty unique score eight times a week including such classics as “Jerry Likes My Corn.”  Yeah, that song was as weird as the title makes it sound.  In a big change from Ratpack, where we were on the stage with the performers, Portland Center Stage puts the orchestra backstage where we watch on monitors and pipe the music in to the house from mics on all of us.  A very comfortable way to work.

In July, Drew Shoals put together the Drew Shoals Collective for one last show before he headed off to law school in Pennsylvania.  Always a pleasure to play with these guys (Drew, Ben Darwish, and Damian Erskine).  You can hear us on Drew’s 2008 Diatic Records release “The Greatest Haven’t Been Born Yet”

When the annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival rolled around again, I got the chance to play with Dan Schulte’s sextet.  This was a really fun incarnation of the band, including George Mitchell on piano, Dan on bass, Christopher Woitach on guitar, Tim Willcox on tenor, John Moak on trombone, and Todd Strait on drums.  We got to finish off the set with a song of mine that I wrote for the event called “Xyphoid Process”


Later on in July, Darrell Grant’s new group “On the Territory” played it’s first gig, in Coos Bay, Oregon.  The project incorporates a wide range of music (everything from Keith Jarrett to the Neville Brothers) and ties it all into a sense of place and community.

This initial gig was an amazing experience.  After driving to the gig with Darrell, where we spent the whole trip talking about music, life, philosophy, and just about everything in between, we arrived to the venue – a great restaurant and catering company called Black Gourmet.  Our host, Chef Jardin, was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and possibly the nicest venue owner the music business has ever seen.  The band (Cameron Morgan on guitar, Sam Howard on bass, Ji Tanzer on drums, Jessyka Luzzi on vocals, and Darrell on keyboards) played for an enthusiastic crowd and then was hosted overnight by local families.

In August, I was fortunate enough to get a call to sub for Renato Caranto at Kevin Deitz’s CD release party at Jimmy Mak’s.  The band (George Mitchell on piano, Mike Horsfall on vibes, Kevin on bass, Gary Hobbs on drums, and Paul Mazzio on trumpet) played a couple sets of Kevin’s original material – everything ranging from straight-ahead swinging jazz to 80’s jazz/pop.

That same week, I got a frantic phone call from Louis Pain at 8 PM (downbeat time for the gig) on Thursday night, explaining that there had been a mis-communication and Mel Brown’s B3 organ band needed a sub for Renato.  I raced downtown and was promptly stumped by the impossible parking scene in NW Portland on First Thursday.  After finally finding parking almost a mile away, I got to the gig, but the guys weren’t playing.  Apparently, Dan Balmer’s guitar was having some sort of equipment problems.  Eventually, we got everything sorted out and played a couple hours of music.  Lots of stress on this gig (getting the call when the gig should have already started, not being able to park, and – my personal favorite – having Louis teach me the bridge to “My Girl” during the set break by singing it to me), but also lots of fun.

Art Abram’s Swing Machine got to play at this year’s Washington Park concert series in the Rose Garden.  Art’s band has improved so much over the last year and a half, due to some personnel changes and musical choices.  It’s truly a pleasure to play with the group – especially our killer sax section with Mary Sue Tobin, Dave Evans (Jeff Homan was subbing on this gig), Allan Mair, and Pete Boule.  In fact, I’ll be closing out the year with them for New Year’s Eve.

Speaking of Art’s band, we performed this year at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival with special guest Bobby Shew on trumpet and flugelhorn.  It was a wonderful show and a pleasure to share the stage with him and play his music.

I also played with Garry Hobb’s Stan Kenton Tribute Band, featuring Carl Saunders and Scott Whitfield.  This was a fun concert, with an especially interesting sax section including Clark Bondy, Tim Jensen, Kirt Peterson and Steve Owen.

I spent quite a few evenings on stage with Bobby Torres this year, both in his small group and his large ensemble.  This particular photo is from a concert we did for the Music on Main Street series next door to the Schnitzer Concert Hall.  Great band, great music, every time.

In late August, Darrel Grant’s “On the Territory” returned for Riverfest.  Great show, but difficult to play since the wind was strong enough to blow the music stands over.

Another gig with the Bobby Torres Ensemble.  This time, a cut-down version with Julana Torres on vocals, Brian Ward on keyboard, Damian Erskine on bass, James Travers on drums, and Bobby on percussion.

One of my favorite gigs to play is the Mel Brown Septet.  The group is made up of my teachers and mentors (Warren Rand, Stan Bock, Renato Caranto, Derek Sims, Gordon Lee, Andre St. James, and Mel Brown) and always feels like home.

Most of the time, I’m subbing for Warren when I play with this group, but on this occasion, I was playing for Renato.

Later on in the month, subbing for Warren this time.

Fall came, and I returned to Portland Center Stage for a run of Ragtime.  This time, a slightly larger orchestra pit, again with great musicians.  After eight shows a week for two months, I was ready to move on when that run was over.

One of the both saddest and most uplifting gigs of the year was in October when I played at the benefit concert for Jeff Cumpston, a drummer and educator who passed away this year in tragic accident in Zimbabwe.  The concert featured tons of Portland musicians who all paid tribute to our friend and colleague.

In November, I got the chance to play with Thara Memory’s Superband.  I remember trying to hear this band every chance I could when I was in high school.  Unfortunately, this was never easy, as they almost never played gigs that were open to minors.  Standing outside of Jimmy Mak’s while the band played was about as close as I ever got.  This particular concert featured a revamped version of the group, featuring Thara’s daughter, Tahirah Memory.  She brought part of her rhythm section (Brian Ward on piano and Ben Jones on bass) to join Thara’s regulars Frank Tribble on guitar, Israel Annoh on drums, and Stan Bock on trombone.

Darrell Grant’s On the Territory took the stage again in November, this time in a triple bill with Kabir Green’s group and Lynn Darroch’s jazz stories.  A highlight of the evening for me was getting to play with Lynn and Jonathan Swanson for Lynn’s story about saxophone legend Jim Pepper.

On December 1st, the Damian Erskine Project played it’s first concert.  We played at the Mission Theatre as part of their monthly jazz series.  The band (Ben Darwish on keyboard, David Goldblatt on keyboard, Raphael Trujillo on percussion, Reinhardt Melz on drums, Damian on bass, Paul Mazzio on trumpet, and Jason DuMars on soprano) played Damian’s ridiculously difficult music for a packed house of enthusiastic fans.  (Thanks to Cortney Erskine for the photo)

Reece Marshburn, whom I had met while playing Grey Gardens, hooked me up with a gig playing with Marianna and the Baby Vamps when their regular horn player was out of town.  We played a selection of songs featuring Marianna and her two backup singers at Tony Starlight’s.  Great band (Reece on piano, Ken Ollis on drums, and Bill Athens on bass) playing some pretty entertaining music.  Certainly not the normal type of music for me to play on a gig, but a lot of fun to do.

On December 14th, I put together a concert at Jimmy Mak’s with the Upper Left Trio playing a mixture of their music and my own compositions.  We even got to throw a couple of Duo Chronicles tunes in the mix.  It was a great concert and a pleasure to play with the trio (Clay Giberson, Jeff Leonard, and Charlie Doggett).  I’ve started putting some of the videos from the concert up on my YouTube channel.

The day after Christmas, Damian Erskine put together a smaller version of his group to open for Intervision at Jimmy Mak’s.  Great concert.  Still difficult music.

2009 was a fantastic year for gigs.  I’m looking forward to 2010 playing with all of the great musicians I mentioned above again and hopefully new ones as well.