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.”
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 →