History of Jazz at Otter Crest

Excerpts taken from an article by Frank Geltner submitted for the 10th anniversary of the Oregon Coast Jazz Party.

As best as can be determined, serious jazz came to the central Oregon coast in 1978, when the Jazz Society of Oregon sponsored its first Otter Crest Jazz Weekend at the Inn at Otter Crest. Several big-name jazz musicians performed during this three-day event, and although the festival was not a financial success, it raised the profile of the Jazz Society of Oregon, which was established in 1973 to advance public acceptance of jazz music as a viable force in contemporary culture.

In 1978, The Sunday Oregonian displayed an ad from the Jazz Society of Oregon announcing an “Otter Crest Jazz Weekend” for March 17, 18 and 19, 1978, featuring: Carl Fontana, Art Pepper, Blue Mitchell, Plas Johnson with Dave Mackay, Monty Budwig, Joey Baron, Andy Simpkins, Mel Brown, and more. “A new and innovative approach to contemporary art — don’t miss it!” This was the work of promoters Jim and Mary Brown who helped to inaugurate the Otter Crest Jazz Weekend, a three-day version of what has come to be called “jazz parties,” where a group of independent musicians spend a weekend performing in different pairings for several hundred dedicated fans in a retreat or resort setting. Those concerts brought many nationally-known players to the area and demonstrated that an audience for jazz existed outside the nightclubs.

In delivering the Otter Crest Jazz Weekends the “jazz party” concept, Jim and Mary Brown proved that a highly concentrated program of top-flight jazz musicians, showcased in an intimate setting, was a successful formula. Registration was limited to 250 with a fee of $295 per person, which included: admission, dining and gratuities. A music-only package was available for $145 per person.
“Clubscene” writer, Lynn Sirrine, recalled that “in 1981 she was fortunate enough to be in attendance at Otter Crest again . . . if you weren’t there, you can NEVER know the electricity that was in the air that weekend. Those Otter Crest Jazz Weekends . . . were magical. There is no other way to describe it. Jim and Mary Brown were experts at putting together musicians to maximize their talents, and they were the perfect hosts for perfect jazz weekends.

If one searches for clues on the internet, you will readily discover items like “Live at Otter Crest,” a live recording featuring jazz/blues pianist Gene Harris with Jimmie Smith on drums and John Heard on bass. It was Recorded in 1981 at Otter Crest, Oregon, a trio performance (which predates his legendary ’80s comeback to the jazz scene as a member of the Ray Brown Trio).
Bass player, John Clayton and his brother Jeff Clayton on Oboe at the Inn At Otter Crest Jazz Weekend, Oregon, 1987, can be found on YouTube playing “If I Were A Rich Man” in one of those rare clips of John Clayton, recognized as one of the world’s finest jazz bass violin musicians.

Jim Brown passed away in 2013 leaving a unique legacy of jazz on the Oregon Coast.

In 2014, non-profit organization, Just Jazz Inc. , operated by Claire Little and Randy Madnick, decided to bring jazz back to Otter Crest. With the support of Ray Little, Kathy Madnick, Justin Gleeson, David. M. Jones and Neal and Sandy Staufenbeil, Just Jazz Inc. began producing “Jazz at Otter Crest”, which started as single events throughout the year. The first “Jazz at Otter Crest” was held in February 2014 and featured Karla Harris(v) with Dave Captein(b), Todd Strait(d), Mike Horsfall(vbs), Bill Hartsell(gtr) and John Bringetto(t).

Just Jazz is not attempting to replicate the magical jazz weekends of the past. Just Jazz wants to rekindle the spirit of jazz and make new memories of jazz at Otter Crest. Just Jazz is focused on preserving the art of jazz by raising awareness in our community and inspiring our youth through jazz. Event proceeds help Just Jazz to promote jazz camps and other educational events. Just Jazz also co-sponsors jazz workshops at the Oregon Coast Jazz Party.


For a full list of past events – click here!

Other Articles about our history –
LA Times – 1989