Major jazz stars lit up the Philly jazz scene for the two weeks starting March 7 with Sonny Rollins at Kimmel Center and Joey DeFrancesco at Chris’ Jazz Cafe.
THE KIMMEL CENTER (Verizon Hall) Broad and Spruce Streets (215.732.4500) featured living-legend tenor sax star, Sonny Rollins, March 7 at 8 p. m. with tickets priced from $19 to $67. Rollins, who grew up in Harlem’s Sugar Hill section in the booming jazz era that featured such greats as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, with whom he later played, became one of the standard bearers of the bop movement along with such sax giants as John Coltrane. Rollins can go from bop to ballads as he demonstrates on his new CD, "This Is What I Do" with such standards as A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and Sweet Leilani. His powerhouse performance at Kimmel was a reminder of the great Jazz at the Philharmonic outings of the 1940's with the crowd practically responding in kind and shouting blow, man, blow. His trombonist Clifton Anderson was also a powerhouse right up there with Bill Harris and J.J. Johnson. The Kimmel is resurrecting the glory days of jazz in New York only its here and now in Philadelphia.
CHRIS JAZZ CAFE, 1421 Sansom St., (215.568.3131) was show-casing Philadelphia's own pride and joy on the Hammond B-3 organ, Joey DeFrancesco, and his trio March 7 and 8. He was with Craig Ebner, guitar and Byron Landham, drums, both among the best in their fields. Shows were at 9 and 11 p.m. for a $15 admission, but Saturday night they started at 9:30 in the flexible time schedule of today's jazz. . They were not doing tunes from his just released 15th CD called “Singing and Swinging” that features such time-tested standards as “Mack The Knife” and “I Thought About You., ” but they were clearly in charge and happy in their work. The fans there were just as pleased with the show and with Joey, it is as if every set was a concert performance. Joey, continuously voted in various jazz polls as the top jazz organist in the country, has come a long way from his wunderkind status when he played at just 17 with Miles Davis. He sings with a fine jazzy style that has touches of Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra. His dad, "Papa John" DeFrancesco, is a long-term Philadelphia main man on both organ and vocals as well. Next Friday and Saturday, another local jazz icon, guitarist Jimmy Bruno and the Chris Farr Trio will be doing a live recording at the club for just an $8 admission for sets from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, 26th Street and the Parkway, (215.763.8100) in its ongoing Friday jazz series March 7 at 5:30 to 8 p.m. featured the art of beautiful ballad and blues singer Barbara Montgomery accompanied by her very capable piano man, Barry Sames. They were turning the pages of the Michael Legrande songbook with songs such as What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life? Admission was $7-$10. Barbara is easily one of the most attractive singers working clubs these days and what many forget is that this doll also has a brain. She knows how to sing and how to entertain an audience.
ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS, 847 N. Third St., (215.922.1035) March 7 and 8th had the powerhouse Bootsie Barnes and John Swana sextet. Shows went from 8:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. for just a $10 cover. Barnes is one of the finest tenor sax men working anywhere these days and a long-term major figure on the Philadelphia jazz scene. Swana, can take a trumpet from hot to cool, back up singers with style and work in more genres than seem possible. Together they make an unbeatable combination. Bootsie will also be in New York for a Lester Young tribute which considering the way Bootsie plays could not be a more appropriate pairing.