The Week Ahead: Sharon Van Etten, Bartees Strange, Herbie Hancock, The Winter Doldrums Concert and more

Herbie Hancock | via The Kimmel Center

This week in the XPN listening area, you can catch shows from legends as easily as fresh faces, nationally acclaimed artists as much as local sensations. Add in the usual mix of genres, from singer-songwriter to jazz to rock and pop, and there’s not a lot of reason to stay home. Here are twelve concerts to see in the next seven days in and around Philadelphia.
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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Herbie Hancock at the Kimmel Center, Pouty at Everybody Hits, Daniel Johnston at the Tower Theater

Herbie Hancock | via The Kimmel Center

Jazz legend Herbie Hancock takes the stage at the Kimmel Center tonight for what’s sure to be a sweeping musical journey — the pianist and composer has 41 studio albums to pull from, after all. The groundbreaking musician got his start back in the 50s and 60s and is known for his ever-changing innovative style. Hancock is currently in the midst of an extensive world tour and reportedly prepping for a new album. Get a taste of Hancock’s current touring tunes via the NPR video below, and find tickets and more information on tonight’s show on the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →


Jazz Legend Herbie Hancock to perform at Verizon Hall

Herbie Hancock | via The Kimmel Center

The legendary Herbie Hancock began as a child prodigy in the 50’s, was sought after by Miles Davis to join his Second Great Quartet in the 60’s, and in the decades since has released 41 studio albums, picked up 14 Grammy awards, and added a star to the Hollywood Walk of Fame while reshaping the landscape of jazz along the way – and these are only the highlights of the highlights. Continue reading →


Philly producers Small Professor and Arcka release Herbie Hancock tribute

cover Philly producers Small Professor and Arcka have released a tribute to the legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. Presented by The Find Magazine, Hancock features both producers on five songs each. Hancock fans will recognize samples from Hancock classics like “Watermelon Man,” and “Come Running To Me,” and Small Pro and Arcka manage to capture the warm soul and grooves of Hancock’s incredible work. Download the collection here, or listen to it below.

Here’s the story in the words of Small Professor:

“Hancock” was originally conceived by myself in 2009, a project inspired by rapper/producer Blueprint’s “Blueprint Vs. Funkadelic” album from 2008. Intended at first to be a solo offering, fellow Philly producer Y?Arcka (aka Arcka this time around) was asked to come on board. The idea was to showcase the contrasting styles between us; I’ve often joked about how I will use samples from 5 songs to make one beat, and Y? will sample 1 song and make 5 beats. Herbie Hancock’s vast discography was perfect for this exhibition, spanning many different style of music over the course of his career and already being a go-to source for samples for years. Personally, I’m partial to Arcka’s ‘side’ of this release, but there’s a little something for every beat lover on this short but sweet piece of instrumental hip-hop pie…enjoy.

Listen to Hancock below.


#XPN5050: 1973

For fifty weeks over the next year, we’re celebrating the music of a specific year every Saturday on WXPN. We’ll be choosing the years randomly; for this week’s #XPN5050, David Dye is putting the musical spotlight on the year 1995.

Seriously. Look at how many incredible albums came out in 1973. We’re talking about some of the most classic of the classic rock albums of all time like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin, Quadrophenia by The Who, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Band On The Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut, Bruce Springsteen’s first and second albums, Steely Dan’s Countdown to Ecstasy and incredible albums by The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Yes, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music, The Rolling Stones, Little Feat, and ZZ Top.

