American Dream/Joy Spring
An American dream, we believed, set our souls free, no responsibility; back to the land in the ‘70s, when forces of darkness were ascending. Pure we’d be, but sustained by scraps from the system we’d flee. Dream of land cheap and steep, laws weak, and temp jobs anytime, it seemed, picking ferns or pulling seedlings.
In A-frames and domes never finished, under tarps and tarpaper; leaky stoves, pumps froze, outhouse with no door, changing diapers on concrete floor … Chickens, goats …
And swapping schemes about how to succeed … as the cedar bandits we intended to be.
Lot of big cedars lay among second growth, see, left by loggers in the day. Slow to rot, good for shakes. At night we’d buck and split, rig a line to the road, slide bolts to truck below. Never earned much, though — enough for pot and plywood, food for the table; pride and bloody knuckles mostly our reward.
Harder than we thought, out on the edge – chickens escape, ruin the garden, neighbor with a shotgun’ll kill ‘em but misses, wounds some, a mess; inedible when finally boiled and plucked. No electricity, and hauling water from the spring.
Souls not free but in another bondage.
She was always heating water, it seemed, up early, infant on hip and a load of wet sticks, pretty soon enough to leave husband and son, become a belly dancer in Portland. Pretty soon enough to see … it wasn’t very far really, all the way back to the city.
Still, a noble dream, this living free when dark forces are ascending – back to the land, soul refreshing. Yes, light out for the territories like Huck Finn, vanish into the forest … sustained by scraps from the system we’d flee — an American dream.
Williams Avenue 1953
By Lynn Darroch
When I imagine Williams Avenue in the ‘50s, I hear the stories of Baby James ….
… stories about Little Sonny, his inspiration, who sang like Ray Charles and jumped on the piano in the middle of a note.
”That blew my mind,” says James. “When I saw those girls pulling on him up and down Williams, I said, ‘That’s what I want to be.’”
… I hear his stories about playing the Desert Room for shake dancers and a midget named Miss Dynamite …
… stories about a street-wise guy called Sweet-Smellin’ Eddie, who named James “Sweet Baby.”
“A seaman, a guy who really dressed,” says James. “He’d walk down the street, turn, and there’d be 30 women smelling where he’d been. Eddie says to me, ‘Someone got to carry this name on, so I’m appointing you ‘Sweet Baby’.’”
James carried the name and the stories of the Avenue, one of few left now from that heroic age.
… stories of hanging with a bunch of street dudes one day hired to play ball by a guy split from the Chicago Hottentots.
“We’d travel to these little towns, seven of us in the car singing; that’s how I learned,” says James.
Back on the Avenue, his big hit “The Body,” banned from radio, got him “15 minutes of fame,” he says, remembering those days on the Avenue … when he was becoming Sweet Baby James …
PDX jazz, from Williams Ave roots to stages today, Baby James to Blue Cranes, in feature for 1859 magazine. Wish there’d been room for everybody. Thanks, musicians, for helping me tell the story.
David Evans – tenor sax, clarinet
Photo by Brandy Kaysakian-Rowe
Originally from New Orleans, David Evans has been living and working in the Portland, OR area for the past 10 years. Since relocating to the Rose City, the tenor saxophonist and clarinetist has become an integral part of Portland’s jazz community, earning the well-deserved respect of his Northwest colleagues.
Steeped in the jazz tradition at its very roots, David has performed with an impressive gamut of great musicians in the course of his career. In the Crescent City he performed with Pete Fountain, B. B. King, Mose Allison, Nicholas Payton, Brian Blade, Johnny Vidacovich, Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and many others. In the Rose City, he has performed or recorded with Art Abrams, Dan Balmer, Phil Baker, Mel Brown, Dan Faehnle, Dave Frishberg, Darrell Grant, Tom Grant, Carlton Jackson, Rebecca Kilgore, Nancy King, Shirley Nanette, Eddie Parente, Randy Porter, Jean Ronne, Ron Steen, Lee Wuthenow, Tall Jazz, and many others.
His most recent CD is titled I Didn’t Know About You.
Guitarist Stowell was one of the first U.S. musicians to play for the general public in the former Soviet Union in 1984, in a quartet led by flautist Paul Horn. His resume includes travel to Europe and South America as well as frequent tours of the U.S., which take him away from his home in Portland, Oregon, for nearly 200 days each year. He was recently the subject of an Artbeat profile on OPB television.
A valued clinician renowned for his advanced harmony and chord-voicings, Stowell has taught internationally for 30 years in every educational setting. His clinics are informal, hands-on and in addition to music theory and guidelines for improvisation, John shares his experience with the business of music. He has performed with vocalists such as Nancy King and with such legendary players as Art Farmer. His work appears on numerous CDs, including five as a leader and seven albums with his former partner, the bassist David Friesen, His latest solo release is Resonance, his latest quartet CD, Streams of Consciousness, with Jay Thomas, and his latest duo recording is Transgression, with guitarist Mike Pardew.
Dave Fischer has performed on drums and percussion with a variety of Portland area musicians, including Conjunto Alegre. He has traveled throughout Latin America and has focused on Latin percussion, especially in his work with Alfredo Muro since 2000. Grounded in traditional rhythms, he brings a variety of instruments and eclectic blend of sounds. He now lives in the Los Angeles area, where he is pursing a Ph.D.