terroirIn wine they have a concept called “terroir”– that mix of dirt, rain, sun, wind and water that makes one vineyard’s grapes taste different from another’s.

Is is possiblty the territory shapes its artists, too.  Seeps into our tunes and our dreams, inspires us, connects us–whether we are native or transplant.  It runs 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.

Part of it is Geography. It is the land, the rocks, the rivers.  In the cascade watershed the interface of land and water defines us.  The verdant, fertile soil laid down over millenia, the great river Columbia that is the lifeline of our region.  The peaks- Hood, Adams, St. Helens, Rainer and the others- stand as spiritual monuments grounding us and fueling our imaginations.

The geological narrative that has been playing since before humans arrived frames the stories we live out on the territory.

Case in point

LakeMissoula15,000 years ago most of the western part off Montana was covered by Glacial Lake Missoula, a prehistoric  lake that measured about 3,000 square miles and contained about  (500 cu mi) of water.  It was held up by an ice dam on the Clark Fork River.  The periodic rupturing of that ice resulted in the Missoula Floods (also known as the Spokane Floods or the Bretz Floods)– cataclysmic floods that swept across Eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge about every 55 years  during a 2,000 year period. Scientists have found evidence of at least twenty-five massive floods, the largest discharged a flow 13 times the size of the Amazon river.  The cumulative effect of the Missoula Floods was to excavate 50 cubic miles of sediment and basalt from the channeled scablands of eastern Washington and transport it at 80 miles and hour downstream to the Willamette  It carved canyons and made the Willamette Valley one of the most fertile places on the planet.   After the rupture, the ice would reform, creating Glacial Lake Missoula again.



Welcome to the Territory

rainforestThe Territory is ground, water, sky, and everything in between.  It is what was here before you came and what will be here after you are gone.  It is the bones, the sweat, the blood, the dreams, the blessings, the harvests, the floods, the tears, the rocks, the roots, the broken branches, fallen leaves, and forgotten paths, It is the songs of bug, bird, blizzard, wagon wheel, salmon, elk, beaver, and berry. It is the bank of the creek, the bed of the river, the stump in the ground, and the memories of the elders.  The territory is the whole story–told and untold.- Darrell Grant

On July 6th & 7th, I will give the premiere performance of my composition “The Territory” the product of a year of research and writing around the themes of connection, art and place.  I thought it would be fund to share some of the background, inspiration and discovery that inspired me to explore this idea of territory. Over the next few weeks, I”ll be posting those thoughts on this blog, as well as some videos that  were created by Rebekah Phillips for Chamber Music Northwest, that share insights into the creation of the piece.


The Territory: A Suite by Darrell Grant

Mvt. 1 – Hymn to the Four WindsterritoryMap
Mvt. 2 -Daybreak at Fort Rock
Mvt. 3 -The Missoula Floods
Mvt. 4 -Chief Joseph’s Lament
Mvt. 5 -Rivers
Mvt. 6 -Stones into Blossoms (Dedicated to Nola Bogle)
Mvt. 7 -Sundays at the Golden West
Mvt. 8 -The Aftermath (Interlude)
Mvt. 9 -New Land

Darrell Grant, piano
Brian Blade, drums
Joe Locke, vibraphone
Steve Wilson, saxophones & flutes
Clark Sommers, bass

with special guests
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Marilyn Keller, voice
Kirt Peterson, bass clarinet
Thomas Barber, trumpet

Inside the Territory Part 1

Walters Cultural Arts Center Speaker Series: “The Jazz Scene as an Ecology” – June 18th

I will be a guest speaker at the Walters Cultural Arts Center Speaker Series in Hillsboro on Tuesday, June 18th at 7:00 PM.Oregon Album cover

My topic is  “The Jazz Scene as an Ecology”.  This is a culmination of a line of inquiry I embarked on  in 2009 on music and sustainability.

Here’s a short teaser for those who might be interested.  I’ll post the whole lecture here after I present it.

A little fable about Jazz and Academia

Think of Jazz as a wild plant, a native species that grew in America.  Took root, found good soil.  But its environment grew crowded w/competitors.  It’s niche was overrun by rock & roll.  As jazz matured and spread, it was less connected to its initial purpose, the nourishment of communities.  It became famous, the property of everyone and no one. So it sought refuge in the academy

Introducing a new breed- The Jazz Educator

I’d say Dr. Billy Taylor was the proto-species of the Jazz educator.   He was the first of the evolutionary line. He possessed the ideal combination of traits that enabled him to thrive in academia.  A virtuoso with a Ph.D. degree, he was articulate and well-spoken. The “fruit” he produced-television shows, the non-profit Jazzmobile,  paved the way for other musicians like Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Willie Ruff, and eventually, me.

There were others –John Mehegan, Jerry Coker, Gunther Schuller @ NEC, who were also pioneers, They created the first jazz curricula & schools: The Schillinger School,  Berklee College of Music,  North Texas State,  These  environments and infrastructurebig bands, textbooks, play-along records  provided fertile soil for jazz to grow in academia.

Below are a couple great blog posts that get to this topic.  Two are from Dr. Jeff Todd Titon, ethnomusicologist at Brown University.  His writing has been groundbreaking in this area. He has also been an encouraging mentor to those of us interested in thinking freshly about the place of music in our culture.  His blog “Sustainable Music” is a fantastic resource for provocative and inspiring new ways to think about what we do.

Titon blog on Sustainbility & Ecology


Theses on Sustainabilit- A Primer


There are also a number of earlier posts on this blog that explore this same topic.