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Andrea Clearfield Salon: 32 Year Anniversary Celebration

Victor L. Schermer By

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Jimmy Bruno and other Jazz Artists
Andrea Clearfield Salon
32 Year Anniversary Celebration
Philadelphia, PA
September 30, 2018

For thirty-two years, Andrea Clearfield's Salon has been a unique monthly musical event held at her Center City Philadelphia home with a large two-story high living room and a grand piano perfect for the occasion. At these salons, musicians and serious music aficianados gather for an evening of short performances by some of the best musicians in the region and the world. The players donate their services because Clearfield -a noted contemporary composer -and the audience, enthusiastically encourage their efforts. Plus, the experience is enjoyable for everyone, and there are golden opportunities for networking. At this event, five notable jazz musicians or groups delivered outstanding performances, so an All About Jazz review was in order.

The big news was the first performance by legendary guitarist Jimmy Bruno since the time he suffered a severe fall and head trauma, and was in a coma for several weeks. Fans wondered if he'd ever be able to play again. Several years ago, Bruno made a remarkable recovery from carpal tunnel syndrome. Like his friend, guitarist Pat Martino, he is a true medical miracle. This time, Bruno's doctors came to hear him, possibly out of disbelief! It was such a joy to hear him play a solo medley of several jazz standards such as "Stars Fell on Alabama," "I'm in the Mood for Love," and "Satin Doll." Although he seemed to struggle slightly with motor coordination in his fingering hand, and slowed the tempos somewhat, Bruno's exceptional improvisations were in excellent form. There is still no one like him for inventiveness, technique, and expression. Hopefully, he will be playing at clubs and doing recordings for a few more solid years.

Following Bruno, a duo of violinist Diane Monroe and pianist Tom Lawton, both Philly based jazz legends, took on a couple of pieces that required extreme virtuosity, negotiating them with ease. The first was "Irish Monk," composer Gary Smart's jig-like version of Thelonious Monk's musical idiom that capitalizes on the rhythmic jumps of both the jig and Monk's piano accents. Brilliant, challenging, and at time humorous, it allowed Monroe and Lawton to have a strenuous workout, leaving the audience marveling at what they could do. After that, they performed a movement from Lawton's remarkable Man Ray Suite called "Le Tournant" based on a Man Ray drawing of a road going precipitously around a mountain, symbolizing the challenges of pre-WWII Europe. Lawton is a brilliant composer, his relatively small output suggesting incredible possibilities for more. He told me he keeps a sketchbook of his musical ideas, and hopefully will come forth with a few more masterpieces.

The third jazz act of the evening consisted of the Hot Club of Philadelphia performing gypsy jazz. The group is patterned after the renowned Hot Club of France Quintet with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli that changed the face of jazz in Paris in the 1930-40s. The Philly group, which for several years has performed often in the region, featured J. Barry Wahrhaftig, leader, guitar, and vocals, Joseph Arnold, violin; Joshua Machiz, bass; and Richard T. Hill, guitar. They wafted through gypsy style versions of "September Song" and a rousing gypsy dance called "Jurado." Arnold on violin deserves special notice for his expressive and artistic turns on the violin. It's likely that Grapelli would have been very pleased with it.

The final jazz performer for the night was the prolific New York violinist Zach Brock, a regular with his own group and a sideman for many others, with many recordings to his name, and a Downbeat poll winner. He stepped up on his own, first with solo crossover music and then with a very fine folk blues which he sung to his own violin accompaniment.

Clearfield mentioned that, following her lead, music salons are beginning to crop up around the U.S. The salon is a marvelous way to stimulate the creative process and allow musicians and fans to meet one another outside the concert halls and clubs. Hopefully such meetups will become an increasing part of community life in the Delaware Valley and elsewhere.

The complete list of performers of all genres in order of appearance included:

Paul Fejko, pianist. Jimmy Bruno, jazz guitarist Diane Monroe, violin and Tom Lawton, piano Matthew Cohen, viola and Zhenni Li, piano FALSA featuring Umer Piracha and friends The Hot Club of Philadelphia (Joseph Arnold, violin; Joshua Machiz, bass; Richard T. Hill, guitar; Barry Wahrhaftig, guitar/vocals) Zach Brock, violin Lexi Weege and the Wondertwins David Matthew Brown, violin Luiz Simas, pianist Heather Gardner, soprano Andy Antipin, singer/songwriter and Paula Skutnick, piano.

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