A jazzy new year with Belinda Underwood, Key of Dreams
By Lynn Darroch, Special to The Oregonian
January 1, 2010

Two performances at The Heathman Hotel's Tea Court this week offer a snapshot of the eclectic charm and excellent musicianship that keep Portland's music scene green and outside the mainstream.

Jazz bassist and singer Belinda Underwood sometimes leaves her chickens, pet rabbit and garden in Southwest Portland to accompany a belly dance troupe or perform in a duo -- often on baritone ukulele -- with her sax-playing sister. Her latest CD, "Greenspace," includes acclaimed pianist Benny Green and features Pink Martini bassist Phil Baker and Grammy-nominated vocalist Nancy King -- a bold move that placed her dusky alto and bass alongside national stars on the same instruments. On Saturday, bassist Glen Moore, founding member of the group Oregon, and pianist David Goldblatt will join her for jazz standards and Underwood originals, including the environmental critique "Polar Blue" and the Middle Eastern-flavored "The Oasis."

Then on Wednesday, Key of Dreams will present acoustic folk rock that is as smooth and pretty as Underwood is unpredictable. Guitarists Eric Schultheis and Abe Wirth (their usual quartet shrinks to a duo for this performance) have added to their bluesy fingerpicking roots a touch of flamenco and other techniques for a more expansive sound. That's allowed them to range from jazz to acoustic music venues and to achieve a fusion feel on their latest CD, "Mile-9."

Belinda Underwood Trio, 8 p.m. Saturday, www.belindaunderwood.com; Key of Dreams, 7 p.m. Wednesday, www.keyofdreams.com. The Heathman Restaurant & Bar, 1001 S.W. Broadway, 503-241-4100; no cover charge

-- Lynn Darroch, Special to The Oregonian

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