The Newly Minted Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

The Newly Minted Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia
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The newly minted Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia is an exciting, ambitious project co-founded by renowned trumpeter and Temple University educator Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
Terell Stafford
b.1966
trumpet
and intrepid jazz supporter Deena Adler, Odean Pope
Odean Pope
Odean Pope
b.1938
saxophone
's manager. The Orchestra has already made waves in the Philly jazz community through its two performances in the Courtyard of City Hall, symbolizing its close connection to the city. On January 7, 2014, a gala inaugural celebration concert will be held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts Verizon Hall, featuring the 17-piece band with Stafford at the helm, hosted by Bill Cosby and with guest appearances by Philadelphia-bred jazz greats Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
, Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
Kenny Barron
b.1943
piano
, Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
Randy Brecker
b.1945
trumpet
, Odean Pope, Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
Larry McKenna
b.1937
sax, tenor
, Robert "Bootsie" Barnes, Tony Williams
Tony Williams
Tony Williams
1945 - 1997
drums
and also Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
to add his support.

The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia features music performed, composed, and arranged by Philly's rich heritage of musicians, past and present. To all accounts, it is taking the city by storm. All About Jazz readers should know more about this stellar Orchestra. We interviewed Stafford and Adler to get some of the details in depth. In addition, Stafford filled us in on his own experiences as a jazz musician that led to the new venture.

The Initial Idea for the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

AAJ: How did each of you get the first inkling of a jazz orchestra of Philadelphia? How did the concept come to each of you, and what led you to talk to one another about it?

DA: A parallel line of thinking occurred with us simultaneously. From my end, I'd been very involved with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for several years, and also am friend and manager of the great saxophonist Odean Pope, who has given me a real education about the legacy of jazz in Philadelphia. One day I was thumbing through a magazine, and I saw an ad for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and I had a "Eureka!" moment. I thought, "Cleveland? What about Philadelphia? Why doesn't Philadelphia have a jazz orchestra?"

I thought to myself, Philadelphia has such a rich jazz legacy. And Terell Stafford immediately came to my mind as the leader, especially since he is right here at Temple University. This would be perfect! I had already talked informally to the people at Lincoln Center about how Terell should be leading a jazz orchestra. So I passed the idea on to Gary Steuer's wife Sophie [Gary Steuer was serving as head of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs—Eds], and she suggested I talk to Gary, and he said, "This is a good idea. Come on down and let's talk about it." So Gary and I met, and I told him that Terell should definitely be the artistic director. And then I called Terell, and he was right on board. He can best tell you the reasons for that.

TS: It's a story that has a long history behind it. To begin with, some years ago, Wynton Marsalis asked me to join Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as a regular player, but I couldn't commit to it. I had just gotten my gig at Temple, and I wanted to devote myself to building up the jazz program there.

The "back story" here is that I'd been part of Bill Cosby's show "You Bet Your Life." The way I got that gig was when I was working in DC, and the trumpeter I performed with just happened to be the great Johnny Coles
Johnny Coles
Johnny Coles
1926 - 1997
trumpet
, who is from Philadelphia. So I'm standing on stage with this living legend, and I said to him, "It's a pleasure to work with you. Is there any way I can come see you when we get back to Philadelphia?" He said, "Absolutely!" So I hung out with him, and he told me Mr. Cosby was auditioning musicians for his game show and was looking for a trumpet player. Coles said, "I'd audition, but my eyesight isn't what it used to be, so why don't you do it?" So he took me to the audition, and Tim Warfield and Shirley Scott were there, and they asked me to read a part. They liked what they heard, and they hired me, and I worked on Cosby's show for about three years, right here in Philadelphia at the WHYY studios. Cosby, Johnny Coles, Tim, and Shirley were all big reasons I centered my career in Philadelphia. So that's how I began to establish jazz roots in this city.

