On March 8, 2007, Philadelphia's jazz community witnessed a celebration and a reopening.
Dreambox Media at Chris' Jazz Cafe
On this night, the Dreambox Media label celebrated their 20th anniversary at Chris' Jazz Café, with a CD release party for The Birdhouse Project, the label's 100th release.
Featured on the release are Randy Sutin on vibes, Tyrone Brown on bass and label co-founder Jim Miller on drums. The trio opened the night playing a set showcasing compositions from the CD. Their interpretations of Bird-associated tunes allowed the trio ample room to stretch out. Brown, seated and playing a mini bass, imbued the tunes with harmonic richness and post-bop shading.
After the set, Susanne Cloud the other co-founder of the label, feted those present with birthday cake. Dessert was followed by a jam session featuring recording artists from the label.
The reality is that Miller and Cloud should have been the guests, not the hosts of the party. Through their yeoman work, an entire generation of Philadelphia jazz artists who might not otherwise have been recorded now have their efforts documented.
Ortlieb's Jazzhaus Reopens
Elsewhere, on the same night, followers of the local music scene had equal cause to celebrate.
Fans and musicians alike had received a scare when a local jazz institution, Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, was sold. Everyone's worst fears appeared realized when the doors closed in February.
Ortlieb's is inexorably linked to Philadelphia. It is the hard-bop mecca in a hard- bop city. The late Shirley Scott held the organ chair there. It is where legendary drummer Micky Roker has played his weekly gig for years. This hallowed venue once hosted Uri Caine and Ari Hoenig, who walked through these doors as teenagers to learn if they could hang with the big boys, like saxophonist Robert "Bootsie Barnes.
All the worry proved for naught, as the month long closure was merely for renovations. Now there are bathrooms you need not be afraid to use and a new kitchen with a new menu. Other changes include the removal of the gigantic buffalo head, which stood guard over the room for decades, and the relocation of the stage (finally!) to the center of the room. Reassuringly, the familiar dark paneling still awaits anyone who enters.
The new owners, although providing a much-needed cosmetic facelift, have managed to keep the vibe that makes Ortlieb's special to Philadelphians. Frequent performer Neil Podgursky with his "New Fire Quintet" opened the new Ortlieb's. The night found Podgursky playing opposite his own label, as his recent CD the outstanding Revolutions was released on the Dreambox Media imprint.
The opening night had patrons talking several decibels too loudly for a jazz club, but trumpet virtuoso John Swana's crisp, bright tone still cut through the cacophony of voices. The music brought a smile to pianist Sid Simmons and Micky Roker, both regular performers at Ortlieb's. Neither musician played on this night.
It was a wondrous sight: Ortlieb's open again, a Thursday night, the room overflowing with patrons for the first set.