By

Philadelphia United Jazz Fest celebrates the scene in Center City

Philadelphia United Jazz Fest celebrates the scene in Center City
Philadelphia United Jazz Fest celebrates the scene in Center City

For the eight years spanning 2004 and 2011, the West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival was the closest thing that Philadelphia had to an annual jazz festival. That was long a sore point given the city’s rich jazz heritage, the fact that the festival took place in the far-flung Northwest, and the prevalence of fading R&B stars like WAR and The O’Jays as headliners rather than actual jazz artists. And it was even worse when the festival folded amid neighborhood political squabbling, seemingly leaving Philly jazz fest-less once again.

Thankfully a few local jazz lovers have since stepped up. At virtually the same moment that West Oak Lane was taking its last gasps, trombonist Ernest Stuart founded the Center City Jazz Festival, which has become an annual and growing spring event. Then last year, West Oak Lane producers LifeLine Music Coalition returned with the Philadelphia United Jazz Festival, which was smaller in scale than West Oak Lane but proved to be a closer approximation of their original vision – namely, a showcase for Philadelphia jazz musicians in Center City. Continue reading →

By

Bridging fairy tales and hip-hop with MC Frontalot at the North Star this Friday

MC Frontalot | Photo by Ben Trivett
MC Frontalot | Photo by Ben Trivett

Back in 1985, when all the other kids were at recess playing kickball, 11-year-old Damian Hess was hanging out by himself in the school library obsessing over books of fairy tales. That interest stuck with Hess over the next three decades, and at 40, now known as nerdcore hip-hop pioneer MC Frontalot, he’s offering his own take on ten classic stories on his sixth album, Question Bedtime (Level Up). He’ll bring songs from the album and the rest of his catalogue to North Star Bar on Friday. Continue reading →

By

Zion80 will explore Jewish music through an Afrobeat lens at World Cafe Live

Zion80
Zion80 | Photo courtesy of the artist

For the last twenty years, the bulk of iconoclastic saxophonist/composer John Zorn’s mega-prolific output has been devoted to the Masada songbook, which now consists of more than 600 pieces falling under the umbrella of his Radical Jewish Music label. A little more than a decade ago, Zorn began “Book of Angels,” the second book of the Masada oeuvre, the songs of which have been interpreted by a stunningly diverse roster of artists – everyone from jazz guitar great Pat Metheny to classical/jazz hybridist Uri Caine to off-kilter rock band Secret Chiefs 3. Continue reading →

By

Benefit for a doc about influential folk guitarist Robbie Basho hits Johnny Brenda’s tomorrow

Robbie Basho
Robbie Basho | via Boll Weevel Records

Despite his influence on the current crop of avant-folk guitarists inspired by the releases of John Fahey’s renowned Takoma label from the 1960s, Robbie Basho’s name is less familiar today than that of esteemed labelmates like Fahey and Leo Kottke. In part that’s due to his freakish and premature death at the age of 45, when an artery in Basho’s neck burst during a visit with his chiropractor. His legacy is indelible, however, in the work of modern-day guitarists who emulate Bashos’ fusion of American blues and folk styles with Indian classical traditions. Continue reading →

By

Philly native Orrin Evans talks about paying tribute to a friend in Liberation Blues

Orin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz
Orrin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz

It was a time before cell phones when Orrin Evans moved to New York City in 1996 with friend and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. So when he’d meet other musicians on the scene he’d simply tell them, “Call me at Duane’s crib if you need to find me.” The only problem was that Evans and Eubanks had been preceded by another Philadelphian named Dwayne a few years earlier – bassist Dwayne Burno. Evans realized his mistake when he received a phone call from the none-too-pleased bassist, who skipped past the pleasantries and proceeded to play an answering machine full of messages intended for the young pianist. Continue reading →

By

West Philly drummer Justin Faulkner brings Community Unity Music Festival to Clark Park

Justin Faulkner and his family organized West Philly's first Community Unity Festival, slated for Sunday. | Photo by Shaun Brady
Justin Faulkner and his family organized West Philly’s first Community Unity Festival, slated for Sunday. | Photo by Shaun Brady

Growing up in the Cedar Park section of West Philly, Justin Faulkner spent so much time with his nearby cousins that they felt more like brothers. So it hit particularly hard when one of those cousins fell victim to gun violence, killed just outside West Philadelphia High School when Faulkner was in his early teens. Not long after, another cousin met the same fate, followed by several of Faulkner’s childhood friends. Continue reading →

By

Tim Motzer celebrates improvisational Live From Stars End at Johnny Brenda’s

Tim Motzer
Tim Motzer | photo courtesy of the artist

Tim Motzer’s guitar is an infinitely adaptable piece of machinery. He regularly wields the instrument in a staggering variety of contexts, always fitting in with whatever genre he finds himself recruited for, while also warping it just the right amount to spotlight his inventive individuality without muscling his way into the spotlight. Of course, it helps that the artists he chooses to collaborate with are all on the eccentric or at least envelope-pushing end of the spectrum in their own fields, from Ursula Rucker to King Britt to Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Continue reading →

By

Amir ElSaffar and Omar Dewachi bring traditional Iraqi music to the Random Tea Room tomorrow night

Amir ElSaffar | photo courtesy of the artist
Amir ElSaffar | photo courtesy of the artist

On their own, there’s nothing traditional about the music made by Amir ElSaffar or Omar Dewachi. An Iraqi-American trumpeter born in Oak Park, Illinois, ElSaffar has integrated Iraqi maqam with jazz in a series of stunning and unique hybrid projects. Dewachi is an Iraqi-born anthropologist and professor at the American University of Beirut who plays the oud in the free-improv and experimental band City of Salt.

Continue reading →

By

The Winery Dogs make their Philadelphia debut tonight at the Keswick Theater

The Winery Dogs | photo via www.facebook.com/TheWineryDogs
The Winery Dogs | photo via www.facebook.com/TheWineryDogs

Given the road-tested virtuosity of all three members, hard rock supergroup The Winery Dogs could easily have been overwhelmed by instrumental pyrotechnics. After all, the band consists of guitarist and vocalist Richie Kotzen, a charter member of the shred-centric Shrapnel Records roster in the early ‘90s before stepping in as the replacement for C.C. DeVille in Poison and Paul Gilbert in Mr. Big; bassist Billy Sheehan, who went fret for fret with Steve Vai in David Lee Roth’s first solo band and co-founded Mr. Big; and drummer Mike Portnoy, who anchored prog-metal masters Dream Theater for 25 years until his departure from the band in 2010.

Continue reading →

By

The shape-shifting OOIOO plays a transcendent set at Johnny Brenda’s

OOIOO | Photo by Shaun Brady
OOIOO | Photo by Shaun Brady

Hearing OOIOO live is an experience akin to staring at one of those illustrated illusions, where a seemingly simple picture appears to be first one thing, then another – a duck that turns into a rabbit, or an old lady into a young girl. When the Japanese band plays, they lock into long, repetitive grooves that undergo similar transitions – you sway for a while to their tribal grooves when suddenly your focus shifts and they become an eccentric prog band, or you grin at their infectiously skewed take on girl-group pop before you’re suddenly taken aback by their raw punk energy. Continue reading →