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Bootsie Barnes Fires Up the Firehouse

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Philadelphia jazz was jumping all over the spectrum over the last two weeks of August. The star sax of Bootsie Barnes just kept rolling along.

FRIDAY NIGHT JAZZ AT THE FIREHOUSE, the outdoor jazz concerts hosted by singer, Denise King, featured Bootsie Barnes, Philadelphia's tenor sax titan. He notes working with jazz icons Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath and Gary Bartz. He added " I worked with all the organists, Don Patterson, Trudy Pitts, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Joey DeFrancesco, Pappy John De Francesco, Richard "Groove" Holmes and the boss of them all—Jimmy Smith." He said, "You can add, Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis." His father played trumpet with Doggett and his cousin, Jimmy Hamilton, play sax and clarinet for Duke Ellington. Bootsie also worked, he added, with childhood chum and classmate, Bill Cosby, "touring with him and playing in the 2001 Playboy Jazz Festival and Newport Jazz Festival."

Bootsie can blow up the proverbial storm on tenor, and has a touching way with ballads as well. His favorites, he said, are: "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," "Why Try to Change Me Now," "Don't Explain" and "Soultrane." He often works with Philadelphia sax star, Larry McKenna and will be with him and John Swana on the album "Gumbo Two" which he said will be out this Fall. Tonight he's with Kyle Koehler, organ; Duane Eubanks, trumpet and Byron Landham, drums. He said, "I've been really busy, flying out to Buffalo Sunday (August 22) morning to do a festival I do every year."

THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART was hosting the Philly 5, perhaps the most promising group of young jazzmen working today. It has John Swana, trumpet; Chris Farr, sax; Tony Miceli, vibes; Madison Rast, bass and Dan Monaghan on drums. They have been playing together for five years in Miceli's basement: "just for fun," but also work the finest clubs in town. Swana is a local bop Bix on dozens of CDs. They are clearly the future of jazz.

On the next Friday, the museum has the Sam Dockery Duo with bassist Craig Thomas. Dockery played piano with Art Blakey, worked at the Showboat and Birdland and with notables Buddy Rich, Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt and Benny Golson. He is a member of The Legends of Jazz Orchestra and teaches at The University of the Arts and The Performing Arts Center. He is, like Bootsie, a part of jazz history.

CHRIS JAZZ' CAFE was showcasing the Farr Brothers (Chris on sax-his brother on drums) with Swana and Lucas Brown on vibes. Brown plays vibrant vibes and Farr is fine, in fact both of them are. The next night had, guitar star Jimmy Bruno and next weekend, vibrant vocalists Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton with Pete Smyser on vibes. There are very few singers today who can treat a song with such distinction as these two girls.

ZANZIBAR BLUE was featuring Washington, D.C. singer Heidi Martin over the weekend in her debut at this club. She has garnered considerable praise for her first CD and is the protégé of drummer-vocalist, Grady Tate. The Washington Post called her, "spirited and self assured." I wish she was not quite so self assured. Her voice is fine, but she tends toward repetiive lyrics and a style that borders on bordom despite the vibrant quality of her voice. Her back up band was first rate, but she should stop introducing them at the end of every solo as a pitch for applause. Most of her songs for the first set were originals, a mistake when you are slurring the lyrics for blues feel and people don't know exactly what you sang. Despite these negative aspects, she has genuine promise with a voice that can be exciting when she is belting out the songs.

ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS had star performers Orrin Evans, piano and Nicholas Payton, trumpet on the music menu at Philly jazz fans' favorite hangout for years.


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