Bill Cosby had a big influence on me. Every week, I'd come in and, and since he had a PhD in Education we'd talk about teaching, and then one day, he said, "I think you should teach." And I said, "I don't wanna teach. I just wanna play." He came back with, "If you teach, it'll make you a better player." And after that, he'd make numerous references to me teaching. And then one time he asked me, "How do you like playing on this show?" And I said, "I love it." And he said, "If you love playing on this show, why don't you consider teaching?" I took that as an ultimatum! So I started to teach at Cheney University, and then when a teaching position became open at Temple, Shirley Scott
Shirley Scott
Shirley Scott
1934 - 2002
organ, Hammond B3
asked me to apply. And Kim Berry, at Temple's radio station WRTI-FM, also suggested it. So when Wynton asked me to be in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, while flattered, I turned him down for a regular gig because my life and career were centered at Temple and in Philadelphia.

Given that my career is now focused around Temple and Philly, here's how the idea for a Philadelphia based jazz orchestra came up for me. I do some work on the road, and at one point I played with the Columbus, Ohio, Jazz Orchestra with Byron Stripling
Byron Stripling
Byron Stripling
b.1961
trumpet
. That was about five or six years ago, and that's when it first crossed my mind to start an orchestra in Philadelphia, but I hesitated, thinking it would take so much work and require such a large staff, so the idea slipped my mind. Then two years ago, I was at the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, and I jammed with some of the local musicians there. And one of them happened to mention, "Tomorrow, we're playin' in the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra," and that's when I first said out loud, "Philadelphia should have a jazz orchestra!" And they agreed, "Yes, they should! If Sean Jones
Sean Jones
Sean Jones
b.1978
trumpet
can do it here, you can do it in Philly!" So, I got home from Pittsburgh, was excited about the idea of a jazz orchestra, and, two days later, Deena called me with the same idea!

AAJ: You both had the same thought at the same time. And you both discovered that many cities do have a jazz orchestra "in residence."

DA: And I'd gotten to know the musicians and the staff of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and had traveled with them. The first time was when I was with them in New Orleans after Katrina, when Wynton premiered "Congo Square." So I got a taste of the music, the life, and the finances of a jazz orchestra that should prove useful for the one in Philly.

The Musical and Educational Mission of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia

AAJ: So the orchestra was conceived on the day you spoke to one another about it. And now it's a reality. What do you see as your mission and goals for the newly minted Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia?

TS: First of all, we want to bring everyone's attention to the Philadelphia jazz scene. There's a rich musical culture in Philadelphia. Many great musicians past and present have been here and made so many contributions to jazz and other musical genres. And some of them, though certainly not all, have been unfortunately overlooked. So the purpose of the orchestra is to play music from the great musicians from the city, their tunes, their arrangements, and bring to light and everyone's attention what great music comes out of Philadelphia then and now.

AAJ: Who are some of the great big band arrangers from Philly that you're thinking about?

TS: Odean Pope is a great arranger. Jimmy Heath is a great arranger. Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
was a terrific arranger. Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
had some affiliations with Philadelphia. Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
, like Dizzy, is of course a great composer and arranger. Larry McKenna is a great arranger. Larry's library of big band arrangements is huge.

My concepts for a Philly-based jazz orchestra require some background information. I had been classically trained, and it was only after I met the great organist Shirley Scott, that I learned a lot about jazz here in Philadelphia. When I came to Philly, I was just getting my feet wet in jazz. So when I took on the jazz band at Temple's Music Department, I called David Baker at the University of Indiana for tips. He told me to talk to Frank Foster
Frank Foster
Frank Foster
1928 - 2011
saxophone
, at that time the leader of the Basie Band. So I started talking to band leaders. Then, lo and behold, about a week later, I got a position in the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band! And who was in that band but Jimmy Heath! So I went up to him and said, "Help me!" And Frank Wess
Frank Wess
Frank Wess
1922 - 2013
sax, tenor
was there, and they were all teaching me about big bands. And then back in Philadelphia, I ran into Larry McKenna, and he offered me his big band charts, and I started to do them with the Temple band. And we'd perform them at various festivals, and everyone asked me who wrote them, and it's McKenna. He writes great, great charts. And there are other guys here who are doing great arrangements. For example, there's Norman David
Norman David
Norman David

saxophone
. He's already done some for our new Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia.

