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Any jazz fans seeking some post-July 4th fireworks will get their fill this weekend with the always exciting tenor titan Bootsie Barnes at Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus, 847 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia (215.922-2035). Sets go from 8:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. tonight and tomorrow night for a $6 cover.
Backing Bootsie in these sessions will be Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Bim Strasberg, bass; Sid Simmons, piano and Byron Landham, drums. Eubanks is the trumpet playing brother of the NBC Tonight Show guitar playing Kevin Eubanks, another Philadelphia product, and Duane has been making a name for himself at various local clubs. He has also worked with such major stars as Terrell Stafford, Shirley Scott, Illinois Jacquet, James Moody and Jimmy Heath. . The rhythm section is an all star support group with a considerable background and fan following of their own.
But the man with the horn who can set this place on fire with his incendiary horn is the tenor sax giant, Bootsie Barnes. Mr. Barnes started out as a drummer with the Ben Franklin High School Band and worked along the way to alto and tenor going with Art Blakey, Jimmy Heath and Sonny Fortune. He paid his dues in full working local clubs, national gigs, with major and minor groups, developing a tenor sound that has all the depth and excitement of Coleman Hawkins. Like Hawkins, Barnes can go from jam session excitement to tender, heartbreakingly lovely ballads as he has demonstrated in person and on several CDs.
Ortlieb’s is, of course, Philadelphia's longest running jazz club still in existence and is tended over by owner and tenor sax playing Pete Souders who gets as much kick out of the music there as most of the fans do. The club is shaped like a bowling alley and is located in what looks like a decaying factory setting in Northern Liberties so you know it is the music that keeps people coming back for decades.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.