Be Curious – A New Friend Might Be Sitting Right Next to You

Heidi Snellman at the new location of the Union Knott Gallery. Photo credit Alice Murphy

Almost every day during Covid I have run past TwentySix Café, the local coffee shop near my house. I used to visit more frequently when I would walk my dog stopping to catch up with a couple of friends, chat with some acquaintances, grab a cup of tea and a dog treat. Then I’d carry on with my walk. I was always refreshed after those short visits but still, I felt like something was missing. It is hard to take the time and be present on most days of our life. Our busy schedules, thoughts of work, and worrying about far-away family and friends keep us from seeing what’s important and right under our noses.

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Richard Basi – Cherry Blossom Orchestra and Jazz on Williams

Cherry Blossom Orchestra on stage

Richard Basi, a longtime Eliot resident who only recently moved a block beyond the neighborhood’s bounds, loves jazz. Hailing from England, Richard fell in love with swing dancing when he moved to the US. As Richard improved in his dancing, he became entranced by the jazz that allowed swing dancers to be so expressive in their movements. Soon, Richard progressed from being a casual listener of jazz to becoming an eager student of the genre.  Richard argues passionately that jazz provokes a broader range of emotional responses than any other genre of music—from sheer bliss, to utter disappointment and sorrow. He has dedicated much of his energies to learning about the history of jazz, and how it has evolved over time alongside shifts in society. Through this research, Richard learned a great deal about the history of jazz in Portland, and specifically, the jazz scene that once existed on Williams Avenue in Eliot. Now, Richard is one of the most prominent advocates in the city for “bringing jazz back to Williams”.

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Portland’s Jazz Scene Yesterday and Today

Williams at Russell 1937
Paul’s Paradise, was around the corner at 19 N Russell Street—now a grass lot. Photo courtesy of Portland City Archives

In the early 1940s, Floyd Standifer could be found playing his trumpet to the hills. He would listen as the sound came echoing back. This was the way, in the farmlands outside of Gresham, he worked on perfecting his tone. However, he also learned a lot from Williams Avenue in Portland.

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