AAJ: So Philadelphia has some highly gifted big band arrangers, both past and present. That would be a natural resource for the Jazz Orchestra.

TS: There are lots of great arrangers and players here. Some of them are faculty at both the University of the Arts and Temple. So that's the musical mission—to present the Philadelphia jazz heritage—but equally important is the educational mission. The only way we can perpetuate jazz and the Phildelphia legacy is to educate young people about it. We need to find ways to bring them into the orchestra's concerts, the rehearsals, the master classes. And then eventually, we'll have people write commissioned projects based on different themes. Recently, at Temple, we commissioned work based on the music of Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
. In fact, at one time, The Thad Jones Orchestra was the mentoring orchestra for Temple University. So now, the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia can be the mentoring orchestra. And we can commission works that would be performed by JOP and by the students as well at side-by-side rehearsals.

AAJ: So you'll get the students to interact with the experienced masters.

TS: We'd supplement the Temple Prep Program and the Kimmel Center Prep Program in terms of the big band component. In fact, we originally intended to name our group "The Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra" until we found out there's a youth group by that name in New Jersey, and the directors teach in Princeton High School. So we could work with them as well. We want to pull in as many youth as we can. And I've been conducting the All City High School Band for the past eight years. So we could have the members of Orchestra come to the rehearsals of the All City band and coach them. So that's how we will keep this music alive going forward.

AAJ: That's a fantastic concept. Many of the musicians are concerned about keeping the younger generation interested in the jazz idiom, because that's where the audiences and the new players will come from.

DA: A propos of that, with all the recent financial cuts in our schools, the Philadelphia School System cut out their Music and Arts programs. That makes our educational mission even more urgent.

AAJ: Deena, as co-founder, what are some of your dreams for JOP?

DA: I echo everything that Terell just said. My dream is to honor the great jazz legacy of Philadelphia, which includes honoring some of the older jazz musicians from here who are still with us, which we're now planning to do. We also want to preserve the legacy by performing it and continue it through education. Also, we want to highlight the Philadelphia "sound" which is talked about so much.

Wynton's group in New York at Lincoln Center is centered around the music of Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
. And my original concept was to center JOP around the Philadelphia sound, which emerged during the hard bop era with central figures like Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, and many, many others. And there are some other, unsung, musicians from Philadelphia who have had a tremendous influence. So the dream is to find ways to continue and enrich the Philly jazz legacy.

We have to find ways to keep jazz alive in Philadelphia and elsewhere. There are numerous great musicians and so few venues where they can perform. So my hope is that the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia will play a "come to" function, generating energy and encouraging the musicians to come on board and the audiences to come out to hear the music. The Orchestra would be a magnet that would draw the musicians and audiences together.

TS: When you have a group of musicians and a group of supporters come together, good things always happen. That's how the big jazz festivals happen. In Pittsburgh, the festival was held around different places in the city, and we'd jam afterwards. And afterwards, you'd hear people talkin' about it and gettin' excited about next year! And they'd offer new places to do it!

DA: When you get excitement, you get a creative process going.

TS: It's about bringing everyone together. When I first came here, as I said, I was new to jazz. People like Shirley Scott, Jimmy Oliver, Mickey Roker
Mickey Roker
Mickey Roker
b.1932
drums
, Arthur Harper, and Bobby Durham
Bobby Durham
Bobby Durham
1937 - 2008
drums
, just to name a few, would pull me under their wings. The way Harper put it to me was, "I really believe in you, but I need to spend some time with you." So I said, OK, but I'd like us to bring folks around us. So I booked a series in some local nursing homes, and offered them our services as a trumpet- bass duo to come in and play for the residents. So we got a bunch of gigs there, and Arthur was really happy because we could work together, and he could mentor me. I'd love to see that concept continue on in some way.

