Classical, jazz, rock — take your pick. Portland has a varied and rich music scene. Visitors wanting detailed guidance to the fine arts — dance, theater, classical music — should check out http://www.artslandia.com, which doesn't just list new shows but gives background on each company.
I knew I'd hit it right when the Mel Brown Quartet took the stage at this comfortable jazz club in the Pearl District. Brown, who played with Diana Ross and the Temptations before he moved into jazz, is the dapper drummer-in-residence at the club, leading a septet most Tuesday nights, a quartet on Wednesdays and a "B-3 Organ Group," reveling in the sounds of the Hammond organ, on Thursdays. I caught the quartet (with out-of-town vibraphonist Chuck Redd) delivering sometimes playful, sometimes moody and always virtuosic takes on classics by Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and others. (221 N.W. 10th Ave., 503-295-6542 or http://www.jimmymaks.com)
The Portland orchestra still has a few programs left in its 2011-2012 season. Symphony music director Carlos Kalmar conducts on May 12-14 (pianist Arnaldo Cohen as soloist on Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1) and May 20-21 (Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," Dvorak's "Nocturne" and two works by John Adams). (Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, 503-228-1353, 800-228-7343 or http://www.OrSymphony.org)
The city's resident opera company presents Leonard Bernstein's "Candide," with tenor Jonathan Boyd in the title role, May 11, 13, 17 and 19. (Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay, 503-241-1802, 866-739-6737 or http://www.portlandopera.org)
Portland musician/disc jockey Maggie Vail, who is (full disclosure) my niece, reports on rock/dance venues that appeal to her in the city's busy music scene.
At East End (203 S.E. Grand Ave., 503-232-0056 or http://www.eastendpdx.com) "the show space is in the basement," she says, "and it actually feels like a house party every time."
Holocene (1001 S.E. Morrison St., 503-239-7639 or http://www.holocene.org) is in a large converted warehouse and has multimedia events, rock shows, electronica and DJ nights, plus a 5-8 p.m. happy hour on Fridays with free appetizers.
Valentine's (232 S.W. Ankeny St., 503-248-1600 or http://www.valentineslifeblood.blogspot.com) is "a little place hidden in the alley near Voodoo Doughnuts downtown," Vail says. There's live music Sunday-Wednesday, DJs other nights of the week, along with art exhibits and film screenings.
Garden of delights
Are gardens cultural? They are when they bring a whole cultural tradition into focus.
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a case in point. Opened in 2000, it's a quiet sanctuary in Old Town/Chinatown, formerly one of the city's grittiest neighborhoods, although somewhat gentrified now. It's a place of winding pathways, covered pavilions and peekaboo vistas that make it feel much larger than the square block it covers. A waterfall, a tea house and artfully placed "penjing" (miniature landscapes of rock, moss and bonsai-like trees) round out the attractions. (239 N.W. Everett St., 503-228-8131 or http://www.lansugarden.org)