Kerry Politzer is a Portland-based jazz pianist, composer, and educator. She is on the music faculty of Portland State University and the University of Portland. Kerry received a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Piano from the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied improvisation and composition with the late jazz guru Charlie Banacos. She continues to be inspired by his teachings and is now working on a Master of Music in Jazz Composition from Rowan University.
Prior to moving to Portland, Kerry lived in New York for many years, where she studied Brazilian music and performed original compositions at clubs including Smalls. She also toured with DIVA No Man’s Band, playing with Diane Schuur, Slide Hampton, and Larry Coryell. In 1996, Kerry was one of six finalists in the American Pianists Association’s 3rd Biennial Jazz Piano Competition. Her composition Rhodes Rage won Third Prize, Jazz Category in the 2005 International Songwriting Competition.
Kerry has released six jazz CDs as a leader, including Blue in Blue, which featured saxophonist Donny McCaslin and was termed a “first-rate jazz outing” by AllAboutJazz.com. She has also been a featured sideman on albums of George Colligan, Laura Dreyer, and the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble and was featured on Sax And The City: Musical Contributions From New York’s Best Women Jazz Instrumentalists (Apria Records, 2004).
In 2019, Kerry was awarded a Regional Arts and Culture Council Artistic Focus grant to explore the music of Brazilian composer Durval Ferreira. The project culminated in the August 2019 release of Diagonal: The Music of Durval Ferreira. In 2020, she received another RACC grant to produce the first edition of Music of Brazilian Piano Masters, which can be accessed at the Music of Brazilian Piano Masters YouTube page. In 2021, Kerry received grants from MusicPortland and the RACC for her Driveway Jazz Series project, which provides an outdoor venue for musicians during the summer.
One of Kerry’s newest projects is Bossa PDX, a samba-jazz and bossa nova group for which she has transcribed dozens of classic arrangements from the original recordings. With this music, she has performed around the country at venues such as Jazz Forum Arts, the Black Dolphin, the Oregon Coast Jazz Party, Ellenburg’s Jazz in the Valley, and the Florence Wine & Jazz Festival, among other venues. Kerry has also headlined at the Montavilla Jazz Festival and performed with the Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra.
Kerry is at work on a new album of compositions informed by the pandemic.