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Jazz Appreciation Month 2014 in Philadelphia: A Recap

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This April was a month of truly spectacular music on all fronts in Philadelphia. I know I missed a whole lot (see Philadelphia Jazz Project and Ars Nova Workshop) but here's my take.

I kicked off the month with my trio Mischa Machez
Mischa Machez
Mischa Machez

band/orchestra
at our monthly First Friday Happy Hour at the Dog and Bull, always a well-attended event, with keyboardist David Dzubinski and drummer Philip Horwitz. That night was also the opening of this year's performance of "Last Call at the Downbeat," a play that first ran as part if PIFA in 2013, written by Executive Director of Jazz Bridge Suzanne Cloud
Suzanne Cloud
Suzanne Cloud

vocalist
. It's the story of a young Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
in Philadelphia as he began discovering the "new way" that would come to be called bebop. Great shows for the first two weekends in April, with a sellout crowd on the final Sunday matinee. Nice work Jazz Bridge (disclosure, I am a board member).

That week I finished up work color-correcting Don Glanden
Don Glanden
Don Glanden
b.1951
piano
's soon-to-be-released documentary film on another legendary jazz trumpeter from the area, Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
. It is truly an honor to have contributed in a small way to this historically important work, the first film exposition of Brown's life, entitled Brownie Speaks. I also got the opportunity to videotape poet Pheralyn Dove at the Jazz Bridge Center City series, with a backing band for the ages consisting of Tyrone Brown
Tyrone Brown
Tyrone Brown
b.1940
bass
, Alfie Pollit and Terrell Floyd. Did you know April is also poetry month?

The following week I filmed blues legend Frank Bey, also in Media at the Jazz Bridge series there. That truly inspiring show featured several originals and Frank belting out an original arrangement of John Lennon's "Imagine"—goosebumps. My son said it was his favorite neighborhood concert thus far, and he has seen several this season. The next night was another Jazz Bridge show with Victor North and the organ trio Three Blind Mice in Willingboro, NJ, featuring Lucas Brown
Lucas Brown
Lucas Brown
b.1980
organ, Hammond B3
and Wayne Smith Jr. (Thanks for the ride, Wayne!).

The morning of Ernest Stuart
Ernest Stuart
Ernest Stuart

trombone
's Center City Jazz Fest found me with Tony Miceli
Tony Miceli
Tony Miceli
b.1960
vibraphone
, Paul Jost
Paul Jost
Paul Jost

vocalist
and Kevin MacConnell, filming a promo for the Jost Project Trio.

Walking over to the festival on what was perhaps the most beautiful day ever seen in Center City Philadelphia, I was presented with the twin dilemmas of who to hear and how to get in—the venues were packed to capacity, and the mayor himself had a hard time getting a seat. Congrats to Ernest Stuart
Ernest Stuart
Ernest Stuart

trombone
for proving without a doubt that jazz has a genuinely vibrant and sizeable audience in Center City: male and female, many ethnicities, from very young to the elderly. I caught a bit of saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, enough to know I should probably check him out further, with his phenomenal drummer Kenneth Salters
Kenneth Salters
Kenneth Salters
b.1981
drums
. Trotting over to Fergie's Pub, bumping into at least half a dozen scenesters on the sidewalks, I wrangled a front row SRO spot for guitarist Mary Halvorson and Thumbscrew featuring Michael Formanek
Michael Formanek
Michael Formanek
b.1958
bass
and Tomas Fujiwara. Whatever you want to call their music, it wasn't "free jazz"—they had elaborate scores with obvious moments of improv, with a wide variety of guitar timbres from Halvorson. It was some of the most inventive and inspirational music I have heard live in a while.

Until I scuttled over to Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
b.1956
saxophone
and his band the Five Elements. Kenneth Salters was standing there (another SRO show!) checking out Justin Faulkner, Mike Boone
Mike Boone
Mike Boone

bass
and John Swana
John Swana
John Swana

trumpet
as they finished up their set, and he was shaking his head with either awe or recognition. I have only heard recordings of Steve's band, this one featuring the great Anthony Tidd on bass, and "The Rick" Steve Rickman as J. Michael Harrison introduced him on drums. All I can say is wow, the hour went by like a moment, with each musician balancing technical and creative prowess while also listening intently to the others. Truly amazing music. If Jazz month had ended, it would have been a total coup. Except it was barely half over.

The next Friday Jazz Bridge presented our annual fundraiser at the New Leaf Club in Bryn Mawr with Pat Martino
Pat Martino
Pat Martino
b.1944
guitar
. Pat and his traditional organ trio brought the house down, with Pat Bianchi
Pat Bianchi
Pat Bianchi
b.1975
organ, Hammond B3
and Carmen Intorre. What a show: great turnout, fun silent auction and Pat was a gracious gentleman at the meet and greet as hostess Rhenda Fearrington ran things solidly.

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