Old school jazz in new(ish) digs
The Black Swan plays Clatskanie's Birkenfield
October 19, 2023
When many of us think of jazz we imagine cool cats in turtleneck sweaters or the smooth jazz of Kenny G.
The members of the Black Swan Jazz band look further back for their inspiration.
Three decades before the impeccable cool of Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck, the hazy shuffling and dizzy wailing of King Oliver's Creole jazz lent its air of seduction to New Orleans's red light district. And long before Herbie Hancock's concocted his funk-inflected jazz fusion, Jelly Roll Morton wove clean melodies with peppy percussion (and the occasional awoogah of a car horn). The nostalgia for early days of jazz is what continues to inspire members of Black Swan to travel from all over the Pacific Northwest to practice and perform with one another.
"Musicians have been scattered around," said Kit Johnson, the band's leader and tuba player. "In the valley mostly. We have some musicians down in Eugene, the Corvallis area, and as far up as Aberdeen."
Like their taste in music, the group itself goes way back. Formed in 1989, Black Swan have been performing along the West Coast for more than 30 years. And though it's led by him, Johnson is the first to admit that the heart of the band–an eight-piece, traditional New Orleans lineup, with horns in the front row–is singer Marilyn Keller.
"She will be front and center," said Johnson. "Marilyn's the star."
In addition to their long history with jazz, and each other, is their long, if uneventful, history with the Clatskanie Arts Commission's performance series; this will be their first performance in the series since 1998.
"So, a regular gig every 25 years," said Johnson, winking.
The Clatskanie Arts Commission's 34th Performing Arts Series Presents: Black Swan Classic Jazz Band With Marilyn Keller. Sunday, October 22, 3 p.m. Birkenfeld Theatre-75 S. Nehalem, Clatskanie, Ore.