In winemaking, there is a concept called “terroir”– that mix of dirt, rain, sun, wind, and water that makes one vineyard’s grapes taste different from another’s. It is possible that a territory shapes its artists too; that it seeps into our tunes and our dreams, inspires us, connects us, running deeper than genre or musical style. When you love a place, its story can’t help but make its way into your own, and you can feel its current in the work.
Darrell Grant, piano
Joe Locke, vibraphone
Brian Blade, drums
Steve Wilson, alto saxophone
Clark Sommers, bass
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Thomas Barber, trumpet
Kirt Peterson, bass clarinet
Marilyn Keller, vocals
Informed by Oregon’s historical heritage as well as the incredible and diverse landscapes of the region, The Territory’s nine movements draw on both jazz and classical music to address pivotal moments in Oregon’s cultural history and reflect on the space between the myth and the reality of the territory. They range from the rhythmic invocation of the opening “Hymn to the Four Winds,” based on a Nez Perce chant, to the joyous 1930’s swing of “Sunday’s at the Golden West.” Composition is paired with improvisation to evoke the earth-shaping power of “The Missoula Floods” and the mystical aura of “Daybreak at Fort Rock.” At the heart of the piece are "Chief Joseph's Lament," which sets to music a portion of the surrender speech given by the legendary leader of the Grand Ronde Valley Nez Perce. "Stones into Blossoms,” which evokes the Japanese-American internment during World War II, and “The Aftermath,” a reflection on the 1887 massacre of 26 Chinese miners on the banks of the Imaha river. The piece’s finale, “New Land,” celebrates the hopes and aspirations of newcomers of all ages and races who continue to remake the land anew.
The world-premiere performance of The Territory was presented by Chamber Music Northwest on July 13, 2013 to a sold-out crowd at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium in Portland, Oregon. The nine-member ensemble included several of Grant's long-time collaborators, including Grammy award-winners Brian Blade and Steve Wilson, celebrated vibraphonist Joe Locke, and Chicago bassist Clark Sommers as well as renowned cellist Hamilton Cheifetz, Portland vocalist Marilyn Keller, trumpeter Thomas Barber, and bass clarinetist Kirt Peterson. The recording of this performance was released on the 2015 PJCE Records release “The Territory.”
Grant also maintains a touring ensemble that features Northwest-based performers Mike Horsfall on vibraphone, John Nastos on saxophones and flutes, bassist Eric Gruber, and drummer Tyson Stubelek in addition to Cheifetz, Keller, Barber, and Peterson.This “Oregon Territory Ensemble” was featured at the 2014 Portland Jazz Festival, and it has also appeared at Bend’s Jazz at the Oxford Series, Portland’s Jimmy Mak’s jazz club, and at Grant’s November 2015 CD release performance.
Reaction and Reception
The Portland premiere was called “irrepressibly energetic and finely polished.” by The Oregonian, and a “triumph of spirit!” by the arts journal Northwest Reverb.
A New York premiere of the piece followed in January of 2014 at The Jazz Standard in Manhattan, and The Territory was also selected as one of the works presented at the Chamber Music America Commissioning concert at New York’s’ DiMenna Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2014, Grant was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) to produce a CD of The Territory and to conduct a series of interviews with Oregon artists and artisans about the connection between art and place.
The album “The Territory” was released in November 2015 on the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble label PJCE Records. In his review of the CD release concert, James Bash of Oregon Artswatch called it “one of the most important compositions to emerge from our state in the 21st century” and a “masterpiece.”
The Territory has been featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Artbeat, Think Out Loud, and State of Wonder. The third movement, “The Missoula Floods Pt. 2” was selected as one of KMHD Jazz 89.1’s Top Local Songs of 2015.
What's next for The Territory
Over time, this idea of our connection to place has become a principal focus of my artistic work.
As part of my 2014 individual artist grant from RACC, filmmaker and videographer Rachel Bracker and I conducted a series of interviews with Oregon artists and artisans from diverse disciplines. They included dance artist Linda K. Johnson, landscape photographer Larry N. Olsen, chef Leather Storrs, designer/developer Kevin Cavenaugh, winemaker Doug Tunnell, actor Vin Shambry, and and saxophonist/composer Reed Wallsmith. In these wide-ranging conversations we explored the ideas around place that inform their art as Oregonians.
The resulting video Territory: A Sense of Place is the next incarnation of The Territory.
This project is available for bookings. Contact Kim Morris for booking inquiries.