Portland Jazz Hero
Advocating and Supporting Jazz Artists
5/17/2023, 9:57 a.m.
By: Lynn Darroch, Marcia Hocker and Rick Mitchell
Broadcaster, journalist and musician Yugen Rashad has been an invaluable voice for Portland’s relatively small African- American community for more than 30 years, advocating for and supporting jazz artists and the art form in general.
A reporter for the Oregonian newspaper as well as other local publications, Rashad worked for Multnomah County’s smoking cessation and other health-related programs for decades prior to his retirement in 2020. But his greatest impact has come as the volunteer host for a weekly radio program on the city’s community FM station KBOO, where he was mentored by Portland’s legendary Black radio and TV personality, George Page. After Page’s death nearly 30 years ago, Rashad took over his program and continues to present jazz from an African-American perspective — a vital and often lonely mission in Portland.
One of the most significant features of his three-hour show on Saturday afternoons – which he calls “The Motif: Re-Imagining a Jazz Sensibility” — is an on-going series of phone interviews with Black music industry professionals, from touring musicians to journalists and authors, including in recent months musicians Kenny Garrett and Jeff “Tain” Watts, writers Eugene Holley Jr., Willard Jenkins and Playthell Benjamin, Adam Clayton Powell III (about his mother Hazel Scott) and als0 pianist-composer-arranger-Monk’estra leader John Beasely. With the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions at the station, Yugen has planned to resume live interviews with local musicians and activists.
Also a self-taught musician, Yugen leads quartets and quintets, often in small, Black owned-venues and at larger outdoor events in the Black community. He performs from behind his keyboard while playing bass with his left hand. Always, Yugen Rashad’s musical activism exemplifies excellent taste and rare humility.