Redwood Jazz Alliance

Tar Beach
Friday, September 9th, 8 p.m.| Morris Graves Museum of Art

"Porter has built a reputation as a musician’s musician, a knowledgeable, inventive, and sophisticated player with a remarkable sense of time and gorgeous keyboard facility."
—Lynn Darrosch, The Oregonian

Tar Beach

Tar Beach, Canvas Sky at Bandcamp

Thanks to the Humboldt Arts Council in the Morris Graves Museum of Art for hosting this performance. And special thanks to our co-presenter, the Humboldt Folklife Society, for logistical support!HACHFS logo


We’re starting the season with a homecoming. At age 15, Shao Way Wu moved to Palo Alto from his native Hong Kong. A few years later he came to Humboldt State to study art, and ended up discovering the bass instead. In a class on music theory, he met Randy Porter, a young pianist who was "already fully formed in many ways," to hear Shao Way tell it, and who acted as a kind of musical mentor.

Shao Way went on to study at Berklee School of Music in Boston, then stopped off in Portland for a few years before winding up back in Humboldt. For two decades he was a pillar of NoHum’s jazz community, playing in countless bands and teaching both privately and at Humboldt State.  When he relocated once more to Portland four years ago, he and Randy, who'd lived in the City of Bridges for many years by that point, reconnected—and clicked. And when we heard the gorgeous album that they laid down earlier this year ("I caught him at a weak moment," says Shao Way, "and I took full advantage of the situation"), we knew it was time to bring them both home to Humboldt.

Shao Way got the name "Tar Beach" from the award-winning children's book by Faith Ringgold: it's the term that New York apartment dwellers coined for the rooftop space outside their window. He comes up with quirky names for his bands because of the cooperative ethic that informs them: "It makes more sense to have a named band than to have a band named after me.  I really prefer to have a group like that, where everybody contributes musically." In Tar Beach, he explains, even though the compositions are his, "they're mainly just melodies with chord changes"; Randy fills in the blanks, opening them up, making them more "loose." "That's what I'm after," he says. "With good players you don't need much to get them going. It was really a privilege to play with him—totally great."

Although Portland is Randy's home base, he is often out on the road with the likes of vocalist Diane Schuur, alto great Charles McPherson, or bassist David Friesen, whose CD Name of a Woman showcases Porter's compositions. (Porter has also released several albums under his own name.) An accomplished, in-demand teacher, he is on the faculty of Lewis and Clark College and a regular at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, and Jazz Camp West. (Although they will co-lead Friday's pre-concert workshop at HSU, says Shao Way, "I think I'll benefit from [it] more than anybody.")

Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.

Randy Porter and Shao Way Wu will also present an open, pre-concert public workshop at 2:00 on the afternoon of September 9th in Room 131 of HSU's "old" Music Building (directly across the walkway from the entrance to Fulkerson Recital Hall). People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.

News IconWords & Pixels:

video Video:

  • Tar Beach, "Hearsay" (YouTube)
  • Randy Porter Trio, "Boomerangst" (YouTube)
  • Coconino Trio with Michael Moore at the Humboldt Folklife Festival, "Jitterbug Waltz" (YouTube)

ListenAudio (see also at left):

Additional support for this show comes from Alex Stillman & Arcata Stay, Coast Central Credit Union, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate, KHSU, Libation Wine Shop & Wine Bar, and Zwerdling Bragg Mainzer & Firpo LLP.

HSU SealFriday afternoon's free public workshop is made possible through the generosity of HSU's College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of Music.

If you or your business would like to consider sponsoring a Redwood Jazz Alliance event and/or advertising in our concert programs, please e-mail us or visit our Underwriting & Donations page.

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