Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in April

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David Fishkin will lead an Alice Coltrane tribute at Underground Arts this month | photo by Chris Hayner | courtesy of the artist

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and there’s no shortage of ways in which to show your appreciation in Philly over the next 30 days. The official kick-off came a couple of days early on Thursday, with Mayor Kenney presenting the Benny Golson award to bass great Jamaaladeen Tacuma at City Hall.

Tacuma himself will give local listeners plenty of reasons to leave the house this month, as his 4th annual Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival expands from one marathon event to three must-see performances. It begins on April 6 at MilkBoy with the Free Form Funky Freqs, the skronk-funk trio teaming the bassist with long-time rhythm partner G. Calvin Weston and Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid. [TIX / INFO] It continues April 15 at South with the debut of Jupiter 4, a new improvising quartet with Tacuma, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, drummer (and recent Philly transplant) Chad Taylor, and up-and-coming saxophonist Alfredo Colón. [TIX / INFO] Finally, the late Ornette Coleman’s electric Prime Time Band reunites on April 29 at International House under the leadership of the pioneering saxophonist’s son, drummer Denardo Coleman, with Odean Pope taking the sax role. [TIX / INFO]

Speaking of icons, John Coltrane has long been a towering figure in the jazz pantheon, but in recent years his widow, Alice Coltrane, has finally been taking her rightful place alongside him. Philly audiences recently were treated to a taste of her music via a sublime solo harp performance by Brandee Younger at Johnny Brenda’s (before Nick Millevoi’s Desertion Trio cranked up the volume exponentially), and now saxophonist David Fishkin is presenting an entire evening in tribute to the late harpist and pianist. Fishkin’s nine-piece band Righteous Aquarium will explore the Alice Coltrane oeuvre at Underground Arts on April 5. [TIX / INFO]

A week later, another member of the Coltrane family will continue that legacy at Chris’ Jazz Café. Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane long ago shook off the burden of his father’s shadow to forge his own strong sound. He’ll lead his quartet for four sets on the weekend of April 13-14. [TIX / INFO]

The most offbeat of the month’s Trane-related offerings comes on April 28 at South, when bassist Warren Oree and his Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble present the latest in their “Jazz – Up, Down, and Around” series, interpreting the music of The Temptations through a Coltrane lens. [TIX / INFO]

Speaking of powerful saxophonists, Chris Potter – arguably the strongest tenor voice of his generation – will take the same stage on April 6, bringing back his electric quartet Underground.  [TIX / INFO]

Altoist Tim Berne is known for his sprawling compositions, which he constructs with the intricate structure and challenging facades of modernist architecture. His quartet Snakeoil, with pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, and drummer Ches Smith, will navigate those treacherous pieces at the Painted Bride on April 15. [TIX / INFO]

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jazz Appreciation Month without a few tributes, and this month there’s one to fit any extreme of taste. For the traditionalists, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will pay homage to Thelonious Monk at the Academy of Music on April 8, with special guest Chick Corea at the keys, a true meeting of giants both on the stage and in spirit. [TIX / INFO]

For those of a more adventurous bent, Ars Nova Workshop presents Practitioner at The Rotunda on April 27. Not a tribute so much as a revival and reinterpretation, the project brings together clarinetist Ben Goldberg and pianist Michael Coleman to perform the music of Steve Lacy’s “Hocus Pocus,” a set of six etudes for soprano saxophone. [TIX / INFO]

The month’s grand finale comes on April 28 with the 7th annual Center City Jazz Festival, which turns the corridor around Broad and Sansom into a day-long buffet of music at five different venues. This year the usual well-curated roster of locals will be augmented by imports like the genre-warping BigYuki, saxophonist Sharel Cassity, and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life, a band that draws on influences from jazz, neo-soul, funk, gospel and hip-hop in fresh ways. [TIX / INFO]

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