Jazz, America’s indigenous American art form with international overtones, is getting full play at The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Local clubs, in less majestic settings, are serving up their more traditional variations.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART is featuring Luciana Souza, one of Brazil's top singer-songwriters, with the June 4 welcome return of Friday night jazz in the Great Stair Hall. Ms Souza, a 2003 Grammy nominee for best jazz vocal, has just released a CD, Neruda, setting Chilean poet Pablo Nerudas poems to music. This CD demonstrated for me that poetry is meant to be read, not sung. The words create their own music. If there was a jazz connection to this, it escaped me. She has, however, several critically acclaimed jazz CDs. Chris Potter, a sax star of more traditional bent, will be here June 11 with his quartet. Wednesday nights occasionally bring in some jazz along with other styles. Sunday Jazz Brunches continue the jazz treat of the past three years with Tony Miceli on vibes and Kevin McConnell on bass playing pop and jazz standards. It's like a New York cocktail club without the cost. Miceli can be see all over town as co-leader of the to notch Philly 5, another group featuring the music of Thelonious Monk, some jazz trios and even a rock band. Versatility is just part of his skills.
ZANZIBAR BLUE continued its welcome featuring of classic pop-jazz singers with the nationally acclaimed Jane Monheit June 4-6. She has been described by Jazz Times as the "golden girl" which featured her on the cover. She, like several other new vocalists, helps bring the American song book back to life, and in as pretty a package as you can find anywhere. She has several CDs, her second being on Billboard’s chart as No. 1 and her newest, Taking A Chance On Love, is set for a September release. Having said all that I should note that catching her last show at the Zanzibar, I could not help but wish she would desist from singing every song up-tempo. The club was only three quarters full and several customers left before the act was finished. One group of four stopped me to express their disappointment and how much they wished she had not tried to swing every piece. She went through the song book from "Old Devil Moon" to "I Should Care" and the way she sang it few did. Whether from youthful enthusiasm or inexperience her comments added nothing to the presentation when she said that she wished she were home watching the Sopranos finale and how much every song she sang was her favorite. She is attractive, has a nice voice and does act out the lyrics with passion if not precision.
THE RED ROOM of The Society Hill Playhouse had “Sinatra Sings,” this past week featuring Carmine Mandia and Lou Lanza doing some 30 of Frank's signature songs. Lanza, a singer, songwriter, leader, is perhaps the most accomplished male vocalist working in this area and Mandia has comparable skills if not as many professional credits. Together they bring back the joy of the songs that made Sinatra famous. The story telling mixed in with the songs gave an exciting play to the life of "old blue eyes" and the crowd, many from South Philly and who looked like an AARP chapter at Las Vegas clearly enjoyed the show.
CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE brought back the exciting drummer and Philadelphia area star, Ari Hoenig with his trio featuring Jean Michel Pilc on piano. Hoenig, who worked with Joshua Redman and Kenny Werner, set the club on fire with his playing on his last visit. Pilc has worked with roy Haynes and Michael Brecker and as pianist for Harry Belafonte. Matt Pennman, a fine bassist, rounds out the trio. Chris continues as the club reminding me of the Swing Street joints on 53nd Street during the golden age of jazz.