Philly has enjoyed a bumper crop of jazz prodigies in recent years, the roots of which can almost always be traced to the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts on Broad Street. The Clef Club’s education program is run by the revered Lovett Hines, whose former students include notables like bassist Christian McBride, organist Joey DeFrancesco, and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
Philadelphia International Records was never particularly tied to Philly’s jazz scene. Still, historian Jack McCarthy made it a point to stop at the legendary soul label’s Broad Street home when leading tours about the city’s jazz history. In part, that’s because many local jazz musicians picked up session work there when it housed the Cameo-Parkway label. And in part, it’s simply because it was so integral to local music history.
In April, when McCarthy led his inaugural “Exploring the Philly Jazz Legacy” tour, he showed tourists the Philadelphia International Records building itself; a month later, he showed his next group a block-long hole in the ground surrounded by a chain-link fence. In coming months, he’ll be showing tourists a photo of the now-demolished building while standing in front of a new 47-story hotel and condo tower. That story is indicative of the history of Philly jazz, where so many of the music’s former homes have been erased from the ever-changing landscape.
Under normal circumstances, a jazz festival might not seem like the most appropriate occasion to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a Bruce Springsteen album. But the Exit 0 Jazz Festival happens in New Jersey, and in New Jersey Bruce Springsteen is right for every occasion. And the album in question is Born To Run, which essentially qualifies as an extra gospel in the state.
So on May 29, South Jersey-based vocalist Paul Jost will perform his jazz reimagining of Born To Run in Cape May Convention Hall as the headlining event of the first night of this year’s Exit 0 Festival. Jersey or not, in Jost’s hands the music of the Boss’ most iconic album will actually sound like jazz. Continue reading →
Break Stuff, the title of the latest album by the Vijay Iyer Trio, carries an anarchic connotation that might seem at odds with the taut, deeply collaborative music contained within. But taken in a more focused sense, those two words do capture the sense with which the pianist and his triomates bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore dismantle and deconstruct the basic elements of jazz to create their own unique and revolutionary sound. There is no more traditional setting in jazz than the piano trio, yet nothing this band does seems beholden to the past. Continue reading →
The Berks Jazz Fest began life in 1990 as a way to bring visitors to the Reading area for something other than outlet shopping. In the 25 years since it’s taken on a life of its own, becoming a highlight of the region’s cultural calendar each spring. While the festival’s tastes run toward the smoother side of the jazz spectrum, the ten-day fête habitually boasts an eclectic and diverse line-up. Below are a few highlights from this year’s more straightahead offerings during its April 10-19 run. Continue reading →
When Bobby Zankel ended his decade-long run of monthly performances at Tritone in 2011 (mere months before the South Street club itself went to a better place), the future of the saxophonist’s adventurous Warriors of the Wonderful Sound big band was unclear. The following year brought the first reinvention of the band through a series of commissioned compositions from jazz greats Muhal Richard Abrams, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Steve Coleman.
A more radical reinvention came in 2013, when Zankel scaled down the band to a ten-piece and almost completely overhauled its membership. “The original band had run its course,” Zankel shrugs now. In its first two years the new Warriors maintained its vitality while making fewer appearances, though the more sporadic shows always made an impact: its unveiling at the 2013 Philadelphia United Jazz Festival; an inventive and surprising collaboration with hip-hop choreographer Raphael Xavier and Cuban-born percussionist François Zayas as part of the Kimmel Center’s inaugural Jazz Residency program; a tribute to “New Thing” pioneers Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra in a powerhouse double-bill with the Sun Ra Arkestra at the Painted Bride. Continue reading →
Living in New York City between 1976 and 1985, Kevin Diehl found himself in the midst of the fertile loft jazz scene. During that now-legendary period, some of the most influential and forward-thinking musicians of the last half-century gathered together in Soho, forging a new sound building on the 1960s avant-garde and asserting their independence from major record labels and nightclubs. They were a group fueled by the communitarian spirit of organizations like Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and St. Louis’ Black Artists Group (BAG).
Maybe it’s something in the genes, but the two greatest success stories to come out of the Paul Green School of Rock have been siblings Eric and Julie Slick. Both caught the ear of Adrian Belew when the former Zappa and King Crimson guitarist/vocalist stopped into the school to teach in 2006, and went on to form the core of his Power Trio. Drummer Eric left in 2009 and landed in a number of Philly bands including Dr. Dog and Norwegian Arms, but bassist Julie has continued to orbit King Crimson in the years since.
In 2011 she attended the “3 of a Perfect Pair Camp” organized by Belew and Crimson-mates Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto and went on to tour with the three (as well as new Belew Power Trio drummer Tobias Ralph) as the Crimson ProjeKCt, the latest iteration of Crimson’s spin-off incarnation.
There’s something about the saxophone that seems to push its practitioners, more than any other single group of instrumentalists, to test sonic limits. Travis Laplante is undoubtedly part of that tradition. His solo work utilizes an arsenal of extended techniques to make his one horn sound like a battery of instruments, while he and altoist Darius Jones explore extremes of volume and breath in the quartet Little Women.
Cuban trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval recently hit retirement age, but he shows no signs of slowing down. Just ten days after celebrating his 65th birthday, Sandoval will lead his quintet at the Annenberg Center on Sunday, November 16th.