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Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia: “Comin’ Home” Concert at the Kimmel Center

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Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Verizon Hall
Philadelphia, PA
January 7, 2014

Fresh out of the starting gate, the highly touted Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP), Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
, Artistic Director, held its first gala concert at a major venue, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The 17-piece orchestra features both seasoned and up-and-coming Philadelphia musicians with the intent of conveying music composed, arranged, and performed in the exceptional jazz tradition of this city. The JOP is an ambitious venture co-founded by trumpeter-educator Stafford and Deena Adler, a psychologist and jazz advocate who notably represents the great saxophonist Odean Pope
Odean Pope
Odean Pope
b.1938
saxophone
.

At this major kick-off event, comedian Bill Cosby, a longtime friend and supporter of jazz and the musicians, provided introductory remarks, injecting his hilarious clowning with obvious affection and a nod of approval for the inception of a stellar jazz orchestra in his home city. Iconic Philadelphia-rooted jazz performers Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, and Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
, along with the great Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
, each performed with the orchestra, as did local saxophonists Robert "Bootsie" Barnes, Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
b.1937
sax, tenor
, and Tony Williams. Stafford emceed, conducted, and did solo turns on trumpet. The full roster of the orchestra is provided below.

The orchestra delivered what it promised—and more—to a full house of enthusiastic fans who came out in zero degree weather, many still bundled up in their seats, a rare sight at the Kimmel Center. They were to hear superb arrangements with a Philly accentuation encompassing a broad swath of moods and styles. The band members are among the best musicians who frequently perform locally, and often internationally. Stafford selected the personnel to promote interaction and mentorship among the more seasoned players with their younger peers. The music was superb throughout as the energy level built up to a fever pitch with no intermission to interrupt the momentum.

The evening began with "Passion Dance," a composition by McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, arranged by Denis Mackrel, drummer and composer/arranger for the Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
Band and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Tyner, who would have been present but for a gig in Germany, grew up in Philadelphia with John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
. JOP pianist, young Josh Richman captured Tyner's approach remarkably well, and venerable alto saxophonist Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
b.1953
saxophone
offered a stunning soprano saxophone solo in homage to Coltrane. The arrangement built to high intensity appropriate to a "passion dance" and got the show off to a strong start.

Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
came of age in Philadelphia with Tyner and Trane. His standard, "Along Came Betty" provided a superb foil for solos by tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
and trombonist Joe McDonough, whose extended improvising amounted to a complex suite of carefully crafted themes and variations.

Trane's ballad, "Central Park West," was arranged for big band by trombonist and band leader John Fedchock
John Fedchock
John Fedchock
b.1957
trombone
with his usual dense sonorities and aftershocks. Chris Farr
Chris Farr
Chris Farr

sax, tenor
, who is turning into one of the truly great saxophonists of his generation, rendered a haunting, romanticized solo that Trane would have appreciated. One of the notable traits of the JOP ensemble is that each and every player has a full, rich tone that would inspire envy in symphonic players, with bassist Lee Smith
Lee Smith
Lee Smith

bass
heading the procession. Arguably, his amazing and often noted sound equals or exceeds the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra's bass violin section.

The standard, "Candy," is associated with the great Philadelphia trumpeter Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
. The arrangement here was by reed player Norman David
Norman David
Norman David

saxophone
, also from Philly, and one of the most innovative arrangers in the business. Several of the JOP personnel—for example Mark Allen
Mark Allen
Mark Allen

saxophone
, Randy Kapralick, and Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
b.1953
saxophone
—are regulars in David's eleventet, which contributes to the similarities between the JOP sound and that of David's organization. Stafford, who not too long ago did a full concert dedicated to Morgan, offered a "whopping" solo that caught some of Morgan's own fervor.

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