AAJ: There are several organizations around the country that serve the senior community by bringing music to various facilities.

DA: Music has many therapeutic benefits. It stimulates the brain, and helps people with Alzheimer's, for example.

AAJ: Music is about giving what's inside you to others, and it's a natural form of altruism. There are many ways that musicians can make a difference in our society. And it sounds like that's something you have in mind for JOP.

The Philadelphia "Sound"

AAJ: But let's return for a moment to what Deena referred to earlier as the Philadelphia "sound." What we know for sure is that Philly has a tradition of the greatest jazz musicians many of whom have made the jazz scene in New York and internationally. In addition, there has often been talk about a Philly jazz "sound" or "style." We might assume that the new orchestra would like to capture that sound. Do you think there is such a "sound," and if so, could you describe it?

TS: Yes, I do think there's something to it. For example, something that's basic to jazz in Philly is the element of emotion. I've travelled around, worked with many bands and musicians. I'm an educator, and I tell those I teach that there is something beyond what they can learn in a class. That something is what makes people feel emotions when they listen. I ask the students, "How do you get the audience to feel joy, or feel sadness when you play your instrument?" When I fist picked up my trumpet, my mother said to me, "If you can't make someone shout out or cry when you play, what's the purpose of doing it?"

DA: I like your mother! [Laughter.]

TS: She's a trumpet player, so she knows! So when I talk to students, I talk about soulfulness and emoting. And when you think about it, that's what makes for the Philadelphia sound. When you think about John Coltrane, no one on his instrument had brought in the emotional and spiritual aspects the way he did. And when you've heard him play a song for twenty minutes, you're so moved emotionally that you forget about time, and you need a towel to wipe yourself off. So the spiritual, soulful aspect, the energy, the musician's life is all present in the music. You can hear the hardship, you can hear the camaraderie, you can hear it all in the music.

Bill Cosby told me that Lee Morgan loved marches, and his soulfulness and articulation came from those marches. His triple tongue staccato articulations came from those marches. So Lee Morgan and John Coltrane contributed to that Philadelphia sound. So that's the Philadelphia sound—the emotions, the spirit. And it's in other genres too—the soulfulness. It's not often that I hear bands play and I get goose bumps. But there were moments in the two concerts we did with the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, moments when I felt goose bumps and was so grateful to be working with them.

DA: And I got goosebumps when you were soloing.

TS: I could hear that energy coming from the band because it's something that's inherent in this city. Like it's in the water supply!

DA: Terell, I would add something to that and be interested to know if you would agree. I think that church music in Philadelphia has always been very important, and I think that's influenced the music, that it's a big part of the Philadelphia sound.

AAJ: Mahalia Jackson lived in Philadelphia. Philly jazz has deep roots in gospel music.

DA: Yes, and that soulfulness is also in R&B, a lot of which has come out of Philadelphia. And also, I think our music here has a lot of grittiness. Maybe that's one reason it grabs you in the gut.

TS: What has made jazz in general distinctive is the church. When you hear a lot of the musicians, you hear their church experience coming out of their horns or voices. When I was younger and played in church, if you didn't move people, they'd let you know. They'd say, "Baby, if the Holy Spirit is not in what you're playing, you need to search your soul for it." It's true!

DA: That's what your mother was saying to you as well.

AAJ: Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
said, "If you haven't been through it, it won't come out of your horn." You're on to something important— that the Philly sound is characterized by a soulful and gutsy quality. Philadelphia musicians brought an element of passion into jazz.

