[JPL] Portland Jazz Scene

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Sun Apr 16 12:23:19 EDT 2006

Sunday, April 16
<http://www.wweek.com//>home | <http://www.wweek.com//culture>culture | 

Changing Spaces: Pdx Jazz Edition

Jimmy Mak's will leave its modest digs behind, but its reputation will 
surely follow.

BY <http://www.wweek.com/../../../author/?author=TIM DUROCHE>TIM DUROCHE | 
503 243-2122

Jim (Jimmy Mak) Makarounis may be the only pre-Socratic jazz-club owner in 
the world. Like the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, Makarounis' ancestral 
homeboy, the club owner understands that the nature of the universe is 
change­dig it: Panta hrei, everything flows. Proving that point, Makarounis 
will welcome both an end and a beginning April 15, as Jimmy Mak's closes 
its doors at 300 NW 10th Ave. in preparation for a kitty-corner move in May 
to new, improved digs at 221 NW 10th Ave.

Since 1996, Jimmy Mak's has made a tremendous impact on the health and 
vitality of the Portland jazz scene by providing a genial neighborhood 
vibe, homey Greek food and a welcoming room for music from Mel Brown, Thara 
Memory, Patrick Lamb, Dan Balmer and many others­not to mention the loyal 
legions of under-21 jazz talent that show up for Brown's all-ages Tuesday 
sessions. Change in jazzland has a bad rap, and justifiably so. Usually it 
means video poker or karaoke machines replacing saxophonists, a cut in pay, 
or a shuttering of doors­rarely does it mean improved sound, bathrooms with 
heat, plush surroundings, a streamlined kitchen, VIP mezzanine seating, 
ringside booths and a stage twice the size. But that's exactly the change 
that is coming to Jimmy Mak's.

With the new space, Makarounis is upping the ante for the presentation and 
experience of jazz in Portland. Set in earthy hues of sepia, umber and 
velvety maroon, it will have the intimacy and warmth of the best of jazz 
clubs but maintain the neighborly, genial vibe of its affable proprietor. 
The original was voted one of the top 100 jazz clubs by Down Beat 
magazine­clearly for the modesty of the room and the charmed relationship 
that Jimmy and Mel Brown have cultivated with audiences. The new improved 
setting will probably live up to the title on all counts. For once jazz 
will find itself stepping proudly on the red carpet, instead of being snuck 
in the back door. And that's a good thing, folks. Cozied up next to 
Portland Center Stage's Armory development, the new venue is a great 
example of the sort of low-key developments that encourage and nurture 
social capital without Pearlesque ostentation. Look for a "soft" opening in 
the merry month of May. On the horizon: a first-Thursday grand opening in 
June, with a live recording session featuring Mel Brown's organ combo, 
followed by a lavish, well-deserved 10th-anniversary blowout in midsummer.

In honor of the club's Heraclitian shift and jazz renewal, closing night at 
the old space features an exemplary evening with Jazz Society of Oregon 
Hall-of-Famer guitarist Dan Balmer. A mainstay at Jimmy Mak's for many 
years, Balmer is the perfect go-to guy for this high-voltage sayonara. 
Updating the classic organ-guitar-drums trio, Balmer strikes fire with two 
New York-based hitmen: wickedly talented Hammond organist (and former 
Portlander) Gary Versace, who's a regular with John Scofield these days, 
and the equally incendiary, wry swingmatist Matt Wilson (a regular with 
Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, et al.) on drums. Expect Balmer's trademark 
thoughtful, sophisticated jazz sensibility (a blend of Wes Montgomery-Pat 
Martino-Coltranesque heat) to shine alongside the riveting chemistry of 
Versace and Wilson. A fitting farewell for the moment, but Jimmy Mak's is 
a-comin' back.

Dr. Jazz
Dr. Jazz Operations
24270 Eastwood
Oak Park, MI  48237
(248) 542-7888

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