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Bridging cultures and mediums with Jarana Beat and Prelude to a Memory

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

One of Philly’s hidden gems, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is a place out of time. Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the opening of its building and museum, the Institute has remained essentially unchanged since the late 19th century, offering visitors a glimpse of the Victorian era approach to the study of the natural sciences.

The feeling of the past coexisting with the present appealed to Brooklyn-based artists Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere. The pair were fascinated by Chris Marker’s influential 1962 film La Jetée, with its storyline about time travel and fate (which also inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys) unfolding in a series of (mostly) still black and white images. At one point during his travels, the protagonist finds himself in a “museum filled with ageless animals” much like the Wagner.

That’s only one of myriad echoes that Nevarez and Tevere have in mind for Memory of a Time Twice Lived, the film that will eventually result from several years of visiting and shooting in Philadelphia. One component of that film will take place on Wednesday night at the Wagner as Prelude to a Memory, a live performance by the Mexican-American band Jarana Beat, which fuses folkloric Mexican music with more modern influences. The footage that the artists film on Wednesday will be incorporated into the film, which will then be premiered at the Wagner and become part of an exhibition of the duo’s work at the ICA next year. Continue reading →

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Kamasi Washington brings The Epic to life at World Cafe Live

Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese
Kamasi Washington | Photo by John Vettese

Saxophonist/composer Kamasi Washington brought an 8-piece version of the West Coast Get Down to World Café Live on Thursday as part of his first east coast excursion in support of his attention-grabbing debut The Epic. Even stripped of the orchestra and choir, his band lives up to that album title. Both roof-raising showmen and envelope-pushing adventurers, Washington and company delivered on the converging promises of George Clinton’s Afro-futurist funk and the boundary-obliterating jazz reinventions of late Coltrane and electric Miles. Continue reading →

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Interview: Kamasi Washington on breaking down the boundaries of jazz with The Epic

Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist
Kamasi Washington | Photo by Mike Park | courtesy of the artist

“West Coast Jazz” means something very specific to most listeners – cool, intellectual, played by guys in short sleeves and horn-rimmed glasses whose calmer brand of hip evoked a more laid-back atmosphere than the frantic pace of New York City. It’s an image, as that description implies, that’s not only reductive but locked in the 1950s, reflecting the eclipsing effect that New York has on other areas of the jazz landscape.

With the release of The Epic, Kamasi Washington explodes that image with the force of a supernova. The saxophonist/composer’s sprawling, monumental three-disc debut is an ambitious Afro-futurist opus that swirls in elements of jazz, funk, hip-hop, electronica and soul, as well as a 32-piece orchestra and 20-person choir supplementing the adventurous sound of his core ten-piece band. That band consists of fellow members of a collective known alternately as The West Coast Get Down or The Next Step, a group of like-minded, genre-leaping artists who grew up together in the Leimert Park section of South Central Los Angeles. Their combined efforts suggest something transformational happening in the incubator of the L.A. music scene. Continue reading →

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Broad Street’s Clef Club celebrates the next class of jazz greats with event this Saturday

Clef Club
Nazir Ebo, Immanuel Wilkins and Yesseh Furaha-Ali

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.

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Exploring the Philly Jazz Legacy on Jack McCarthy’s walking tour

Philly Jazz
The Royal Theater | photo by Jennifer Brady | www.behance.net/JennBrady

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.

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Paul Jost will put a jazz spin on Bruce Springsteen for the Exit 0 Festival

Paul Jost | Photo by Paul Dempsey
Paul Jost | Photo by Paul Dempsey

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 →

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Hybrid Theory: Vijay Iyer Trio blends traditional Indian sounds with jazz this Saturday at Swarthmore

Vijay Iyer | via Facebook.com/vijayiyermusic
Vijay Iyer | via Facebook.com/vijayiyermusic

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 →

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Berks Jazz Fest celebrates 25 years with Gerald Veasley, Billy Cobham and more

Berks Jazz Fest
Gerald Veasley | photo via www.eddiebaccusjrmusic.com

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 →

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Bobby Zankel revives Warriors of the Wonderful Sound for a residency at The Painted Bride and Clef Club

Bobby Zankel's Warriors of the Wonderful Sound | Photo courtesy of the artist
Bobby Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound | Photo courtesy of the artist

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 →

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Sonic Liberation 8 will re-imagine loft jazz and chamber music at The Rotunda

Sonic Liberation Front | Photo courtesy of the artist
Sonic Liberation Front | Photo courtesy of the artist

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).

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