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Mary Ellen Desmond and Her Quartet at Chris' Jazz Cafe, Philadelphia

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Mary Ellen Desmond and QuartetChris' Jazz CafePhiladelphia, PennsylvaniaAugust 22, 2009

A late August thunderstorm and drenching rain didn't keep the faithful from coming out to hear Philly favorite vocalist Mary Ellen Desmond and her group perform at Chris' Jazz Cafe in Center City, for which they were rewarded with a lively and sophisticated performance by the main attraction and her sidemen, consisting of saxophonist Larry McKenna, pianist Tom Lawton, bassist Lee Smith, and drummer Byron Landham. Desmond not only knows her tunes but has a beautiful soprano voice to go with it. She works exceptionally ...


Desmond at the Curtis Arboretum: A Great Taste of Philly Jazz on a Summer Evening

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Mary Ellen Desmond Curtis Arboretum Philadelphia, PA July 12, 2009

If you want a picture-perfect setting with a “soiree" feeling for a jazz group, the Curtis Arboretum is it. Located in the Philadelphia suburb of Wyncote, PA, it was created by Mary Louise Curtis Bok, in honor of her father Cyrus Curtis, founder of the famed Curtis Publishing Company. Frederick Law Olmstead was responsible for the landscaping who was also the iconic designer of Central Park in New York City. Surrounding an architecturally interesting “listening room" building, that is in effect a small concert ...


A Holiday Jazz Benefit Concert with Mary Ellen Desmond, Philadelphia

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The Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany330 South 13th StreetPhiladelphia, PennsylvaniaDecember 16, 2007 Perhaps like this writer, there are those who are not especially fond of the holiday music that blares everywhere from late November through the New Year. Besides the intrusive, repetitious re-playing of a dozen or so hackneyed songs, the renditions are usually commercial and lack musical sophistication. Thus, it was a pleasure to attend a Christmas concert with outstanding jazz musicians where the emphasis was on swinging jazz and not on holiday “flutter."For several years, Philadelphia ...


Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton: The Dynamic Philadelphia Songstress Duo

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In the jazz arena, as is all too often true in opera as well, vocalists, despite their sometimes fine voices and charisma, often lack true musicianship. This shortcoming is so pervasive, that we no longer expect such musical fine-tuning from them. Billie Holiday and the opera diva Beverly Sills were two great exceptions to the rule. Their style, their precision, their care with interpretation marked them as musicians, not just singers as such. There are others, of course -- Sarah Vaughan, Irene Kral, and Johnny Hartman immediately come to mind- but not very many, who meet these criteria.

In Philadelphia, ...


Desmond and Clifton Swing at the Chadds Ford Winery

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As readers of my other All About Jazz contributions may surmise, I take jazz perhaps all too seriously, regarding it as an art form masquerading as entertainment. (Certainly, this dour quality of mine is no way to win friends and influence people, but there it is ;-). A few years ago, I heard Mary Ellen Desmond sing at Chris' Jazz Caf鬠and I thought, “She's an artist- she knows her music." That assessment has been more than validated by her solo CD, “Darn that Dream" and the more recent duet album, “Peggy Lee - Rosemary Clooney Tribute," with co-vocalist Meg Clifton, ...


Mary Ellen Desmond: Darn That Dream

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It is this writer's impression that, here in the Philadelphia area, some of our finest contemporary jazz artists are like diamonds in the earth, appreciated by those who know them but awaiting a larger national and international audience. Hopefully, the best of them will follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Bruno, whose extraordinary guitar musicianship has in the past few years led to several fine recordings and a burgeoning and well-deserved national reputation. Another such exceptional talent waiting to make the “big boards" is pianist Tom Lawton, whom I recently interviewed for All About Jazz. Still another is the vocalist, ...

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