Newman, out of Dallas, Texas, with a half century of experience, worked with various top jazz groups, most notably with Ray Charles for twelve years playing alto and tenor sax. He also worked with Lee Morgan, Billy Higgins, and others, but it was with Charles he came into the limelight. He told us, "It's always a pleasure to come to Philly and hope the next time I come I will be bringing my own band featuring my music." He noted, "I played the Zanzibar previously with my own group and it is a very nice venue for jazz artists." Asked what he might be playing at Zanzibar, he said, "I'm not exactly sure, but I will be playing some of my signature pieces, such as 'Hard Times.'" He pointed out that local DJ Joel Dorn "liked the number so much, he used this as his theme song. on his radio show here." Newman's new CD, I Remember Brother Ray, a tribute to Charles, had just been awarded CD of the year and Newman artist of the year by a leading jazz publication. Through the years he worked variously with Jimmy Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Scott, Aretha Franklin, and Eric Clapton. He appeared on numerous TV shows and in the Robert Altman film Kansas City.
Gibbs is one of the best known percussionists in the business and worked with such stars as Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr., Whitney Houston, and Al Jarreau. He is music director for Emeril Live, a TV food network series.
Valentin, a Bronx native of Puero Rican descent, has been playing Latin jazz for years, starting at eleven playing drums and later switching to flute. He recorded eighteen albums, several nominated for Grammy Awards and was voted Best Jazz Flutist by Jazziz magazine.
Zanzibar Blue, Broad & Walnut Streets, 215.732.4500, July 8-9, 8-10 pm, $25, Seneri.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art continues its Friday night jazz sessions in the Great Stair Hall with one of the finest local jazz singers in years, Meg Clifton. Her smoky, smoldering jazz phrasing evokes memories of such classic jazz vocalists as Lee Wiley and Billie Holiday, but the sound is all her own. She will be with her group, the Cliftones, featuring some top local musicians.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th and the Parkway, 215.763.8100, 5:45-8:15 pm, July 8, $10 & $7, Clifton.
The Seneri session were a bit flamboyant with Seneri and Valentin coming on like Louis Prima, but not quite as winning. The guitarist, Bob DeVos, was a delightful surprise, giving the main real jazz feel to the session, apart from Newman's work. The group's rendition of "Take The A Train" took the idea of it being an express train to extremes. At the rate they were traveling, it would have gone right past Harlem. Their last number was a winning piece as if they finally got together.
Meg Clifton was as always a delight.
The Count Basie Band at Chris Jazz Cafe concentrated mostly on the '50s material, as they did at Kimmel Center earlier, but the crowd there loved it. Chris' is clearly one of the finest jazz clubs anywhere and may well be the best in Philadelphia.
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