On Friday February 6, 2004, the Portland Jazz Festival, now known as the PDX Jazz Festival, sprang to life. Headlining artists at the inaugural event included Wayne Shorter, Poncho Sanchez, Gary Burton, Jenna Mammina with Tom Grant, and Darrell Grant’s Smokin’ Java. The Mel Brown Quartet kicked-off the 3-day celebration at 12 noon and festivities, including multiple free community shows and events, continued through Sunday evening, February 8th.

At the center of the inaugural Festival was Bill Royston.

Bill conceptualized what the Portland Jazz Festival would look like, what would make the event unique. He garnered support from the local travel and hospitality industry and wove our rich pool of local jazz talent into the Festival as a permanent fixture that endures to this day.

By 2020, the Festival had blossomed to 15-days, 30+ venues and 100+ events. The community and jazz fans worldwide have embraced Portland’s jazz festival. When COVID-19 hit, the Festival was presented virtually online, ensuring that the annual celebration never missed a year.

On October 15, 2021, our founder, Bill Royston passed. Bill loved jazz and Bill loved Portland, leaving all of us with a gift of music that will thrive for generations to come.

As the 19th consecutive PDX Jazz Festival approaches, Bill is in our thoughts at PDX Jazz. We thank him for giving us the organization that we call our professional home, and we carry the torch that he has handed us with gratitude.

Chris Doss
Executive Director
PDX Jazz – PDX Jazz Festival

(Lead photo of Bill Royston by Jason Kaplan)