Demise of The Trad Jazz Society of Oregon

To the Editor:

Thanks for being the keeper of the traditional jazz flame. I enjoy each issue, and your columns especially.

In looking through the March issue, I don’t see any mention of the closing of the Traditional Jazz Society of Oregon (Eugene) at the end of 2022. By my count, it was the oldest jazz society in Oregon. I was first exposed to the music when I went there in 1966 with the late Bert Barr (Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band) and Tom Jacobus (Evergreen Classic Jazz Band) when we were all students at the University of Oregon. It attracted large and raucous crowds, but gradually the audiences “aged out” and TJSO was unable to build a crowd of younger dancers to keep the doors open.

Red Wood Coast

The late Harry Brown was one of the founders and an eager promoter of dixieland events. Bill Borcher (Oregon Jazz Band) was still working in the area and was about to move to Sacramento where he would be instrumental in founding the Sacramento Jubilee. I remember some remarkable musicians including Joe Ingram, Ollie Fosback, Tommy Fox, Phil and Jan Stires, and Chuck Ruff. Stalwarts who kept TJSO going in its last decades included Pauline Mullins, Sue McCelland, and Cork and Pattie Larsen. One of the bands which grew out of the society, and is still going, was Calamity Jazz Band.

That leaves the Portland Traditional Jazz Society as the only one in the state of Oregon, and I am happy to report that although it is a bit smaller than the good old days, it is still healthy and holding regular sessions. We are blessed with some younger musicians and swing dancers.

Rick Campbell
Tigard, Oregon

Hot Jazz Jubile

Thank you for letting us know about the TJSO. They were off our radar, to be sure—and I have a feeling they were unaware of TST, also. That’s the problem with calling trad jazz “Our Kind of Music”—when the people whose kind of music it was are gone, what then? We (clubs, musicians, and fans) have to help each other to keep it going, and look to the future.

The jazz we love has to compete with so many other genres for the attention of today’s listener—and it wants to live, like a flower stubbornly poking up through the pavement of noise and discord that characterize the 21st century. The young people who perform it give me great hope—it’s destined to be their kind of music, even more than it is ours! – Ed.

Rick Campbell has been playing reeds professionally since 1960 with groups of all sizes and styles. He first encountered early jazz at The University of Oregon where he developed a classic vintage soloing style that excited audiences and inspired musicians. His first love is the saxophone, especially those made by GCC. Conn in Elkhart, Indiana, during the 1920s and 30s. He was featured reedman with Bill Borcher's Oregon Jazz Band at the famed Sacramento Jubilee. Rick was a founder of Dr. Jazz and the Interns and The Milneburg Jazz Band. He has been active in jazz education with the Portland Dixieland Jazz Society, and wrote the ebook, "Introduction to Playing Early Jazz." He also performs with several dance bands, and plays bass clarinet in the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band. Rick says after all these years he is still "sax crazy".

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