by Robert Bell
Aug. 3 would have been Little Rock-born jazz musician Art Porter Jr.'s 50th birthday. The saxophonist died in a boating accident in Thailand in 1996, not long after performing at a festival celebrating the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
To commemorate Porter's life and work,Art Porter Music Education Inc., a nonprofit that provides scholarships to budding musicians, will present a week's worth of music and events to celebrate the virtuoso musician's life, which was cut far too short.
Porter's father, Art Porter Sr., was also a renowned jazz musician, as well as an educator, entertainer and television producer. Initially, Porter Jr. got his start playing drums in his dad's band. By his mid teens, he was drawn to the saxophone, and proved to be a prodigy. In fact, Porter Jr. was so young when he was playing in clubs with his father's band that then-Attorney General Bill Clinton stepped in by supporting Act 321, known as the "Art Porter Bill," which allowed underage musicians to play in bars with parental approval.
APME Inc. was formed after the elder Porter died of lung cancer in 1993.
Porter Jr. recorded an album for PolyGram, as well as four albums for Verve, which posthumously released "For Art's Sake" in 1998. The live album is a great introduction to his work, and showed the artist stretching out his smooth jazz numbers in a relaxed, improvisational setting.
He also played on albums with several other jazz heavyweights, including Ramsey Lewis and Jeff Lorber, who will perform as part of the celebration.
Times and dates are on the jump.
Aug 1, noon.
City Proclamation of “Art Porter Week”
Aug. 2, noon, Metropolitan National Bank Tower Plaza.
Porter Performers play a concert.
Aug. 3, Porter's Jazz Cafe.
A Celebration of Art!
An Evening with jazz pianist and composer Alex Bugnon, at the grand opening of Porter’s Jazz Café (sponsorship only, more information available at www.artporter.org).
Aug. 4, 8 p.m., The Afterthought.
A jam session with several Arkansas musicians paying tribute to Art.
Aug. 5, 7 p.m., Cajun's Wharf.
Fusion in the Rock
An evening with producer, composer and jazz pianist Jeff Lorber. Tickets are $15.
Aug. 6, Riverfest Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Rhythm on the River
Featuring jazz and R&B song stylist Lalah Hathaway. Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door, and can be purchased through ticketmaster.com.