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Valentine's Day Jazz: All Heart in Philadelphia

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The Valentine’s Day Philadelphia jazz scene surely touched the hearts of local jazz fans. The warm music moods spreads out even over the next week.

KIMMEL CENTER (Perelman Theater) provided a special vocal bouquet from the lovely to look at (delightful to hear) Jane Monheit on Valentine’s Day . Her newest CD, In The Sun, is gathering raves received by her first album, Never, Never Land which featured such jazz stars as Ron Carter, “Fathead” Newman, Kenny Barron and Hank Crawford. It was in Billboard’s top ten for a year and her second CD debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard chart s . The 27-year-old Long Island vocalist won the Thelonious Monk competition when she was just 20. Her favorite composers, she told me, are from the Great American Songbook plus Brazilian giants and such contemporary artists as Joni Mitchell and Carol King. She admires Peggy Lee and said, she has “a soft spot for Lee Wiley...who had a sound all her own.” Ms Monheit is easily one of the loveliest looking singers working anywhere today and her voice and vocal treatments are every bit as stunning. She even turned Over the Rainbow into a touching torch song rather than just a wistful Judy Garland piece about trying to get away from the farm.

Another major song stylist, Dee Dee Bridgewater, winner of two Grammys, France’s Victoire de la Musique for Best Jazz Album and an Oliver nomination in London as well as a Tony Award for her work in the “The Wiz” who will be taking the Verizon Hall stage on Wed.,Feb. 18. Called the rightful heir to Ella Fitzgerald by the Chicago Tribune, she will be joined by the exciting New Orleans trumpet man Nicholas Payton and his new ensemble “Sonic Trance.” He made a stunning debut appearance (with the Heath Brothers) at the Kimmel last year.

CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE offers American song book favorites Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton joined by Philly jazz giants Larry McKenna, tenor sax and and John Swana on trumpet Friday 13th. Another song sweetheart, 23-year-old Joanna Pascale (with the Grant Stewart Quartet) was here on Valentine’s Day. Young as she is, this compelling vocalist has been exciting jazz fans all over town. Desmond and Clifton will also be singing their heart s out at the Sellersville Theater 1894 on Valentine’s Day. February 21 Chris’ is showcasing guitar artistry with local legend Jimmy Bruno and his trio being joined by Randy Johnston, a guitar man who coves the musical waterfront from Wes Montgomery to B. B. King. He has worked and recorded with such stars as Lou Donaldson, Lee Konitz, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Tom Harrell. His latest Cd is “Hit and Run.”

ORTLIEB’S JAZZ HAUS, the longest continuously running Philadelphia jazz club will be offering its own vocal valentine on Feb. 14 with Nina Bundy singing with the sure and loving support of the Mickey Roker Quartet.

THE RED ROOM AT SOCIETY HILL PLAYHOUSE featured a “ladies night” put together by the blonde and beautiful singer Barbara Montgomery who demonstrated her production talents, leadership, song selection and crowd pleasing with this performance on Feb. 12. We once described her as the ice cream blonde with the black coffee jazz voice, but she is much more as she has demonstrated in various shows, CDs and club appearances. The all star ladies group she brought together for this event included the incomparable Monette Sudler, guitar; Lynn Riley, tenor sax; Leesa Robinson, drums; Erin McGuire, keyboard and sort of a gentleman caller, the artful bass man, Lee Smith. Ms Riley is a sax dynamo who can blow away the walls or soothe the savage beasts. She is one of the very finest working the reeds in this town. Everyone in this group was first rate including McGuire who is a Temple Music graduate student. The charming, red and black club room was packed, audience response enthusiastic and Ms Montgomery kept things going acting as M.C. as well as producer, songstress, arranger, etc. It was indeed a night to remember.

THE PAINTED BRIDE ART CENTER put on a truly all star Latin jazz session with such stellar performers as Giovanni Hidalgo, congas and percussion; David Sanchez, tenor sax; Steve Berrios, drums: Dave Valentin; flute and Claudio Roditi, trumpet. The performance was dynamite and the crow response was as enthusiastic as anything I’ve seen since t he days of JATP in a setting that was snug and accommodating for the 250 in the audience. The Center is truly one of the delights of Philadelphia jazz located in the heart of Old City at 230 Vine Street. It reminds me of many of the little clubs in the Village back in the 1940s.


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