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A Legacy of Portland Jazz

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Vanport Jazz festival a cultural revival

7/23/2019, 3:06 p.m.

Smooth jazz saxophonist Euge Groove (from left), Northwest soul master and R&B top 50 artist Andy Stokes, the Queens of Soul Jazz band featuring flutist extraordinaire Althea Rene and the sultry sounds of saxophonist Jeannette Harris, and Jazz vocalist, saxophonist and songwriter Eric Darius are all featured performers at the Vanport Jazz Festival, coming Saturday, Aug. 3 to the Colwood Golf Center in northeast Portland.

Honoring the history of Vanport and the voices that formed our jazz community, the Vanport Jazz Festival will once again feature a lineup of internationally renowed artists and breathe new life into Portland’s jazz scene.

The annual event will be held this year on Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Colwood Golf Center, 7313 N.E. Columbia Blvd., filling a stage with musicians who carry the torch for a diverse generation of jazz artists who came to Portland for work and then established Portland as a true jazz city because of their vibrant music and culture.

At its height, nearly 40,000 people lived in Vanport, including 6,000 African Americans. Vanport was then the nation’s largest public housing project and the second-largest city in Oregon.

But Vanport wasn’t built to last. On Memorial Day, 1948, the Columbia River broke through the nearby levees, unleashing a historic flood that displaced 18,000 people from their homes—a quarter of whom were African American. The Vanport Flood was, in the words of a former resident, the Hurricane Katrina of its time.

Portland’s jazz scene rose to a crescendo during and after Vanport and over time, like the flood that dispersed it, evaporated in fragments. People passed away. Venues closed. But the audience remained, waiting for the music to return.

Today, the Vanport Jazz Festival pays homage to this legacy by hosting a jazz experience for the modern day. Featured artists for the upcoming event include Euge Groove, Andy Stokes, Eric Darius, The Queens of Soul Jazz featuring Althea Rene and Jeanette Harris and the group War.

Living members of the Vanport community, national-caliber talent, and jazz aficionados everywhere are invited to discover the legacy of Portland jazz and experience the revival. For tickets and more information, visit


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