Vocalist Joanna Pascale knows how to hang onto a gig. When her three-night-a-week engagement at SoleFood, the seafood restaurant at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, draws to a close on Friday after nearly a decade, it will mark the end of only her second longest-lasting job.
At the age of 14, while studying at Settlement Music School, Pascale responded to an ad posted by a Catholic Church in her South Philly neighborhood looking for a cantor. The priest who answered her call had three questions. Pascale answered no to “Are you Catholic?” and “Have you ever been to a Catholic mass?” but said yes to what was apparently the most important requirement: “Are you free Saturdays at 5:30 and Sunday mornings at 8 a.m.?” The tenth grader was soon spending her weekends leading the music ministry at St. Philip Neri, a position she maintains twenty years later.
But when SoleFood closes its doors next week for a planned remodeling and transformation into an entirely new space, another one of Philly’s fast-dwindling jazz spaces will likely disappear. “It looks like it’s going to be an incredible room,” Pascale says of the planned rebranding, “but I don’t necessarily think that a music venue is in the plans. I’m under the assumption that it’s over, but I’m feeling optimistic about closing this chapter and doing some other things.”
Pascale had recently graduated from Temple University in 2004 when she was first hired for the Loews happy hour performances, then led by trumpeter Todd Horton. She took over the gig in 2006 and since has led a rotating cast of local jazz musicians that includes pianists Orrin Evans, Anthony Wonsey, Josh Richman, and Andrew Adair; bassists Matthew Parrish, Madison Rast, Mike Boone, and Lee Smith; drummers Dan Monaghan and Byron Landham; and saxophonist Tim Warfield.
The restaurant initiated the jazz happy hour to encourage business from the nearby City Hall and Convention Center, but despite the buttoned-up atmosphere that clientele might imply, Pascale has enjoyed a fair amount of freedom during her tenure there. Continue reading →