TS: If you want to hear further pontification about it, Jimmy and Tootie Heath are coming down in November to play in the Temple groups. I'd love to talk to Jimmy Heath about his contribution to Philly jazz. By the way, as an aside, Jimmy takes credit for Bill Cosby's comedy! Cosby was once a bartender, and Jimmy would come in and say, "Have you heard this joke?" And he'd tell Cosby tons of jokes. And then Cosby would use all those jokes with the customers at the other end of the bar! [Laughter.] But, more seriously I'd love to hear Jimmy talk about how the different musicians and ideas connected, like how Benny Golson and he inspired each other.

AAJ: When they were coming up, in the 1940s-1960s, music and jazz were neighborhood things in Philadelphia. Jimmy talks about it in his biography. Like how they'd all get together at his house and play together. And his mother would prepare lunch. That happened a lot in the South, West, and North Philly neighborhoods. Everybody thought of the musicians as family. Lifetime bonds developed among the musicians.

DA: I was driving in North Philly with Odean Pope one day, and he pointed to different houses and told me which musicians lived there!

AAJ: That legacy of jazz in neighborhoods and families is crucial. Many of the bands became like families. For example, the Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
Orchestra band members often felt that way. In fact Basie himself was known for encouraging that closeness among the musicians, like a father figure.

Terell Stafford's Philly Jazz "Family"

AAJ: So, Terell, you've been around Philly for a long time, but you're originally from Maryland? Is that right?

TS: Actually, I'm originally from Miami. We moved around a lot. I went to elementary school in Miami, middle school in Chicago, high school in Maryland. And after I graduated from high school, my parents moved right outside of Philadelphia. But I went to the University of Maryland as an undergraduate, and then I moved back to the Philadelphia area. I was mainly studying classical music at the time. Then I met Wynton Marsalis and started graduate school at Rutgers, where I began to meet jazz musicians. So when I started hanging out in Philadelphia, I thought, "I wanna play jazz."

AAJ: So your jazz playing started right here in Philly.

TS: The way it started goes back to a jam session in DC that I hated! As sometimes unfortunately happens in this business, the other guys would make fun of me constantly! It was at a place called Tacoma Station in DC. The musicians were extremely cruel to me! But one night a guy in immaculate attire came up with his saxophone to jam with us. I wondered "Who's this?" and it turned out to be Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
from Philly. He was so nice, so friendly, and I went up to him and introduced myself. He said, "Look. I know you're studying classical trumpet, but on weekends, let's hang out. So we hung out in Harrisburg, in York, in Philly, in the clubs, we'd listen to people play, we'd go back to his house and we'd transcribe records together. He recommended guys to listen to the organ, check out Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, and so on. And then Tim played with Shirley Scott, and that's how I met her. Tim invited me to one of their gigs. I was sitting in the back of the club, and Tim whispered to Shirley, "You should ask that trumpet player to sit in." I said, "No, no!" And Shirley announced, "Is there a trumpet player Terell Stafford back there?" And I said, "No, thank you ma'am, thanks for offering." But she insisted, and that's how it all began for me.

AAJ: That's a wonderful story. I do know that you and Tim are like brothers today.

TS: Yes.

AAJ: And I believe he's going to participate in the new Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia.

TS: Yes.

The Personnel Roster

AAJ: Let's talk about the Orchestra's personnel. People around town are speculating about it a lot. There are so many good musicians of all generations in and around Philly. What are your thoughts about the personnel?

TS: When Deena proposed the idea, the first person I called was Wynton Marsalis. I asked, "Do you have a minute?" He said, "I have an hour." And we talked my whole way home during my commute. So I told him about the Orchestra, and he said, "Just make me one promise: Choose only the best musicians. Just choose great musicians: there are a bunch of them in Philly." So I thought about that long and hard, and that's our personnel. If I were to show you the personnel list, there are probably ten trumpet players, sixteen saxophonists, twelve trombonists, and the rhythm section goes on forever. So what I did was to put all the great musicians on a big wish list. And from that wish list, I put the basic band together the way Wynton did it at Lincoln Center, based not only on how they play but how the personalities come together. Also, we're varying the personnel somewhat from gig to gig depending on availability and so on. Ultimately, I hope to use as many of the best Philly-based musicians as possible.

