Blue Cranes Photo credit- Jen Downer She Saw Things Photography

Before paved highways were common, and a vast network of frequent passenger trains served the country, performing ensembles of all stripes toured the country by train. Nowadays, most musical groups pile themselves, their instruments and equipment into a van or truck and go on the road. The Blue Cranes—an indie jazz quintet that has made a name for itself in Portland, Oregon—will prove this April that it’s still possible to turn a road tour into a rail tour when they tour the East Coast via Amtrak.

The Blue Cranes have toured extensively up and down the West Coast, but April 2011 marks the band’s first foray East. To help fund this tour, the group launched a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, surpassing their goal and raising over $6500 towards tour expenses.

Blue Cranes will be performing material from their latest full length release, Observatories (2010), as well as songs from their 2011 EP, Cantus Firmus (featuring covers of Blonde Redhead, Red House Painters and David Bazan). The group will also debut a new work in progress, which focuses on group composition, and is funded by Oregon’s Regional Arts and Culture Council.

Along with working to develop a greater audience for their music, Blue Cranes will use this tour to immerse themselves in a month-long investigation of the U.S. intercity rail infrastructure. The band will be teaming up with NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers) to promote funding for passenger rail service, and will be blogging regularly about their experiences via the website of the Portland newspaper Willamette Week.

Blue Cranes - Photo credit Jen Downer She Saw Things Photography

Blue Cranes is comprised of (from left to right): bassist Keith Brush, keyboardist Rebecca Sanborn, tenor saxophonist Joe “Sly Pig” Cunningham, drummer Ji Tanzer, and alto saxophonist Reed Wallsmith.

“Blue Cranes’ Observatories is one of those records that can get the indie crowd into jazz. Or the jazz crowd into indie rock? Or more likely, a place in the middle where both crowds can come together.” –Something Else!

“Where Miles Davis made jazz that knew Hendrix and Sly Stone, this band makes music that is rock in style and jazz in spirit, a dish whose ingredients include The Bad Plus, Bill Frisell’s take on Americana, Henry Threadgill’s Very Very Circus and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Or, try this; imagine doo-wop played by a traveling carnival band’s saxophone section, with a strong back-beat and solos. Observatories is nothing but pleasure, track to track.” – The Big City

“Blue Cranes’ Observatories is full of strange yet seductive melodies that push the boundaries of the prog-jazz sphere. It’s the kind of album that perplexes before it enthralls…a welcome whimsy for “serious music.” – Classical TV

“Hip enough for hipsters, cool and accessible enough for the casual jazz listener, and funky enough for the folks who just wanna get their freak on, Blue Cranes have achieved, on their 3rd album, a sound where each individual member’s contribution is vital to the whole…Blue Cranes veer from pop to fusion to avant-garde with natural skill, from soft to jagged to aggressive with grace. If their goal is to ‘make exploration seem like the most enjoyable process around’ then they have succeeded.” – CD Baby

March 19: Train Tour Kickoff @ Tony Starlight’s, Portland, OR. Presented by the Portland Jazz Festival.
April 1: Carleton College, Northfield, MN. Performance & workshop.
April 3: The Hungry Brain, Chicago, IL – Emerging Improvisers’ Transmission Series.
April 4-6: Detroit or Madison. TBA.
April 7: Bug Jar, Rochester, NY
April 9: The Plough and Stars, Cambridge, MA – with Rebecca Gates and the Consortium.
April 10: AS220, Providence, RI – with Rebecca Gates and the Consortium.
April 12: Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ – with Rebecca Gates and the Consortium.
April 13: Barbès, Brooklyn, NY – Oscar Noriega’s Palimpsestic Series.
April 14: Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY – with Rebecca Gates and the Consortium.
April 15: NYC or Philadelphia. TBA.
April 16: Philadelphia or Washington DC. details TBA.
April 19: New Orleans, LA TBA.
April 21-22: Austin, TX TBA.
April 24: Los Angeles, CA – with The Youngs. TBA.
April 25: CSU Bakersfield, Bakersfield, CA. Performance & workshop.
April 26: Bay Area, CA TBA.
April 30: Train Tour Homecoming Show @ The Woods, Portland, OR – with Wayne Horvitz’s Pigpen reunion.


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