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Cello Project is all about impromptu

The Portland Cello Project likes to play varied music in diverse places.
The Portland Cello Project likes to play varied music in diverse places.
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No two programs the Portland Cello Project gives are the same. None.

That’s been a tradition since the project formed in 2007.

“Usually on every tour there’s a lot of new music and we’re constantly adding new arrangements, constantly changing everything up,” Doug Jenkins, the project’s artistic director and one of its founding members, said in a phone interview.

Jenkins, a cellist, said he doesn’t know what the Tuesday, Feb. 5 program at the Outpost Performance Space will be. The project also is giving two hourlong library concerts earlier the same day.

“We don’t have a set list and probably we’ll decide two seconds before we go on stage. And then we probably will change the program anyway,” he said.

One thing audiences can count on is that the project will play a mixed bag of styles, from classical and jazz to rock.

Portland Cello Project
WHEN and WHERE: Noon Tuesday, Feb. 5 at the Tony Hillerman Library, 8205 Apache NE; at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Special Collections Library, 423 E. Central; and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE
HOW MUCH: The hourlong library concerts are free but reservations are encouraged. For reservations visit www.ampconcerts.org or call 232-9868. The Outpost concert is $22 in advance, $25 day of show at www.ampconcerts.org or at Hold My Ticket, 201 2nd SW or call 886-1251

The core of the project is the cello. In Albuquerque, six cellists will be joined by a trumpeter, a percussionist, a pianist and a vocalist.

“The vocalist is Patty King. She’s an amazing vocalist. She sang on the Beck album we just put out,” Jenkins said.

The album, “The Beck Hansen Song Reader,” has the aesthetic of a 1930s songbook, he added.

Jenkins said Beck didn’t want to release the music as a CD, only as sheet music. “So we thought, ‘He must have made it for us,’” he joked.

The project and Beck do have a lot of qualities in common, Jenkins said.

“Beck is always playing around a little bit. There’s always a sense of humor and a seriousness and he tries to make quality music at the same time. He’s so good at bridging that gap,” he said.

The project prides itself in performing at diverse venues, and not only in concert halls, listening rooms or libraries.

For example, the band played at a loading dock party in New York City. The presenter blocked off the alley, set up a bar for a party and turned the loading dock into a stage, Jenkins said.

In Fargo, N.D., the project played after midnight at a dive bar for 100 punk rockers.

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