AAJ: Is there a precedent for that among the big bands, in terms of selecting for a given gig from a larger roster?

TS: Yes. The lifeline of a big band starts with the middle of the band. The usual number of players is seventeen. The lifeline is the lead alto, the lead trumpet, and the drummer. And based on their concepts, you put the rest of the band together.

AAJ: So you're gonna have a central core, and then you're gonna bring in others for specific gigs and purposes.

TS: Right, although, like most big bands, we'll probably have a larger core of "regulars" who play most often with us.

AAJ: That rings true to my knowledge of the big bands. There are "regulars" but guys frequently sub for them. So—have you selected any of the personnel yet?

TS: Yes, we have.

DA: The orchestra has performed twice already, so in many respects it's already formed and up and running.

TS: For the saxophone section, a gentleman who teaches here at Temple, Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
Dick Oatts
b.1953
saxophone
is possibly the world's greatest lead alto player. Ask anyone in the business, and they'd probably pick him for big band lead alto. Great player, great teacher, great soul.

For trombone, it's Randy Kapralick, who teaches at the University of the Arts. Recently, I went to hear Norman David's Eleventet, and he was the lead trombone. As soon as I heard Randy, I wrote his name down. For lead trumpet, we've got Nick Marchione, whose father was Tony Marchione. If you talk to any trumpet player—Tony DeSantis, John Swana
John Swana
John Swana

trumpet
, Rick Kerber—they'll tell you he was the quintessential trumpet teacher for their generation —they all studied with him. So his son, Nick, who plays both jazz and classical, is the lead trumpet player for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Amazingly, Nick got an orchestra job on Broadway at age 17, which is almost unheard of! And he has photographic memory, and probably has half the Vanguard charts memorized! He's a fabulous musician.

And then, most importantly, for the rhythm section, we have Lee Smith
Lee Smith
Lee Smith

bass
on bass, who is unsurpassed. And then our drummer is Chris Beck
Chris Beck
Chris Beck

drums
. He's a young guy, mentored by Byron Landham and Mickey Roker. Chris grew up in Philly and works a lot in New York. He's a fabulous, powerful, intense drummer. Earlier, we talked about the Philadelphia sound, and part of that sound comes from a certain energy that Philly drummers have. Chris Beck has it! He also has the finesse, don't get me wrong. And then the pianist is Josh Richman, very, very strong.

AAJ: We have some of the best jazz pianists in the world in Philadelphia. So what made you choose to put in one of the younger among them in that slot, rather than one of the legends?

TS: Because of Lee Smith. I wanna see what a veteran like Lee Smith can teach Chris and Josh about a rhythm section. That's part of our concept—mentoring. And then the gentleman who's playing guitar is Greg Kettinger, a veteran who does a lot of big band work. So one feature of our orchestra is to bring together veterans and younger musicians and nurture their work together. That's a part of my idea of mixing personalities.

DA: You can see this is very well thought out.

AAJ: Yes, and very exciting.- lots of potential for development. What I hear is that the musicians will be learning from one another, and that's exactly what makes jazz happen. People interacting, listening, learning. You're bringing in a lot of great concepts that will give drive, energy, and creativity to the orchestra. So, have you begun to fill out the saxophone section?

TS: In addition to Dick Oatts, we've got Chris Farr
Chris Farr
Chris Farr

sax, tenor
, Mike Cemprola, second alto, Tim Warfield, second tenor, and a young gentleman named Mark Allen
Mark Allen
Mark Allen

saxophone
on baritone saxophone.

AAJ: Among your other ventures is the outstanding Terell Stafford Quartet. Do you plan to mingle them with the Jazz Orchestra, or will you keep them separate?

TS: They're two separate things.

