WHAT AN INSPIRATIONAL FIND I recently stumbled across! Seen here is the cover-art for an 88-page book/CD set titled: Northwest Passage: 50 Years Of Independent Music From The Rose City which is, as noted, “A Book And Audio CD Highlighting The History Of Portland’s Burgeoning Independent Music Scene.” Recently produced by that city’s Dill Pickle Club – a volunteer-powered non-profit corporation that adopted its briny moniker in homage to an old jazz-drenched speakeasy that served as a locus for the creatives who sparked the “Chicago Renaissance” during the Prohibition Era – & which has embarked on a program of presenting unusual educational events. As their website states: “Through tours, public programs and publications, we create nontraditional and interactive learning environments where all forms of knowledge are valued and made readily accessible.”

Northwest Passage is a wonderful example of their visionary efforts. What it contains, in part, is documentation of some of their past events: interesting transcripts from public interviews they completed with various notable musicians from Portland’s remarkable music scene – including: Ural Thomas (a storied R&B and soul singer who first recorded as a member of Portland’s ‘50s doo-wop vocal group, the Monterays), Valerie Brown (of the groovy ‘60s band, Melodius Funk), Fred & Toody Cole (garage/punk icons whose band, Dead Moon, enjoys a global fan-base), and Cool Nutz (local hip-hop pioneer). Those transcripts offer a hint about how interesting the Club’s events can be, with the veteran players sharing recollections about earlier days in Portland music history & reflections on the state of music there today. The CD – which is tucked into the back of the high-quality book – provides an audio supplement to the experience with songs by those artists and others ranging in vintages from 1966 to 2010.  In addition, the book includes a brief discographical listing of important Portland recordings & a bibliography of relevant books [Full Disclosure: my own 2009 tome, Sonic Boom! is included]. All-in-all, a most impressive product from and admirable organization. The Dill Pickle Club has created here a model that the people of any town that can boast a musical past even half as robust as Portland’s would be wise to consider emulating. With their event programs, & this cool book/CD set, the Club has demonstrated a very effective way to explore one’s collective past, heap a little belated public honor on overlooked contributors to that history, bring a focus to the present-day community’s longing for connection to a proud heritage, & help ensure that the future of any particular music scene is better fortified with a solid & well-understood foundation.