January is shaping up as a diverse jazz scene for Philadelphia along with some singing styles that make a trip through the cold worth the effort. We also want to pay tribute to three different singers who can capture an audience with their style, sense and song selections that reflect the good taste as vocalists who care:
Barbara Montgomery, a sultry and swinging singer whose new Christmas CD (Noel One From the Heart) has songs that cover the proverbial waterfronta passionately voiced, "I'll Be Home for Christmas"; a church-like, "What Child Is This" and "Holy Night" along with a swinging delightful up tempo, "Children Go Where I Send Thee" that you can play all year long with joy. She happens to be the kind of pretty package anyone would be delighted to find under their tree. She has several other CDs, but the best place to listen is when she is doing local gigs at one of the clubs such as Zanzibar Blue. The one thing she always seems to make sure of is excellent accompaniment as on this CD with Tom Lawton on piano. You can check her schedule and other details at her website.
Meg Clifton introduced her new CD, You're A Sweetheart, recently at Chris Jazz Cafe. Her song selections display her now demonstrated singular good taste in standards. The numbers include such now neglected joys as "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Here Comes the Sun", "You're a Sweetheart", "I Wish You Love", "Speak Low" and "God Bless the Child". Meg is a savvy singer with a singular style who clearly cares for the lyric as well as the melody. Her back-up group on this CD does a singularly superb job of support with Eric Alexander, sax; John Swana, trumpet; Peter Bernstein, guitar, Lee Smith, bass and Dan Monaghan on drums.
Jimi Odell gives his vocal treatments to a fine set of standards with his latest CD, Jimi Meets George at the Merrion Inn. This time, Jimi gives the guitar he plays so well a rest and concentrates on the vocals. He is ably supported with the piano artistry of George Mesterhazy. Just some of the numbers on this CD are "My Shining Hour", "Have You Met Miss Jones", "I'm Glad There Is You", "Tenderly" and "Time After Time". Jimi's song styling have a touch of the south from where he came, but there is always a sure jazz edge to even the most tender ballads. He plays dozens of locations but is currently working every Saturday at the Blue Horse in Blue Bell, PA. on Skippack Pike.
Jazz musicians are out in full force this month as well as the singers. Just some of the stars working the skies of Philadelphia these days include: Brad Mehldau, solo piano and Gary Burton (vibes) Generations at Kimmel Center Verizon Hall, Jan. 27, 8 p.m., 215-893-1999. Mehldau takes touches of Cole Porter, Radiohead and Debussy while Burton's Generations shows off his latest great jazz discovery: guitarist Julian Cage. This all provides a beautiful bridge between mainstream jazz and rock. Mehldau is considered by many to be one of the finest piano men working anywhere today.
Sonny Fortune, alto sax star, was blowing up a storm at Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St., 215. 568-3131, Jan. 13-14, for just a $15 entry fee. Born in Philadelphia, Fortune has been with such all stars as McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie and Mongo Santamaria. He plays flute as well as sax with a driving, something poetic quality that casts a spell over jazz fans worldwide. Jimmy Bruno will be at Chris' the following weekend keeping alive his driving guitar solos and combos working with various local stars such as Victor North, Sidd Simmons and John Swana.
E.S.T. (Esbjorn Svenson-Piano; Magnus Ostrom, drums; Dan Berglund, bass) the Swedish jazz trio returns to Zanzibar Blue, Broad & Walnut Streets, 215-732-4500, Jan. 14, 8&10 P.M. for $ 25 cover. The group was awarded the Swedish Grammy Award and Svenson named Songwriter of the year in 1998. E.S.T. describes itself as "a pop band t hat plays jazz but various jazz critics have been hailing it as a first class, exciting jazz group which one critic said was where the future of jazz lies if it is going to survive.
Andrew Neu QUINTET plays a tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. at the club on Jan 20-21, 7 45 & 10: P.M., for a $15 cover. Philly native Neu on sax/flute; Rob Cochran, bass; Harry "Butch Reed, drums; Rich Tucker, guitar and Tom Petroski, piano. The group has been with The Four Tops, Mel Torme and is featured on recordings with the Manhattan Transfer and Buddy DeFranco.
These events are just some of the January jazz joys to be found in Philadelphia.