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Philly April Jazz Scene Varied As Weather

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April jazz was blooming again in all the usual Philadelphia music gardens over the first few weeks.

CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE April 10 brought in top flight tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander working with the equally esteemed Peter Bernstein on guitar. Alexander’s CD Nightlife In Tokyo released last Fall is still gathering accolades. He acknowledges his college days favorites, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins as still being the “bread and butter” of all he does. He has worked extensively with Bernstein who has been described as an “uncompromising purist.” He is a member of Jimmy Cobb's Mob and and recorded with Brad Mehldau, among others with a style compared to Grant Green. Eric and Peter recorded together on Cobb's Mob’s recent release, “Cobb's Groove”. Joining them in the set will be two Philadelphia jazz prizes—Lee Smith, one of the best bassist anywhere along with the driving, always exciting drums of the working-everywhere-these days, Dan Monaghan.

THE PHILADELPHIA CLEF CLUB OF JAZZ & PERFORMING ARTS was featuring the all-star Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra with Ella Gahnt singing and Leon Mitchell directing on Sunday, April 18. This 16-member crew of jazz vets will be conducting a big band jam as part of Jazz Appreciation Month of the Smithsonian Institution. It will celebrate the music of such giants as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Ms Gahnt was singing at the Zanzibar Blue on April 12.

ZANZIBAR BLUE had the sophisticated jazz club favorite Stacey Kent on April 21-22. Her soulful, sensitive treatments of classic jazz and pop vocals has led to sold out concerts in Europe and New York’s top supper clubs. She has been compared with Blossom Dearie and her little girl voice might catch you off guard until she gets into the song which she treats with polished sophistication. She sang the proverbial American song book at Zanzibar-"Makin' Whoopie", "Surrey With the Fringe on Top", "All I do Is Dream of You" and "Too Darn Hot". Her rendition of "Say It Isn’t So" would would have made Irving Berlin happy and that was never easy to do. She has a new CD ( The Boy Next Door ) out along with several others, but as with so many really fine singers, she should be seen in person. She doesn’t just sing the words, she almost acts them out.

She was followed here by the powerhouse jazz-blues organ of Jimmy McGriff, a Philadelphia mainstay and national figure for some 50 years now.

WARMDADDY’S was serving up another set of blues with singer, guitarist and organist Lucky Peterson on April 16-17. He seemingly plays everything and started at age three going on such shows as Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and What’s My Line. Now, 38, he is still going strong having worked as a bandleader with Little Milton and as a soloists with Bobby “Blue” Bland. His most recent album, Black Midnight Sun, is said to be the finest of the 10 he released in the past 20 years.

ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS, the mainstay jazz haven in Northern Liberties, will be featuring the torrid tenor sax of Ralph Bowen and his quartet This is the club where owner, Pete Souders, is usually on hand to greet you and some nights even playing sax himself.

Club Dates and Locations:

  • Chris’ Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom St., 215.568.3131, Alexander-Bernstein, $12
  • Philadelphia Clef Club, Broad & Fitzwater Streets, 215.763.2819, Philadelphia Legends of Jazz, $10.
  • Zanzibar Blue, Broad & Chestnut Streets, 215.732.4500, Jimmy McGriff, Stacey Kent, $25.
  • Warmdaddy’s, Front & Market Streets, 215.627.8400, Lucky Peterson, $10.
  • Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus, 547 N. Third St., 215.952.1035, Ralph Bowen, $10.

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