“It’s good where we’re goin’ and where we’ve been
Hey yeah Hi yi Hi yi Hi yi Hi yi”
--Jim Pepper, Comin’ and Goin’, 1985
Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival Steering Committee re-forming
After a two-year hiatus, we are re-forming the Jim Pepper Native Arts Festival Steering Committee.
From the beginning, our number one priority has been to establish a home closely allied to an educational institution, where proceeds from Pepper-related events would be dedicated in support of Native American students, and music and arts programs.
Our earlier efforts were focused on building a partnership with
University, in largest part due to this language in Portland State SJR
31, the 2005 senate resolution honoring the life and achievements of Jim
Pepper, but also because Jim’s mother Floy Pepper retired there after a career
spanning some 60+ years as an educator:
(3) The members of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly direct that a copy of this resolution be delivered to the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute at Portland State University for inclusion in its permanent collection and encourage the creation and endowment of a Jim Pepper (hUnga-che-eda “Flying Eagle”) Chair at the university to further the study of Native American music and its relationship to jazz.
But the University is a very crowded and busy place, its Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute faded away several years ago and, practically speaking, the increased costs of parking and public transportation to that part of the city make accessibility an issue and a hindrance for many.
Now, we are exploring a partnership with Jim’s alma mater, the
in outer Parkrose School
District NE Portland,
where as a student in 1955 Jim first made his mark in Oregon
music history as a member of the Young Oregonians, which was also the beginning
of his lifelong friendship and musical relationship with Glen Moore, co-founder
of the band Oregon. Oregon
continues to carry Jim’s music to the far reaches of the globe to this day.
Then there is the wind and the water to consider, and the views of the mountains that
Parkrose offers, close to
the Columbia Gorge and the .
Also from the Resolution: Big River
Whereas Floy Pepper said during her acceptance of her son's First Americans in the Arts award in 1999, “Jim Pepper was a member of the Kaw Indian Nation known as ‘The Wind People’ from his father. From me, his mother, he was a member of the Creek Indian Nation known as ‘The People of the Waters.’ It's no wonder his music was so strong and powerful--with the wind to carry his music to the four directions of the Earth. And as long as the grass shall grow and the waters flow--which is forever--may his spirit remain alive for time immemorial”; now, therefore,
Our earlier planning had two charitable purposes: to fund scholarships for Native students to
to support the endowment of the Jim Pepper Chair as described in the Resolution.
Among its first orders of business, our Steering Committee should develop a charter that contains language directing proceeds of Jim Pepper-related events to be used to support music and arts-related programs throughout the
, including college scholarships in Jim’s
name, and to provide pathways for Native students wherever they are, to
wherever they are goin’. Parkrose School
And, we must identify some sources of funding to move organizing forward.
About the music of Jim Pepper
It is not enough to describe Jim Pepper as a jazz musician. His first album, Pepper’s Powwow, for example, recorded in 1970, featured traditional Native American songs and chants, Jim’s original compositions, rock, blues, bebop, free jazz and two songs by Peter LaFarge that had been famously sung by Johnny Cash. Wow!
Jazz trombonist Marty Cook, who recorded with Pepper in
Nuremberg and New
York City in the 1980s, described Jim's world wide musical
range in these liner notes:
"Jim Pepper is hard to categorize. He is an eclectic player. Known best as a jazz player for his work with Don Cherry, Paul Motian and Charlie Hayden, his playing and writing embrace the traditions of African, Caribbean, South American and his own Native American cultures, as well as the traditional standards, and pop and rhythm and blues repertoire."
And Bill Siegel’s excellent biograph, posted on his Jim Pepper Lives! website, has this to say:
But at the base of it all, there was always Pepper’s commitment to the power of music and to its healing message. “The emotion most prevalent in his music,” says mother Floy Pepper, “is intense spirituality.” World-renowned saxophonist Joe Lovano has said that he still thinks of Pepper and that he will sometimes ask himself, “What would Jim do now?” before launching into one of his own solos.
Pepper spent most of his final years living and performing in
where he was wildly popular. According to Hoch, “they loved him in Austria…
loved him. He never got that kind of recognition here. It’s too bad… more
people should know about him, they should know his music.” Thorne remembers
“complained bitterly about
lack of support for jazz. That’s why he went to Europe.
It’s a typical story – they’ve made movies about it, written books about it,
how jazz musicians had to leave America.”
His mother has said that “he did not find respect and acceptance of his music
in America –
but he did find it in Europe, where he was respected as
a person and as a jazz musician. There he found peace.“
Jim Pepper was posthumously granted the Lifetime Musical Achievement Award by First Americans in the Arts (FAITA) in 1999, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame at the 7th Annual NAMMY Awards ceremony. In 2005, the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute and the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission named Pepper Jazz Musician of the Year at the Portland Jazz Festival. In April 2007, his legendary silver Selmer saxophone, beaded baseball cap, leather horn cases, early LPs, and original sheet music were donated by the Pepper family to the Smithsonian Institution for the National Museum of the American Indian‘s permanent collection. In October 2007, he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. And in 2008, the Paul Winter Consort recorded the CD, “Crestone“, which includes two versions of “Witchi Tai To” sung by John-Carlos Perea and which won a GRAMMY Award in the Best New Age Music category.
The Steering Committee will hold its first meeting in November in
Parkrose at a date TBD. We will organize
ourselves and begin planning a series of small concert events that will start
in the Spring and lead to a major festival down the road.
Please contact me if you are interested in joining the Steering Committee, participating in any other way, or being kept in the loop via email.
Sean Aaron Cruz
Public policy research and consulting
Jim Pepper “Ya na ho” with Nana Vasconcellos at Collin Walcott tribute 1985, NYC
 Jim Pepper, Grand Finale Witchi Tai To at Collin Walcott tribute 1985, NYC
Trilok Gurtu, Don Cherry, Jim Pepper, Glen Moore, Steve Horn, Dave Holland, Marty Ehrlich, Paul McCandless, John Abercrombie, David Darling. Jack DeJohnette