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

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PRISM Quartet | photo by Jon Rohrer

While it’s certainly not a new trend, it was particularly evident seeing May’s musical offerings in Philly that the lines between what’s considered jazz and classical or new music have never been blurrier. The highlight of last month’s calendar was Bowerbird’s landmark Julius Eastman retrospective; a last-minute program change on the final night led to the reprise of Eastman’s “Thruway” in a version that sounded radically different from its earlier performance and thus revealing the amount of spontaneity and chance in the piece. More explicitly, the first iteration followed Eastman’s instruction that a jazz band play from offstage, leading to scraps of Monk seeping into the music’s quieter portions like a neighbor’s stereo through an open window. Then there was the two-night Ars Nova run that featured Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley playing a long-form piece inspired by John Cage, followed by John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet playing short compositions that were often complexly through-composed.

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Review: The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia brings the community together for a gala fundraiser at The Kimmel

Photo by Jennifer Brady | www.behance.net/JennBrady
Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia | Photo by Jennifer Brady | www.behance.net/JennBrady

Trumpeter Terell Stafford and director Deena Adler founded the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia last year with a mission of celebrating the city’s rich jazz heritage. That couldn’t have been more evident at the Philly-centric big band’s gala fundraising concert at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday, which hosted some of the city’s finest talents playing music by some of its favorite sons.

The concert in Verizon Hall began in high spirits as Stafford bantered with emcee (and lifelong jazz booster) Bill Cosby, who arrived sporting a Temple sweatshirt. After a rambling introduction during which he name-dropped venues and DJs and musicians from the city’s past, Cosby taunted guitarist Greg Kettinger to play a bit of the band’s opening number, McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance.” After a bit of schtick with Kettinger and the bandleader (Stafford: “He’s got a capo.” Cosby: “What’s wrong with his pants?”), the legendary comedian led the audience in a humalong of the tune. Acknowledging the sold-out crowd, Cosby encouraged Stafford to keep going here at home, discouraging the mention of a Carnegie Hall concert by saying, “Don’t go on the road. Let them come here.”

Photo by Jennifer Brady | www.behance.net/JennBrady
Terell Stafford | Photo by Jennifer Brady | www.behance.net/JennBrady

That riotous introduction necessitated a lively follow-up, and the 17-piece ensemble delivered with a spirited arrangement of “Passion Dance” propelled by Chris Beck’s combustible rhythms. Longtime Stafford compatriot Tim Warfield Jr. stated the sultry melody of Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” in a short quartet intro before the full band entered, while UArts instructor Chris Farr turned in a graceful tenor solo on a lush rendition of John Coltrane’s ballad “Central Park West.” The chair of instrumental studies at Temple, Stafford pointed out that members of both schools’ faculty in one band is evidence of the city’s jazz community “coming together for the betterment of music in Philadelphia.” Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Norwegian Arms at City Hall, Low at World Cafe Live, Song Dogs at North Star Bar, Tigers Jaw at First Unitiarian

Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Vettese
Norwegian Arms | Photo by John Vettese

Local indie folk outfit Norwegian Arms are pairing up with the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia for a special City Hall Series performance. It’s all a part of Make Music Philly, which will be bringing you free music all day, all across the city. Norwegian Arms released a great, quirky, emotive album earlier in 2013, Wolf Like a Stray Dog, that both displays a variety of styles but maintains a unique, cohesive sound.The Jazz Orchestra was founded by renowned trumpet player Terell Stafford, who also happens to be Temple University’s Director of Jazz Studies.These two great acts will be holding down City Hall from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Check out “My New Toy Piano” from Norwegian Arms below.

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City Hall Presents free music series begins May 29 with Summer performances from Kurt Vile, Dice Raw, Alo Brasil, Norwegian Arms, Cheers Elephant and more

Photos by Abi Reimold | AbiReimold.22slides.com
Photos by Abi Reimold | AbiReimold.22slides.com

City Hall Presents begins its new season next Wednesday, May 29 with Philly based Brazilian band Alo Brasil in the City Hall Courtyard at 5:30PM. City Hall Presents is a series of free performances that showcases the diversity and richness of the Philadelphia performing arts community. The events are free and take place every Wednesday at 5:30 in the City Hall Courtyard. WXPN has curated several of events this Summer including the opening event with Alo Brasil, followed by Cheers Elephant on June 5, and Andrew Lipke with the Azreal Quartet on July 10. There will also be a special Make Music Philly edition of City Hall Presents on Friday, June 21 featuring Norwegian Arms and the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. WXPN’s Dan Reed will be broadcasting live from the City Hall Courtyard next Wednesday starting at 4PM for the kick off of the series with Alo Brasil.

Other highlights of the season include: The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts on June 19, Illstyle & Peace on June 12, Dice Raw & Company on August 7, and the series closes with a special performance from Kurt Vile. Go here for more information and the complete schedule.