Varied Jazz to satisfy all tastes mark the mid February jazz scene in Philly with some of it hot enough to warm patrons escaping the bitter cold. Just a few examples follow:
CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE on February 17 had sax legend Frank Morgan with trumpet wonder John Swana blowing up a storm with various numbers made famous by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The jam-packed club, many of whom never saw these jazz giants in person, were clearly enthralled. It was a marvelous demonstration of the strength of local jazz. Swana's superb horn styling captured Dizzy's styling perfectly and he was accompanied by an unbeatable rhythm section of Sid Simmons, piano; Lee Smith, bass and Dan Monaghan, drums. It was a session that brought you back to 52nd Street and the Royal Roost in Times Square a half century ago. Their rendition of Lover Man was pure poetry. February 24 brings in Ari Hoenig's drum thrills with the inimitable Orrin Evans on piano.
February 25 is a dynamite night featuring the powerhouse talents of Bootsie Barnes, tenor sax and the George Burton Quartet. Bootsie is perhaps the most incendiary tenor sax man anywhere today. Burton, a self taught vibes man, started out in Nashville with Hank Garland and went on to working with George Shearing, Chick Corea and Stephane Grappely and Keith Jarrett. He also taught at Berklee where he was named Dean and later Executive Vice President. Joining this group will be one-time rockabilly guitarist Warren Wolf. Shows go from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for just a $12 admission. Call 215.568.3131.
ZANZIBAR BLUE (215-732-4500) at Broad and Walnut Streets, certainly the most sophisticated jazz/supper club in town, is bringing in jazz pianist Alex Bugnon for his club debut on February 24-25. The Swiss-born Bugnon was classically trained at the Paris Conservatory and Mozart Academy in Salzburg, Austria, as well as the Berklee School. He started as a session man in the 80's touring with people such as Patti Austin and Earth, Wind and Fire. His contemporary piano stylings clearly reflect elements of funk, R&B, and even touches of gospel. He has recorded some nine albums and one of his many compositions is The Most Beautiful Girl in the World. Shows are at 7:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. with a cover of $30.
ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS (215-922-1035) 847 N. 3rd Street, the longest running jazz club in town, has a very fine sax set-up with Frank Tiberi and George Garzone accompanied by the always exciting Mickey Roker Quartet. Tiberi plays many local clubs and is a first class sax man.
February 25 brings in the inimitable jazz/pop vocalist Joanna Pascale who has a unique and lovely jazz styling voice. She brings the pop classics back to life with her smoky voiced renditions. The always dependable Mickey Roker Quartet will accompany her. Shows go from 8:45 p.m. to 1 a.m.. There's a very good reason this has been the longest run club in town.
THE PAINTED BRIDE ART CENTER, (215-925-9914) at 230 Vine Street, features the Eric Lewis Quintet on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. with tickets going from $12 to $25. Lewis distinguished piano work can usually be found in many of the famed downstairs jazz clubs in New York. His style can go from swing to bop. He worked with the likes of Elvin Jones and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. A Camden native, he won the Thelonious Monk competition and has also worked with Cassandra Wilson, Donald Byrd, Ornette Coleman, Clark Terry and Betty Carter. This club is something akin to the old Greenwich Village jazz joints and filled with knowledgeable fans.
GERSHMAN HALL at Broad and Pine Streets, (215-569-8080) brings in the Joe Lovano Quartet, March 3 at 8 p.m. for $21-$10. Lovano, sax; James Weidman, piano; Esperanza Splading, bass and Fancesco Melo, drums, will demonstrate the potential of jazz variations reflecting Lovano's continuous search for new dimensions in jazz. His new CD, Joyous Encounter is part two of his celebrated 2004 record, I'm All For You with Hank Jones.
Philadelphia continues to be a town with some of the finest, most varied jazz presentations to be found anywhere on earth.