Kerry Politzer is a Portland-based jazz pianist, composer, and educator. Since 2013, she has served on the music faculty at Portland State University, and since January 2020, she has also been on the faculty at 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.
Kerry lived in New York for many years, during which time she performed at Smalls and toured with DIVA No Man’s Band. DIVA performances included appearances at the Blue Note and on the QE2 with Dianne Schuur and Slide Hampton, and a quartet performance with 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. Another tune, Begin The Baiao, won Third Prize, Jazz Category in the 2000 Mid-Atlantic Song Competition and an Honorable Mention in the 2000 John Lennon 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. The pianist has also been a featured sideman on albums of George Colligan, Laura Dreyer, and the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble. Kerry’s 2005 CD Labyrinth was a finalist for Best Jazz Album in the 2007 Independent Music Awards. The title track from her first album, Yearning, was featured on Sax And The City: Musical Contributions From New York’s Best Women Jazz Instrumentalists (Apria Records, 2004). Kerry’s subsequent release, Below the Surface (2014), was released by PJCE Records.
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 a RACC grant to produce the first edition of Music of Brazilian Piano Masters, and Portland State University funded the second edition. Both sessions can be accessed at the Music of Brazilian Piano Masters YouTube page. In 2021, Kerry received a Make/Learn/Build grant from 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, for which she has transcribed dozens of classic bossa nova arrangements from the original recordings. Bossa PDX has performed at the Oregon Coast Jazz Party, Ellenburg’s Jazz in the Valley, the Florence Wine & Jazz Festival, the Lincoln City Cultural Center, and the Lan Su Garden, among other venues. Kerry has also headlined at Portland’s Montavilla Jazz Festival and performed with the Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra.