Throughout the summer our team met up with MJF 2019 artists at a few of our favorite neighborhood spots. This interview with Kathleen Hollingsworth took place at Hungry Heart Bakery, located at 414 SE 80th Ave in Montavilla, on July 5, 2019. Hungry Heart has supported Montavilla Jazz Festival by providing wonderful desserts for our last two Season Reveal fundraisers…
Describe your connection to the Portland jazz scene and community.
Well, I came here to teach at Clackamas Community College when I got the full time position there. I had just come from Miami for three years where I was working on my jazz chops. So I came here to teach at Clackamas and then started going to jam sessions and meeting people, and now I’ve kind of established myself with my own band, writing music for PJCE. I’m definitely not a side-person, I’m not usually hired as a side person, I’m more of a front-person who writes and sings and plays. I’ve gotten to know people through my music but also through collaborating with PJCE, going to jam sessions and hanging out with people.
Describe the project you’re bringing to Montavilla Jazz Festival 2019.
Mad love is a band that performs mostly my own compositions and arrangements and we don’t generally do standards that much, that’s not what we do, things are more arranged and composed. I write a lot of music that is usually inspired somehow by nature or things I like to do in nature like riding which allows me to write. I love to write. If I weren’t a musician probably would have been an English major because I love writing. Writing lyrics over time has become my way to express how I see and feel in this realm. Putting the music together allows me to meld a lot of genres like jazz, from a harmonic perspective, and from a form perspective, but I’m definitely not straight ahead by any means. There’s some rock and little bit of country and a little bit of Americana all kind of fused in there.
Is there a story behind this project?
So when I first got here, I started playing with Brent Follis pretty early on like within the first two years we met. He just called me out of the blue and he said hey, I hear you’re looking for a drummer. So then we started playing in a duo at Nonna for a year or two. And in that time I really learned to trust him as a human being and as a musician we just had a vibe going.
Through that trust building process and through his allowance of my music to develop and the fact that he really likes my music, I decided to take it a little more seriously until I chill I gained enough trust with him that I started looking more seriously for bass player and then starting to think more about putting out another album with just this music. I started seriously looking for a bass player and then the name of the band came about pretty magically and so here we are.
Which artists are you excited to hear at MJF 2019?
All of them. Well, I’m psyched for Sherry that she’s at PSU. We kind of both did the same thing academically with taking the doctoral route. She sounds great. She’s doing the straight ahead thing and she sounds great with George (Colligan). I like it when people take time to really work up their stuff, you know, and it takes a long time to do a doctorate and it’s not easy.
Do you have any words of wisdom for young musicians that might be reading this?
You know everyone should have some piano chops, all musicians, in addition to whatever instrument that happens to be your main instrument. All singers should have experience with the keyboard because everything is right there and it makes you confident to be able to speak the language. Everything is right there. And if you can understand that then theory is easy, communicating with the band is easy, writing becomes easier.
In this day and age for Millennials when everything is so easy because of technology, understand that one of the things that’s so brilliant about music is that it takes a long time. It takes time. It is an art that you craft over years and years. I don’t think that we value that as much, the younger generation, because everything so quick. They get everything at the touch of a button, you don’t download this, it’s really important and it takes time.
We want everything so fast and so quick now and the younger generation really needs to remember through ART we have longevity. Through music: dedication.
What’s your take on the current state of the jazz and creative music scene in Portland?
Thank God for PSU, and thank God for PJCE, and thank God for PDX Jazz and all these organizations that are really trying to keep things moving. And the nice thing is because Portland so hip right now a lot of people moving here from towns where you just can’t make it and survive as a jazz musician. Here you can sort of piece together a living as a musician. I think that there is actually a great audience here for jazz. There’s a great audience here in Portland for music in general. There’s so many times I go out and play and the audience is listening and attentive. Not always, but a lot of times there’s this vibe in Portland that is very attentive to art and creativity. So that’s a plus.
The million dollar question, that I continually ask myself is how do serve that audience, how do you keep them coming back? How do you push that compositional envelope so that people want to continue to hear you?
Can you share any thoughts about Mel Brown and Gordon Lee and their contributions to Portland jazz during their careers?
Oh man, it’s deep it’s meaningful. Those guys are the real deal, they’re playing the real deal and thank God for that, we need to hang on to that too. And that history is good for Portland is good for the scene to have all of that melded into the soup pot of jazz.
Whenever I hang out with Gordon, I love him. He’s the hang you know, and there’s always laughter, there’s always carrying-on. That sense of the hang is so important to this music. As somebody from through education world, I know that that connection that roots communication, that roots hang, if that’s not part of the music then everyone is a bunch of jazz-holes, you know what I mean? You got to be fun to hang around, and those guys are.
Photography by Kathryn Elsesser.