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The day the music died: Portland Museum of Art ends popular Jazz Brunch series

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The day the music died: Portland Museum of Art ends popular Jazz Brunch series

PORTLAND — A popular weekly music event has come to an end.

After 15 years, the Jazz Brunch at the Portland Museum of Art had its last performance on Sunday, Dec. 11.

"This has been a longstanding and popular tradition at the museum," PMA marketing director Kristen Levesque said. "But we've really had to evaluate all our programming, and (the Jazz Brunch) doesn't really fit in with our collection."

Levesque said that despite its popularity, jazz music is not part of the museum's mission of acquiring, preserving and interpreting "the visual arts and the museum's architecturally significant buildings."

Admission to the brunches has been free with admission to the museum. But Levesque said the event was not a big money-maker for the museum because many of the attendees were subscribers, so they were not paying to get in the door on Sundays (although they could purchase brunch items in the museum cafe).

The final group to take the stage was Port City Jazz, a Chicago-jazz-style band that started playing together in 1997. Band leader Carl Bradford, who plays trumpet and flugelhorn, said every time the group plays at the museum, the house is packed.

"It's an important part of the jazz community in Portland," Bradford said. "It's one of the few venues that can accommodate a large crowd."

Bradford said a smaller version of his group often performs at bars in the area, but that those performances tend to attract a different crowd, often younger people who are there for a drink and the atmosphere, rather than just to see the band.

All of the members of Port City Jazz have day jobs, Bradford said, and seeing one of their few opportunities to perform disappear is sad for all of them.

"I'm very disappointed that they're not going to have the Jazz Brunches there anymore," he said.

Levesque said if the museum has music in the future, it would likely correspond to the collection, like featuring Shaker tunes while displaying Shaker art.

She said, instead, the museum is focused on its Movies at the Museum events, which bring a variety of films to the museum's small theater. The theater began showing movies in 2009, not long after the art theater Movies on Exchange closed its doors.

Unlike the Jazz Brunch, the museum charges $7 a ticket for the films, or gives museum subscribers the option of purchasing 10-show punch cards for $50. The museum also sells food by Aurora Provisions, and beer and wine before the shows.

"I think that film-making is an art form, and that's how we're thinking about these films," Levesque said. "The movies are connected to our mission because they're visual art."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.