The Philly jazz scene (if not the weather) was heating up over the past few weeks. Kimmel Center continued its marathon Mellon Jazz sessions with top local all- stars plus Latin jazz groups while area clubs held their own hot offerings.
KIMMEL CENTER Arturo Sandoval, the Cuban-born, torrid trumpet protégé of Dizzy Gillespie (and member of Dizzy’s noted United National Orchestra) shared the stage with a New Orleans based group, Los Hombres Calientes on March 3. A composer-band leader of international acclaim, Sandoval performed and/or underscored such feature films as “Mambo Kings” and “Random Hearts” plus HBO’S “For Love Country, The Arturo Sandoval Story,” which earned him an Emmy for outstanding Music Composition for a Movie. Los Hombres, started three years ago, has garnered world wide praise for its multi-ethnic musical ensembles. Their newest DVD, “Los Hombres Calientes Live,” was described by the New York Times as “New Orleans plus Cuba plus funk..by Crescent City jazz musicianshow could it miss?” Percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter- composer Irvin Mayfield lead the cross-generational ensemble playing African derived music from the United States, Cuba and Brazil. They truly blew away the crowd in both sets with touches of warm humor from Sandoval as well as a hot horn. It was, as they say, a night to remember.
A Philly All-Star Jazz Night took place just two days later with some of the finest local musicians holding sway. They included such noted names as Pat Martino, guitar; Joey DeFrancesco, organ; James Moody, sax; John Blake, violinist and Jim Ridl, piano. Martino, easily one of the finest jazz guitarists working today has seemingly won every award there is and continues the Philly tradition of jazz guitar started nearly 100 years ago by another local legend, Eddie Lang. DeFrancesco has been making his name known as the main man on Hammond Organ every since his teenaged breakthrough with Miles Davis. He is also the son of another local organ star, Papa John DeFrancesco. Moody can sizzle the stage with his tenor as he has demonstrated for half a century and Bake is a great jazz violinist in the tradition if not style of another philly fiddler, Joe Venuti. Ridl is a first class pianist acclaimed by many. Somehow, the show was a mixed bag with some beautiful numbers and others that just did not take off. Moody garbled through a series of not-very-funny commentaries that were all but incomprehensible, but his playing was superb as was Blake’s. Joey has generated more excitement in local clubs than he did in this outing, but the crowd seemed pleased. CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE, Feb. 27 brought in the exciting drummer, Ari Hoenig with his quartet featuring Jean Michel Pilc on piano celebrating their new CD The Painter. Ari is another Philly star, now living in New York where he works with famed guitarists Mike Stern and Wayne Krantz. Hoenig has toured with Joshua Redman, Chris Potter and Kenny Werner. His group features Pilc and Matt Pennman, bass and Jacques Swartzbait on tenor. The next night guitarist Wayne Krantz was there with his trio featuring Hoenig.
Jonathan Kreisberg who just cut a fine new CD Nine Stories was at Chris’ March 6 with his trio from that CD. He has a poetically haunting style that reminds one of Pat Martino, one of his idols. He was also there the night before backing up the always entrancing meg Clifton, who gave a tender treatment to the old ballad, Can’t We Be Friends once made famous by Bing. This club and Ortleb’s continues to demonstrate how exciting small club jazz can be.
ORTLIEB’S JAZZ HAUS kept the jazz pot cooking with Bootsie Barnes-tenor sax and John Swana, trumpet and their smoking sextet on March 5 and 6. There are not likely any more exciting musicians to be found anywhere than these two local jazz giants.
THE PAINTED BRIDE ART CENTER was premiering “Trilogy,” one night only on March 6, an epic poem with a live jazz score on the murder of three civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi in 1954. It features Hannibal, the author, on trumpet; Ursula Rucker; narration; Gary Bartz, reeds; Michael Boone, bass and Byron Landom on drums.