THARA MEMORY, trumpeter, composer and teacher, was born in Tampa, Florida in 1948. His first musical memories are from local marching bands and old classical recordings. He soon became inseparable from his Sears Roebuck trumpet and began performing at traveling tent shows and speakeasies at the young age of 11.
By the time he was 19, after studying as assistant band director to Dr. Thomas E. Lyles at Alabama State University and with acclaimed trumpet instructor William Fielder, he was on the road, playing with a variety of great musicians. It was while he was playing with the legendary rhythm and blues artist Joe Tex that he came to Portland, Oregon in 1970. He settled, becoming one of the city's most notable and highly recognized jazz performers for the past forty years. Bill Smith, writer for the "Willamette Week" said, "In each jazz community, and Portland has a sizable one, there are stars. In this town, Memory is one that shines brightest."
Thara has played with many jazz and blues greats including Dizzie Gillespie, James Brown, Stanley Turrentine, Eddie Henderson, Natalie Cole, The Four Tops, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Harris, and The Commodores. He was a member of the Mel Brown Septet in the 1980s when that band won the international Hennessy Jazz Competition. From 1993-95 he played with the Leroy Vinegar Quartet. He has continued to play with Mel Brown and can be heard regularly at Jimmy Maks jazz club, leading his own hard core jazz funk and re-charged Motown group, the Thara Memory Superband, which includes some of Portland's top musicians. In 2009, he was honored to play with his former student, Esperanza Spalding, at the Monterey Jazz Festival.
In 1991, Thara recorded his first CD, "Juke Music", which was hailed as "an outstanding musical offering", at times "playful", "poignant" and "daring", much like the performer himself! Thara's discography includes "Live on the Willamette" and "Central Avenue Roots" with the Depriest Project, the latter featuring his composition "Million Dollar Man Blues March". In 1994 he joined famed saxophonist Eddie Harris on his CD "Vexious Progressions", and in 1997 he recorded "On the Path" with sax master Dennis Springer. In 2006 Thara released his long awaited second CD, entitled "Chronicle", a rich blend of his own compositions, inspired by jazz, classical, and rhythm and blues themes. Although best known for his contributions to the jazz scene, Thara is also a respected classical composer and conductor. In 2001, while completing a classical conducting program at Marylhurst University under the tutelage of Lajos Balogh, he showcased his symphonic piece entitled "Middle Passage" with the Marylhurst Symphony. From 2003 to 2005 he served as primary conductor for the Pacific Crest Sinfonietta and he has twice been a guest conductor with the Portland Festival Symphony in their summer concert series.
In February 2011, Thara's operetta, "Sherman", was presented, through support from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, at Portland's Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center. This jazzy, historical opera, developed in conjunction with award winning writer Renee Mitchell, is based on the life of Sherman Thomas, a saxophonist in NE Portland's jumptown era.
Thara has a long history of teaching youth, passing on the traditions of America's art music, jazz. He has taught courses at Portland State University, Portland Community College and Marylhurst University.
He has worked with award winning high school band programs at Portland's Wilson High School and Beaverton's Arts and Communications Magnet Academy. He has long collaborated to form community music programs for youth in NE Portland, earning him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Arts Foundation. In 2005 he put together his current regional youth jazz orchestra, the American Music Program, which has won numerous national competitions, including the Next Generation Festival in Monterey and the Savannah Music Festival's Swing Central competition.
Thara John Memory is a consummate performer whose repertoire spans the breadth of classical, jazz, and rhythm and blues music. In addition to his 2013 Grammy Award for his work on Esperanza Spalding’s Grammy winning CD, he has been honored with numerous awards, including induction into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame and recognition as the Jazz Society of Oregon's Musician of the Year, the Regional Arts and Culture Council's annual artist's fellowship.
Whether as a jazz trumpeter and bandleader, symphony conductor, opera collaborator, or teacher to "up and coming" jazz students, Thara is a highly accomplished musician with master ability and brilliant style. Audiences young and old relish his memorable performances.