“Portland has an ongoing need for exploratory music outside the traditional venue structure,” says Todd, a musician who arranges shows at the Alice Coltrane Memorial Coliseum. “We bring together musicians in our own space to play and experiment with noise. We used to have weekly jam sessions. But we all have to work more now to pay our rent, so it’s hard to get together.”
Gathering here at various times are musicians, artists, friends and assorted neighbors. The vibe spills outside where folks hang out and hock items of all kinds. This mixed-use apartment venue is a sonic and spiritual laboratory of sorts. According to its Facebook page, “The same piece is never played twice and no plans are made or respected.” The site was formerly a Hare Krishna temple for many years. Rumor has it Steve Jobs used to visit the temple during his Reed college days.
This barrier-breaking art and music space is the latest chapter in the eventful history of 5135 NE 42nd St.
“I don’t promote our events because we don’t have much room,” Todd says. “But musicians get the word out. We’ve been doing it for a few years. We used to have a place on North Williams before that neighborhood blew up. It may happen here too and we’ll be forced to move again.”
“Sometimes, the best improvisation in music happens when you are just learning an instrument,” Todd says. “Once you have figured it out and know the idiosyncratic vocabulary, you start playing in typical ways. It becomes more common.”
What’s up with the name? Alice Coltrane was a talented pianist, composer and one of the few harpists in the history of jazz. She spent much of her life seeking spirituality in her music and private life. She married John Coltrane in 1965 and played with him until his death. Alice herself passed on to a new plane in 2007. Adding Memorial Coliseum to her name was a way to honor her.
This barrier-breaking art and music space is the latest chapter in the eventful history of 5135 NE 42nd St. The Krishnas are gone but a sense of transcendence still hangs in the air.