To the Editor:
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.
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.
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.