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

Marc Cary | courtesy of the artist

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and however you feel about that somewhat calcifying designation there’s ample opportunity to do some appreciating this month. The city’s own twist, “Philly Celebrates Jazz” (which at least seems more enthusiastic than mere appreciation), had its official kick-off on Thursday at City Hall with the presentation of awards to guitarist Kevin Eubanks and vocalist Ella Gahnt. Continue reading →

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

Dave Burrell | courtesy of the artist

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the great pianist Marilyn Crispell, during the course of which we both lamented the fact that the NE Philly native hadn’t played a show in her hometown in far too long. Looking back over her far too few local appearances in recent years, I recalled that her gorgeous 2002 solo piano concert at Penn’s Houston Hall had been my first experience with Ars Nova Workshop, just weeks after moving back to the east coast (and as it happens, a quick Google search reveals, on my 28th birthday). Continue reading →

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

The Bad Plus | via thebadplus.com

Last fall, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church launched a new series called “The Future of Jazz Piano” with a performance by its curator, Fred Hersch. A mentor to many younger musicians as well as an artist constantly replenished by new ideas and fresh collaborations, Hersch has a keen eye for new and rising talent dedicated to advancing the jazz tradition to which Hersch has been dedicated throughout his career. On Feb. 7, the series will host Sullivan Fortner, a New Orleans native who has imbibed deeply the open-eared spirit of that city. Continue reading →

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

Laurin Talese | photo courtesy of the artist

Another hectic year is coming to a close, which for those of us who spend our time ingesting music and trying to string words together in response means that it’s list-making time. You can seek out my Top 5, and expanded / slightly different lists elsewhere, a little later this month. But a few quick mentions of some albums that shouldn’t go unnoticed this year: the ambitious trumpeter/composer Ambrose Akinmusire has crafted an utterly singular hybrid of diverse influences on his staggering Origami Harvet (Blue Note), while the great guitarist Bill Frisell released a heartrendingly gorgeous career highlight with Music IS. If I can stray from the jazz fold for a moment, I also spent a lot of time this year with Philly choir The Crossing’s monumental new album If There Were Water (Innova), highlighted by Stratis Minakakais’ ancient-meets-unexplored “Crossings Cycle,” with Ryley Walker’s mesmerizing Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans), and with Revocation’s blistering The Outer Ones (Metal Blade), which unleashed my inner Beavis with each listen. Continue reading →

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

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington | photo courtesy of the artist

Many of jazz’s most creative voices have had a lot to say this year. For whatever reason, 2018’s best releases include a staggering volume of music, albums that sprawl to 2 or 3 discs in length. Witness Tyshawn Sorey’s monumentally minimal Pillars, three hours of sparse, delicately textured gestures that leave the listener to wander through a limbo of sound and genre. Guitar innovator Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl ran to two discs of arcanely angular song forms, while her collective trio Thumbscrew (with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara) paired an album of original music with an accompanying set of covers. The brilliant composer Henry Threadgill doubled up with releases by his ensemble Double Up and another by his latest conglomeration, the 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg. That’s just to mention a few. Continue reading →

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

Harold Lopez-Nussa
Harold Lopez-Nussa | photo courtesy of the artist

Ars Nova Workshop’s inaugural October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music was undoubtedly the highlight of last year’s Philly jazz calendar, and the follow-up is shaping up to be equally awe-inspiring. More than an avant-garde jazz festival, the October Revolution aims to be a survey of the history and the current moment in disruptive music-making, taking the pulse of contemporary jazz innovation while looking back at great artists who’ve made a habit of never looking back. Continue reading →

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

Theo Crocker
Theo Crocker | photo by Bryant Norman | courtesy of the artist

It seems that pianist George Colligan is as upset as the rest of us at the distressing headlines and malicious attacks that make up present-day politics in this country. But instead of unleashing a Tweetstorm to add to the migraine-inducing noise, Colligan – an undersung veteran who’s worked with such greats as Jack DeJohnette and Cassandra Wilson — put his fingers to better use. His latest album, Nation Divided, is a solo outing that muses on the state of the union, with evocative titles like “Blues for Charleston” and “The Strength To Move On.” It’s a stirring session that moves fluidly between the anguished and the outraged; in other words, it vividly captures the mood of the era. Colligan won’t be alone when he plays South on Sept. 5, though; instead he’ll lead a trio with the legendary rhythm section of Buster Williams and Lenny White. Continue reading →

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

Mariel Bildsten | via marielbildsten.com

Ok, it’s August. You’re probably reading this either in a state of undress, as close to the most powerful A/C in your house, or in a ghost town of an office, wondering how you ended up being the sole person at work not at the Shore right now. Productivity isn’t exactly the buzzword for the month, and that includes the local jazz scene – August is more a month for enjoying some local favorites in laid-back fashion before the season kicks back into full swing next month. But don’t doze off too hard – there’s more than a few shows worth getting up from your beach chair for. Continue reading →

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

Reggie Watkins
Reggie Watkins | photo by Sienna Watkins | courtesy of the artist

The summer is traditionally a slow time for jazz in the city, though last month’s packed scheduled held off the malaise for a bit. July’s calendar is far more bare, especially in terms of touring artists – presumably everyone’s sticking close to home and obsessing over that newly unearthed John Coltrane Quartet album. But other than celebrating Independence Day while the name can still be used with a straight face, the month offers a few other chances to enjoy jazz by still-living artists. Continue reading →