PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s reputation as a great jazz town goes back decades. The world’s top jazz musicians played Portland regularly in the 1940s and 50s.
From Louis Armstrong to Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie to Duke Ellington.
Oregon photographer Carl Henniger captured incredible images of those performers — but most have never been seen by the public, until now.
The former military pilot worked in advertising sales for the Oregonian after World War II. He studied photography at Oregon State University, worked on the yearbook and eventually became a stringer for Downbeat Magazine.
“So what he was doing was he’d go out and take pictures of concerts,” Carl’s son, Michael Henniger said.
Henniger took 385 photos, capturing legends like Charlie Parker with Chet Baker, Dinah Washington, Ray Brown and Dizzy Gillespie.
“Portland was very highly regarded as a venue for musicians playing the West Coast,” Michael Henniger said. “In fact, Duke Ellington liked it so much he had his birthday here — twice.”
They all played Portland, in clubs mostly along North Williams Avenue in Portland’s Albina District. They called it Jumptown.
The jazz scene was as vibrant as any in America until Memorial Coliseum and I-5 wiped Jumptown away.
“It wasn’t rock and roll that killed jazz,” Michael said. “It was urban renewal, in my opinion.”
Carl Henniger’s photos
Henniger took jazz photos for a couple of years — long enough to make the money to move his family from St. Johns to Beaverton.
His legacy was almost lost.
“They’ve been in a drawer for literally 60 years,” Michael said.
Now he’s determined to share his father’s work.
“The reason I want people to see them is not only because the people are famous, but because they’re such good photographs,” he said.
Michael got a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to exhibit the photos. Thirty selected photos will be featured in the atrium at Portland City Hall for 3 weeks starting September 13, then the collection will go into the archives at Oregon State University.