Planning for the Future

AAJ: So where do you plan to go from here with the Orchestra? You've had a couple of intro performances at City Hall Courtyard. Your terrific rendition of "Candy" at City Hall is on YouTube.



TS: One of the things I love about this orchestra is how many of us are connected with either Temple University or the University of the Arts. So we'll provide a natural link between these two institutions, which will be fruitful for everyone,

AAJ: What's coming up in the next months or year?

TS: We're really excited about the gala event which will be held on January 7th at the Kimmel Center, Verizon Hall. Wynton Marsalis will come down to show his love and support. Bill Cosby will join us as emcee. Jimmy Heath, Kenny Barron, Randy Brecker are coming, and will perform. Unfortunately, Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
b.1972
bass
and Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
cannot come due to other commitments. Odean Pope is working on an arrangement of one of his own compositions for the band to play. And, in addition, legends Tony Williams, Bootsie Barnes, and Larry McKenna will perform

AAJ: Billy Cosby has always been supportive of Philly musicians, some of whom he grew up with, like Bootsie. And of course, he's always had musical aspirations himself.

TS: Here's another story about Mr. Cosby that relates to his generosity. Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
and I have always been close, and one time I had to pick him up and drive him to Temple for a concert. We were sitting in the dressing room, and he has diabetes and he said, "I need my insulin shot now. And you have to do the injection." And I'm afraid of needles, and my hands were shaking. I was a wreck, and I had to go out and do a concert! Just then, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Who is the emcee for this concert?" I didn't know who it was and didn't turn around. I just said, "I am." And he said, "You're fired!" I turned around and it was Mr. Cosby! [Laughter.] So he emceed the concert, and then he came up to me and asked, "Who plays lead alto in this group?" So I pointed to the saxophonist, a kid, and Cosby took him outside and gave him an alto sax that belonged to Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
Jackie McLean
1932 - 2006
sax, alto
!

DA: He also gave Walter Blanding
Walter Blanding
Walter Blanding
b.1971
saxophone
his first saxophone. Someone had told Mr. Cosby that the young Blanding couldn't afford a saxophone, so he bought one for him.

Honoring the Musical Diversity of Philadelphia

AAJ: Let's get back to the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia. Philly has one of the most diverse jazz scenes in the country and the world. I almost just then said "Arkestra" instead of orchestra, of course thinking of the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra, which has been based in Philly for a few decades. We have everything from them to Larry McKenna to Odean Pope, Jimmy Heath, Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
, Bobby Zankel
Bobby Zankel
Bobby Zankel
b.1949
saxophone
—so many different styles and genres. How will the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia honor the musical diversity in this city?

DA: And let's not forget McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
's enormous impact. Also, someone we rarely hear about is Hassan Ibn Ali. He lived in North Philly and made only one recording with Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
and died young. Odean used to go over after school and play with him every day. Even in his short life, Ali influenced so many different Philadelphia musicians, including McCoy!

TS: I'm glad you mentioned McCoy, since he himself has a fantastic big band. I played with McCoy for three or four years. And I hope to involve him in some way with the new orchestra. Yes, one of our missions is to reflect and honor and build upon the diverse styles and musicians who have come through Philadelphia. And if you look at our personnel, you'll see that diversity. Someone said about our gala event, "If you get all those folks on stage, what's left for the orchestra to do? But even though there will be so much happening, the gala concert will be just a taste, the tip of the iceberg. For example, I would love to do a whole concert just on Kenny Barron. He combines the Philly influence with Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
's and has generated something unique out of that mix. One thing we'll be doing is inviting people to write original compositions for the band, and those compositions will reflect and pay tribute to these diverse influences.

Wynton Marsalis suggested to me that we set a beginning goal of four concerts a year. We're looking at the Kimmel Center, Longwood Gardens, The Painted Bride, the Berks Jazz Festival in Reading as venues. And then, in addition to those concerts, we'll have various educational activities, listening parties, and so on. Our goal for this year is to raise enough funds to do four concerts, and each year do more concerts.

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