Jazz Surprises in Philadelphia
Jazz with gospel, blues, foreign and local stars brightened up the Philadelphia Spring season over the last few weeks.
THE KIMMEL CENTER, Verizon Hall, welcomed back The Blind Boys of Alabama, the gospel-blues powerhouse, four-time Grammy-winning singing group Tuesday night. They were accompanied by Charlie Musselwhite, the harmonica-playing Blues-R&B legend. The Boys program features group founders and singers, Clarence Fountain and Jimmy Carter with new vocalists, Bishop Billy Bowers and Ricky McKinnie backed by guitarist Joey Williams, Bobby Butler and bassist Tracy Pierce.
They covered the spectrum from gospel to blues, R&B, Rock and Funk. In their world tours, Fountain said in a phone interview, "There was a great response in European theaters, France, Germany, Italy, they just love gospel, even got a great response from China in Hong Kong, they love to have something with a beat." The Boy's newest CD, Atom Bomb, got exposure in the Kimmel program. As Fountain explained, "It lets people know we can sing some other stuff. It's all really in the same category, we just take out the B and B (meaning B. B. King) and put in the Lord, but it's the same old song." As they did at their last show here, the Boys had the audience stomping their feet in the aisle as they played and even danced into the audience. "Yeah, we hang on to that one, that is one of our trademarks," Fountain added. One of the founders died just before the show started and I sensed something of a more subdued presentation with Fountian seemingly having difficulty speaking if not singing his heart out.
"Take The Col'Trane: Panama" comes back on April 2 to Kimmel's Perelman Theater, led by pianist-composer-conductor, Panama-born Danilo Perez. He will be supported by the powerhouse tenor sax of Donny McCaslin. the group will offer a fusion of African-Spanish cultural jazz overtones.
Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall, Broad and Spruce Streets, 215.893.1999
8p.m.,March 29, $33-$55, Blind Boys-Musselwhite; Perelman Theater
7:30p.m., April 2, $35-$40, "Take The Col'Trane".
ZANZIBAR BLUE has a double treat over the next two weeks with Kurt Rosenwinkel Band this weekend and Japanese jazz composer-pianist Hiromi next weekend. Rosenwinkel, a native Philadelphian, played with Gary Burton and then with Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band before starting his own group. Rosenwinkel's most recent album, Deep Song, features Joshua Redman on sax and Brad Mehldau on piano. Redman wrote that "Kurt's groove is ferocious, his tone is penetrating, but warm, his ideas, often surprising... but always compelling..."
Hiromi was born in Japan, traveled to Czechoslovakia to work with the Czech Philharmonic and worked later with top pianist Chick Corea. Her first album was co-produced by bassist Richard Evans and pianist Ahmad Jamal, who were her mentors at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. She runs through the whole range of music, jazz to classical, funk and rock. Jamal said, "She is nothing short of amazing," and "Hiromi is so good, you can't ignore her." She was clearly a hit with Zanzibar club goers at her last appearance here.
Zanzibar Blue, Broad and Walnut Streets, 215.732.4500
March 25-27, Friday-Saturday shows, 8&10 p.m., $25, Sunday, 7&9 p.m., $20, Rosenwinkel
April 1-2, 8&10 p.m., $25, Hiromi
CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE had the Brian Woestehoff Quartet in a special show tying into its recent CD Organic Chemistry. The music and execution was hauntingly lovely. The group, Brian, sax; Erik Dutko, guitar; Brian Howell, bass and Dan Monaghan, drums, spendid. Two numbers were markedly lovely in execution and conceptone, "Vignette," by Monaghan, I believe.
April 1, this compact little club that has expanded its band area showcasing it more effectively, will be featuring the delightful Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton with Tony Micelli and the incomparable Larry McKenna going through the American song book of standards.
Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom Street, 215.568.3131,9 p.m.-1 a.m. March 25 , $12, The Philly 5
OGONTZ GRILL & SIDEWALK CAFE, on April 2, brings the sweet, soulful, sometimes stomping sounds of jazz and blues with Jimi Odell, guitarist-vocalist for more than 50 years. He brings a few Southern inflections to his now Philadelphia home. He will be joined by Skip Wilson, piano; Milton McLaurin, drums and Floyd Bracy, bass.
Ogontz Grill & Sidewalk Cafe, 7152 Ogontz Avenue, 215.424.7100, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., Saturday, April 2, Odell
THE ANNENBERG CENTER FOR THE PERFOMING ARTS gave the final performance of its Latin jazz series with Airto Moreira's Braz Jazz Band featuring Flora Purim March 25. This exciting Brazilian percussionist and singer has entertained countless audiences for some 40 years. There was even a Brazilian dance party with the band, MINAS, live in the lobby following the performance.
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Zellerbach Theater, 3680 Walnut Street, 215. 898.3900, 8 p.m., March 25, $21-$43, Moreira-Purim; l.a.m., Dance-$5-$10.