In 1973, R&B was on fire. Stevie Wonder released the ground breaking Innervisions, Marvin Gaye dropped Let’s Get it On, and Oakland’s Tower of Power gave us their seminal self-titled album. In other sounds, Herbie Hancock released the jazz funk classic Head Hunters, The Wailers released Catch A Fire, Tom Waits released his debut, Closing Time, and Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention blessed us with Over-Nite Sensation. Jazz fusion was in full effect: Mahavishnu Orchestra released Birds of Fire, and Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham debuted Stratus, a record that would serve as the musical blueprint for trip-hop when Massive Attack sampled it in 1991 on their song, “Safe From Harm.” Continue reading →


Encounters at the Mothership brings generations of experimental music makers under one West Philly roof

Encounters at the Mothership | photo by Yoni Kroll for WXPN

If you’ve seen the flier for Encounters at the Mothership pinned to a corkboard in your local coffee shop, you’ve probably stared in awe at the wildly ambitious line up of four nights of noise, jazz and experimental music assembled by klezmer and jazz trombonist and curator Dan Blacksberg.  You’d also noticed something a little more alarming: the venue. Known as the Mothership, the venue resides in the same space that housed the former Eris Temple, and while being a staple of the Philadelphia underground music scene, it isn’t the most accessible. Known for raucous punk and experimental shows, Mothership has recently sought to expand the depths of its programming. Five minutes into Blackberg’s collaboration Out of Heaven on day one of Encounters, it became apparent that expansion would be the recurring theme of the four night affair.

Under the wintry backdrop of 52nd Street’s gated storefronts, Chinese takeout spots, and fading neon lights, musicians as eclectic as pedal steel artist Susan Alcorn and legendary Arkestra bandleader Marshall Allen descended the steps (and then ascended them again — Mothership is basically a magically converted row home with just, like, the weirdest set of rickety stairs to enter) to sonically entrance us. Continue reading →


The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “Naima” by John Coltrane

John Coltrane on the cover of Giant Steps | photo by Lee Friedlander

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “Naima” from John Coltrane’s 1960 album Giant Steps.

Music comes in when words fail, and nobody knew that better than John Coltrane. The iconic saxophonist burned bright across a turbulent life where he struggled with addiction, relationships, spirituality, and the tension between artistic vision and the cold demands of a capitalistic society — all topics that leave those ensnared speechless. Fittingly, two of his most enduring works unpack the complexities of love to the sound of saxophones melodies sweet, somber, and spectral.

John Scheinfeld’s 2016 documentary Chasing Trane places the musician’s creative and personal zenith at the January, 1965 release of A Love Supreme, a euphoric, exaltational song cycle about Coltrane’s relationship with God and, by extension, the spiritual life of humankind writ large. At the point of its recording and release (which happened, amazingly, within one month of one another), Coltrane had been living sober and wholly dedicated to his music for eight years, and was wrapped up in a love affair with his pianist Alice McLeod, who would later become his second wife.

By contrast, the song “Naima” from his 1960 Atlantic Records debut Giant Steps — arguably Coltrane’s first great love song — captures a much more difficult time in his life and the love that emanated from it; a sort of love that’s sad, delicate, fraught with trouble, but no less profound. Continue reading →


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

Poet Trapeta B Mayson and Monnette playing the Sengoni | photo by Michael Donnella | courtesy of the artist
Poet Trapeta B Mayson and Monnette Sudler playing the Sengoni | photo by Michael Donnella | courtesy of the artist

Only a quarter of the way in, 2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for jazz guitar. Bill Frisell recently released a solo masterpiece with Music IS, and we’ve gotten very strong new outings by Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, Jakob Bro and Julian Lage – not to mention impressive sideman turns by Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley (with Adam Nussbaum), Ben Monder (with Dan Weiss), Liberty Ellman (with Henry Threadgill) and Gilad Hekselman (with John Raymond), to name a few.

On the local front, you can add Mike Kennedy to that list. Continue reading →


The Skeleton Key: A jam-packed May, from Get Better Fest to Break Free Fest, Tuareg guitar to NYC no-wave, and so much sunshine

design by Erik Ruin | courtesy of the artist

No matter if you spent it out in the streets at the May Day protest or circling a Maypole or just soaking up all that sunshine, I hope you had a wonderful beginning of the month. It’s finally spring, so slap on some shorts, ride that bike you’ve been neglecting all winter, and get your butt to the gig.

You can start tonight. There are not one but two truly excellent shows happening and if you time it correctly you can go to both! Continue reading →