Where We Live: The return of the Vanport Jazz Festival

Where We Live: The return of the Vanport Jazz Festival

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s summer music festivals are back, including one that celebrates the survivors and descendants from the lost city of Vanport.

Since it began in 2017, the Vanport Jazz Festival has brought some of the top smooth jazz and R&B artists to Portland while also showcasing local talent. The festival is a tribute to the lost city of Vanport where Portland International Raceway is today.

Vanport was built by Henry Kaiser in the early 1940s to house shipyard workers who built warships during World War II. Many were Black people from the South, representing the largest influx of African Americans in Oregon history.

A devastating flood in 1948 wiped out Vanport which was, at the time, Oregon’s second-largest city. But the flood failed to wipe out the culture that Vanport residents brought as they relocated to Northeast Portland’s Albina neighborhood.

“So when the flood happened in 1948, that’s when you saw a renaissance of music in the city of Portland,” said James Taylor, whose relatives grew up in Vanport. “It’s very, very important to us to continue this legacy.”

The pandemic canceled the Vanport Jazz Festival in 2020 but most ticket holders declined refunds, opting instead to hold their tickets in anticipation of the festival’s return.

“Coming out to hear live music, it’s just invigorating,” said Taylor. “Music they say feeds the soul!”

Known for her collaborations with Prince and her 1980s classic “Glamorous Life,” Sheila E. will headline this year’s festival. Other artists include Gerald Albright, Marion Meadows and Portland jazz singer Tahira Memory.

The 4th annual Vanport Jazz Festival will be held Saturday, Aug. 7 at the Colwood Golf Course on NE Columbia Boulevard. Tickets can be purchased online.



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