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The Key Studio Sessions: Arnetta Johnson and SUNNY

Camden, New Jersey trumpeter Arnetta Johnson doesn’t like being put in a box — not herself, nor anybody else.

On a recent Sunday night as we were setting up for a Key Studio Session, Johnson and the members of her band SUNNY got in a spirited debate over gospel music versus jazz music. First it was about which style was the originator — yes, we all know that the distinctly midcentury format of gospel was the launching point into soul, and then rock and roll, and jazz’s roots in the early 20th century predate all of that. But aren’t hymns and spirituals early iterations of gospel? And so if you consider them, isn’t gospel a precursor to jazz, and not vice versa? This went on for a while, and then the discussion shifted to which style yielded better musicians — was it jazz, whose players boast technical prowess and excel at innovation, or gospel, whose brightest stars connect in a massive way?

By the time we were ready to soundcheck, Johnson put a swift end to the back-and-forth with some on-point, on-brand wisdom. “Why do we have to think of ourselves as jazz musicians or gospel musicians?” she asked. “That’s putting a limit on what you do and how you sound. Why can’t we just be ‘musicians’?” Continue reading →

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Camden Trumpeter Arnetta Johnson will bring her impressive repertoire to Chris’ Jazz Cafe

Arnetta Johnson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Arnetta Johnson is a trumpeter from Camden, NJ who’s done so much more than play in her school’s marching band. She’s only 25 years old and has backed Beyoncé for the past three three years, touring with her all-female band and playing dream gigs like Superbowl XLIX and Coachella. She attended Berklee University right out of high school with a full scholarship and was mentored by critically acclaimed trumpeter Darren Barrett.

NPR has named Johnson one of the top 20 artists to watch in 2019, as she’s just released her debut album If You Hear a Trumpet It’s Me via Gryscl Entertainment. Now, she’s gracing Philly with her prodigious talent at Chris’ Jazz Cafe on July 19th.  Continue reading →

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Man Man returns to play Philly Music Fest 2019 alongside Sun Ra Arkestra, Vacationer, Restorations, Arnetta Johnson and more

clockwise from left: Man Man | photo by Noah Silvestry for WXPN | Arnetta Johnson | photo by John Vettese for WXPN | Vacationer | photo by Joe Bloss for WXPN | Sun Ra Arkestra | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Philly avant-garde rockers Man Man have risen from hibernation this year, and will headline the 2019 edition of the Philly Music Fest, just announced today.

The project of songwriter Ryan “Honus Honus” Kattner and drummer Chris “Pow Pow” Powell was a highlight of the 2014 XPoNential Music Festival, but has since gone bicostal, with Kattner releasing solo music. Along with some previously-announced west coast tour dates, this gig marks their formal return to action, and their first time playing the city where they got started in four years. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: P.A.C.E.’s Trumpet Chics bring the brass to World Cafe Live

Trumpet Chics | photo by Makena Duffy for WXPN

Trumpet Chics brought the party to Free at Noon today, making audience members glad they stayed in town for the holiday weekend. Part of P.A.C.E. program (Preparing Artists for College Entrance) in Camden, NJ, which helps increase opportunities for students in the arts, the ensemble features a talented group of young musicians who aren’t afraid to have some fun onstage. Continue reading →

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

Arnetta Johnson | photo by Wil Moore

Philly jazz enjoyed a tremendous night of celebration last month at a packed Union Transfer, culminating with the Sun Ra Arkestra taking the stage to the audience singing “Happy Birthday” to its 95-year old bandleader, the unstoppable Marshall Allen. That set was preceded by the equally thrilling reunion of the Arkestra’s Germantown neighbors, Sounds of Liberation. While health issues prevented him from playing, founding member Khan Jamal took the stage and struck a few notes on the vibes to a warm ovation. Continue reading →

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Ten things we loved at Center City Jazz Fest 2019

THREEZUS at Center City Jazz Fest | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

If you’ve missed the Center City Jazz Fest these past eight years, you’re truly missing out. The annual event packs five venues on either side of South Broad Street with full-day lineups showcasing the spectrum of jazz: seasoned vets and up-and-comers, some so new to the craft that they’re still in school; traditional-leaning swing as much as futuristic, boundary-expanding cosmic compositions. This year, we got to see ten of the 20 artists playing, and went to four of the five venues participating, and it was an incredible day all around. Here’s a rundown of highlights, beginning with the photo you see at the top of the page. Continue reading →

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Listen to Man Man’s first two songs in six years

Man Man | photo by Pootie Evans | courtesy of the artst

In May it was announced that Man Man would headline this year’s Philly Music Fest. With the festival fast approaching, the Philly-born, Los Angeles-based avant-garde rock group has shared two new singles. “Beached” and “Witch” pick up right where the band left off with On Oni Pond. They do more than just remind people why they love Man Man; The singles serve as the perfect reminder to pick up Philly Music Fest tickets if you haven’t already.

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