Portland jazz ensemble Blue Cranes have released their fifth album, Voices. The ensemble has a live show as a part of the 2022 PDX Jazz Fest, Saturday, February 26, 6 pm at Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St. Tickets are free, but registration is required at AlbertaAbbey.org.
Voices is an extended tone poem with new rhythms, atmospherics, powerful stories and vocal contributions from our city’s evocative singers. The group reached into a vision and the album’s lyricism and outside-the-box arrangements are a further evolution for Blue Cranes.
“We wanted to push ourselves and our collaborators into unfamiliar territory,” says co-founder Reed Wallsmith. “It is very much a Blue Cranes album at heart – written and performed in the spirit of collaboration and discovery.”
Blue Cranes are Wallsmith on alto sax, Joe Cunningham on tenor sax, Rebecca Sanborn on keyboards, Jon Shaw on bass and Ji Tanzer on drums. Voices at the concert will be Laura Veirs, Laura Gibson, Rebecca Sanborn and Reed Wallsmith.
Even with vocalists and lyrics, the ensemble was able to improvise in the songwriting process. The opener, Brave Little Girl, was created entirely in the moment, with singer Holland Andrews’ vocal using phrases from a poem by Nico Alvarado. The song Ursula was built around stream-of-consciousness singing from Laura Gibson. Tatehuari is a collaboration with Pink Martini’s Edna Vazquez and Y La Bamba’s Luz Elena Mendoza, juxtaposing vocals, its lyrics of fire and rebirth and a breathtaking sound. Other voices on the album are Annalisa Tornfelt, Redray Frazier, Gavin Castleton and Peter Broderick.
Photo by Jason Quigley