Jazz in the Sanctuary: A historic look at sacred musical spaces in Philly and beyond

Church of the Advocate at 18th and Diamond, site of John Coltrane’s next-to-last Philadelphia performance | Photo via

From a field holler to Marvin Gaye’s “make me wanna holler,” music is historically a source of solcae for African Americans in their struggle for equal rights and social justice.

Rooted in the black experience, jazz both has been a sanctuary and found sanctuary in the church. Indeed, the church was one of the safe places where jazz was played during Philadelphia’s jazz heyday in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.

In 1939, Philly-born Billie Holiday told the nation that “Southern trees bear a strange fruit.” In 1955, Louis Armstrong transformed Fats Waller’s song of unrequited love, “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue,” into a civil rights anthem. Holiday, Armstrong and Waller were members of the Harlem Renaissance.

john-coltrane-france-651Jazz musicians and the jazz culture played a key role in breaking down barriers to racial integration. Nat Segal’s Downbeat Club, located at 11th and Ludlow streets, was the first integrated nightspot in Center City. So it was fitting that in his invocation at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Pastor A.R. Bernard Sr. noted how artists helped ignite the civil rights movement. Continue reading →


Download “Lucy” by Alex G (playing Church of the Advocate on 7/20)

Alex G | Photo by Abi Reimold
Alex G | Photo by Abi Reimold

“Lucy” is a trance-inducing two-minute track from Haverford’s Alex G, released as a single on the young musician’s Bandcamp last month.  Following up last November’s Trick full-length, “Lucy” is a hushed and relaxing song with minimal lyrics ( just “I love Lucy” floating through every now and then) and Alex G’s always on-point guitar melodies.  When he’s not playing solo, Alex is the lead singer in The Skin Cells.  But it’s his early solo work that landed him on a list with The Smiths, Animal Collective and Sunny Day Real Estate – music blog Pigeons and Planes tipped his 2010 track “Gnaw” for its 20 Indie Classics by Artists Under 20 composite this past April.  He’ll return to North Philly’s Church of the Advocate on July 20th for a show with Coma Cinema, Julia Brown, Olive Drab and Girl Scouts; more information can be found on the Facebook event page here.  Download “Lucy” and stream “Gnaw” below.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Autre Ne Veut at Voyeur for Making Time, Divers at The Fire, Janelle Monae at Penn’s Spring Fling, David Bromberg Quartet at Landis Theater, Netherfriends at Church of the Advocate

ANVAutre Ne Veut headlines tonight’s Making Time event at Voyeur Nightclub.  Based in Brooklyn, Autre Ne Veut is the electronic R&B / pop project of former jingle composer Arthur Ashin.  Anxiety, released in February, is Ashin’s second effort under the moniker, which means “I think of none other” in French.  Also performing at tonight’s party are Delorean, Jacques Greene and Doldrums.  Tickets and information can be found here. Below, watch Autre Ne Veut’s video for “Counting.”

Continue reading →


Meet Philly Folk Collective Roof Doctor (playing tonight at Church of the Advocate)

Photo by Abi Reimold |

Last December, Roof Doctor lead guitarist/vocalist Mark Harper looked to his friends’ bands for “the best musicians he knew,” and borrowed them record his own material. It was evident after only two practices with Alex Stackhouse (guitar), Chet Williams (bass), Sean Reilly (bass), and Kevin Paschall (drums) that the group possessed enough chemistry to identify as a band in its own right. Last week I sat down with Harper to discuss Roof Doctor’s path – from starting out at the notorious North Philadelphia Maggot House where Harper and guitarist Alex Stackhouse live, to the band’s current plans, and their recently crushed dreams of beefing with Conor Oberst.

TK: Have you been working on anything new since the release of your EP I Am Going To Die back in July?

MH: Yeah, yeah. I Am Going To Die was recorded from February to May in the basement of Maggot House, but we’ve been pretty busy playing and writing new stuff.

TK: Did starting the band inside Maggot House influence your style?

MH: Absolutely. I never listened to punk at all, I was totally new to the whole DIY thing. The people there had a big effect on me. I want to keep playing house shows—I’m not really big on playing a lot of bar gigs. When you play at house shows and colleges people are more enthusiastic.

TK: What’s your favorite show you’ve played?

MH: Oh, just last weekend we played a show at Rowan University. It was really crowded and super energetic. It was just cool because you could see all these kids from the suburbs who had never experienced shows like this, whereas in Philly kids are used to these kinds of shows and places.

TK: What do you love about smaller performances like that?

MH: When the energy of the band matches the energy of the room Continue reading →