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Holiday Jazz

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Holiday jazz joy burst right through the New Year in Philadelphia. Some of the finest, long-term, hometown favorites such as Larry McKenna, Bootsie Barnes, Jimmy Bruno and Mickey Roker were featured. They were joined by local, top, pop-jazz vocalists Denise King, Mary Ellen Desmond, Meg Clifton and Trudy Pitts. Star songstress, Christine Andreas, returned to The Prince Theater fresh from triumphs at top supper clubs, play performances and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. SAX STARS—The two tenor titans of Philadelphia, Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna reminded one and all just how exciting club jazz sessions can be in their appearances here.

Bootise has a new CD Boppin’ Round the Center, that explodes in the opening number with the powerhouse horn of Barnes. He is joined by Farid Barron, piano; Derrick Hodge, bass; Craig McIver, drums; and John Swana on trumpet. Clearly excellent company. From the explosive opening number, the title tune written by Bootsie, right through such torch tinged tunes as "All The Way", Bootsie and his cohorts demonstrate just how exciting and sometimes touching jazz can be. The CD is produced by Harvest Records with a thoughtful liner notes by local DJ Bob Perkins.

Larry McKenna has a CD that he produced with Pete Smyser on guitar called simply Pete Smyser & Larry McKenna. Joining them on this delightful disc are Steve Beskone on bass and Mike DeMonte on drums. From the heart felt opening tune, "Until The Real Thing Comes Along" right through to the bop standard yardbird Suite, the CD demonstrates why Larry is so sought after by jazz clubs and concert producers. Smyser is no slouch, adding a superb guitar back up and counterpoint to the set.

PRINCE MUSIC THEATER, 1412 Chestnut Street, welcomed back Christine Andreas in a new show—”Bewitched...Again,” fresh from triumphs in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Cafe Carlyle and The Oak Room. Her last Prince appearance in December 2002 was sold out. She was named the Barrymore Awards’ Best Actress in a Musical, “Pal Joey.” Several numbers from her new CD, “the Carlyle Set,” were featured at the Prince including songs by such diverse talents as Rodgers & Hart, Burt Bachrach and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Backing her was the jazz-savvy, pianist-leader Lee Musiker who worked with Mel Torme, Doc Severinson and Lionel Hampton. He is music director for Maureen McGovern and Tony Bennett. Ms Andreas is lovely to look at and delightful to hear, but she tends to add commentary about her personal and professional life that becomes repetitive rather than engaging or even interesting. You only have to introduce the band and make one or two references to your newest CD. There were only four shows: Dec. 27, 28, and New Year’s Eve with two performances.

CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE, 1421 Sansom St., Dec. 26-27 brought back American Song Book stylists Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton backed up by a superb quartet featuring Larry McKenna, tenor sax and John Swana, trumpet. The vibrant vocals and exciting exchanges between McKenna and Swana had the club cheering as they did in their last show here. New Year’s Eve brought in the electrifying excitement of the Jimmy Bruno Trio with special guest Tony Miceli on vibes.

ORTLIEB’S JAZZ HAUS, 847 N. Third St., celebrated New Year’s Eve with the booming, breathtaking sax of Bootsie Barnes joined by the holiday horn of Swana and great Russian trumpeter, Valley Ponomarev with mainstay major drummer Mickey Roker. You also got a five course meal, two drinks and a champagne toast. Times: Call 215.922.1035.

THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, 26th and the Parkway, was showcasing local major jazz vocalist Denise King Dec. 26. Trudy Pitts, a long-reigning singing star here will be on display the following Friday. Both singers have a well established fan base. Ms Pitts,vocalist-arranger-composer, is something of a local living legend backed faithfully by Mr.C on drums and both have worked with everyone from John Coltrane to Lionel Hampton.

VINCENT’S, 10 Gay St., West Chester, welcomed the new year with Papa John DeFrancesco, who plays organ with all the drive and excitement of his nationally acclaimed son, Joey.


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