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Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live jazz in November

philly jazz guide
Omar Sosa | photo courtesy of the artist

Thanks to an unexpected confluence of shuffled schedules, pet health scares, and weather-defiant vacation planning, it seems my wife and I will be heading up to New England the day after Thanksgiving. We’ve decided to fully embrace the coincidence, so that Saturday we’ll be sitting down for a second, (relatively) period-accurate holiday supper at Plimoth Plantation, the Williamsburg-like “living history” recreation of the Pilgrims’ first settlement, presumably surrounded by buckle-shoed and feather-headdressed reenactors.

That of course means that I’ll be missing out on the Philly jazz scene’s own venerable Thanksgiving tradition, guitar great Pat Martino’s weekend-long stint at Chris’ Jazz Café. This year he’ll lead his quintet, with his regular triomates, organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre, supplemented by tenor saxophonist Adam Niewood and trumpeter Alex Norris. In the spirit of the season, Martino’s guitarist wife Ayako has been known to sit in as well.

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Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live jazz in October

Jason Stein | photo courtesy of the artist
Jason Stein | photo courtesy of the artist

The jazz offerings in the city this month offer the opportunity to explore the music from a number of different perspectives. For a historical one, the ICA is hosting The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now through next March. The exhibition, which opened last year at the MCA in Chicago, tells the story of the influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and its intersections with the visual art and culture of the era. It’s a must-see, and also features a number of performances to coincide with the show. But aside from that, this month’s standout concerts provide a number of different angles.

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Chris’ Jazz Cafe to celebrate 25th anniversary throughout month of May

Webb Thomas | via chrisjazzcafe.com

Chris’ Jazz Cafe has been a staple in Philadelphia for the past 25 years now, and the Sansom Street venue will be celebrating their longevity throughout the month of May with performances from several local jazz legends.

It all starts on May 5th with performances from Forba & Friends and The Dave Wilson Quartet, and will continue throughout the month with appearances from bassist Mike Boone, The Webb Thomas Trio, Jim Desalvo, The UArts Big Band, Steve Giordano, and many more. Continue reading →

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April is Jazz Appreciation Month; here are some can’t-miss shows at Chris’ Jazz Cafe

The George Burton trio performs at Chris’ Jazz Cafe | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and jazz aficionados and newcomers alike will have a lot of live music to look forward to over the next 30 days, culminating in Center City Jazz Fest on April 30th. Chris’ Jazz Cafe, an old staple in the Philly Jazz scene, has partnered with the city to bring a number of different acts from across the country to the stage. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Duane Eubanks at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, RFA at Steel City, Frog Holler at Johnny Brenda’s

Duane Eubanks | Photo by Gulnara Khamatova
Duane Eubanks | Photo by Gulnara Khamatova | via duaneeubanks.com

Philly native Duane Eubanks, the youngest of the local jazz scene’s famed Eubanks brothers, returns to Philadelphia tonight. Last year, he released Things of That Particular Nature on Sunnyside Records. Tonight, he and his quintet play two sets at Chris’ Jazz Cafe in Center City, one at 8 p.m. and one at 10. Tickets and more information can be found at the Chris’ Jazz Cafe website. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hoppin’ John Orchestra at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at Verizon Hall

Hoppin' John Orchestra | Photo by Rocco Peditto | <a href=http://roccopeditto.virb.com/ target="_blank">roccopeditto.virb.com</a>
Hoppin’ John Orchestra | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.virb.com

It’s going to be a chilly Fat Tuesday tonight, but a couple center city jazz shows will warm up your Mardi Gras celebration. Over at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, the regional crew Hoppin’ John Orchesrta will take the stage for their annual throwdown. The New Orleans-style brass band mixes up traditional and vintage numbers with more contemporary vocal tunes and originals in the spirit of the big easy. Listen to their recent appearance on The Key Studio Sessions and get more information on the show here. Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: The Hoppin John Orchestra

Philly-area jazz ensemble The Hoppin John Orchestra has been doing its thing for nearly 20 years now, and it has a songbook to prove it. With over 200 selections in its repertoire – amassed by band leader Michael Hood since founding the ten-piece in 1996 – the HJO touches on vintage standards and original compositions in the spirit of Southern ragtime and New Orleans brass band music. Which means this time of year is the band’s busy season. Continue reading →

Support for The Key Studio Sessions, from Dogfish Head
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Reconsidering history with jazz guitarist Nir Felder

Nir Felder | Photo courtesy of the artist
Nir Felder | Photo courtesy of the artist

At the time that guitarist Nir Felder was writing the music for his debut album, the world around him seemed to be in the midst of momentous changes. It was 2011, and headlines blared news of the global financial crisis, the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. The events couldn’t help but start Felder wondering about the future – as well as the past. Continue reading →

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Philly native Orrin Evans talks about paying tribute to a friend in Liberation Blues

Orin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz
Orrin Evans | Photo by Jimmy Katz

It was a time before cell phones when Orrin Evans moved to New York City in 1996 with friend and trumpeter Duane Eubanks. So when he’d meet other musicians on the scene he’d simply tell them, “Call me at Duane’s crib if you need to find me.” The only problem was that Evans and Eubanks had been preceded by another Philadelphian named Dwayne a few years earlier – bassist Dwayne Burno. Evans realized his mistake when he received a phone call from the none-too-pleased bassist, who skipped past the pleasantries and proceeded to play an answering machine full of messages intended for the young pianist. Continue reading →

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Saxophonist Odean Pope makes rare appearance at Chris’ Jazz Cafe tomorrow

Odean Pope | photo courtesy of the artist
Odean Pope | photo courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia saxophone great Odean Pope doesn’t perform with the same frequency that he once did. Originally from South Carolina, Pope was raised in Philly and got his start playing behind some of R&B’s most legendary artists at the Uptown Theater before befriending John Coltrane before the tenor legend left the city. Pope’s most enduring musical relationship was with Max Roach, with whom he played for nearly 40 years until the pioneering drummer’s death in 2007. In the early 1970s Pope co-founded the ground-breaking early fusion group Catalyst, and later corralled many of the best young saxophonists in Philly and beyond for his rousing Saxophone Choir. His sound is brawny and barbed, a bridge between hard bop, soul jazz, and the avant-garde.

The last few years have been marked by several monumental changes for Pope – last fall he turned 75, in 2011 he spoke publicly about his 30-year struggle with bipolar disorder and was celebrated at a fundraising concert at the Clef Club, and most importantly, in 2012 he lost his beloved wife Cis, the inspiration for one of his most beautiful compositions. So it’s already a special occasion that Pope will lead a quartet at Chris’ Jazz Café on Saturday, bolstered by the fact that it will be the saxophonist’s first show ever at the city’s sole remaining full-time jazz venue. He’ll front a group of local all-stars featuring bassist Lee Smith, pianist Tom Lawton, and drummer Craig McIver.  Tickets and information for the show can be found here.