A big basket of jazz offerings all over town followed the Thanksgiving holiday starting Nov. 28.
ZANZIBAR BLUE welcomed home Joey DeFrancesco, Philadelphia's jazz master of the Hammond B-3 organ, Nov. 28-29. He was working with the always able support of Byron Landham on drums and Paul Bollenback on guitar. DeFrancesco has consistently been voted one of the top jazz organists in the country since his early groundbreaking entry into the field with Miles Davis when he was just 17. His dad, “Papa John” DeFrancesco, is a long-term Philadelphia jazz man on organ and vocals. Jimmy sings as well with all the style of Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra, as he demonstrated on his CD Singing and Swinging.
CHRIS’ JAZZ CAFE Nov. 28 and 29 brought back that delightful vocal duo of Mary Ellen Desmond and Meg Clifton performing songs by Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin and Frank Loesser. Their masterful support included top tenor man Larry McKenna along with Steve Myerson, piano; David Brodie, bass; and Jim Schade, drums. McKenna makes every gig as exciting as the great JATP concerts. His solos on the opener, "Get Happy," and the closing number, "Stompin at the Savoy," was as exciting as the tenors of Illinois Jacquet and Charlie Ventura from those fabulous '40s. On Saturday night trumpet virtuoso John Swana joined in, providing his distinctive horn of plenty. The rhythm section, notably Schade and Brodie, served as another reminder of what fine young jazz people we have in this town. They and such younger tigers as Chris Farr on tenor, Lucas Brown and Tony Miceli on vibes, Madison Rast on bass, and Dan Monaghan on drums – and including the still youthful Mr. Swana on trumpet.
Jazz is in good hands with these players despite the abysmal lack of jazz being played on commercial radio today. Meg sang "Cheek to Cheek" and "Skylark," among others, while Mary Ellen told you what it was like "Out of this World" and why she "Can’t Get Out of This Mood." Both these singers provide lovely and litlting pages from the American Song Book. The Elio Villafranca Quartet will take over on Dec. 5. Villafranca, a piano man of note, is also a top drummer and his music reflects his Cuban rhythmic background. Dec. 6 welcomes home another native Philadelphia, piano man John di Martino, playing with Cuban drummer Al Agulera and his quartet. John studied with Lenny Tristano and was a member of Ray Baretto’s New World Spirit and recorded with the renowned drummer Patato Valdez.
ORTLIEB’S JAZZ HAUS featured Lionelle Hamanaka, a very fine vocalist, with the house band that includes club owner, Pete Souders, on tenor sax, on November 30th. Ms Hamanaka is a third generation Japanese American who has worked with Lionel Hampton and at jazz clubs nationwide. She studied classical voice with Camilla Williams and her father hosted Cape Cod jam sessions.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART continued its first rate Friday night showing of American jazz stylings Nov. 29 with the Electric Mingus Project, featuring bassist Gerald Veasley. The ensemble features the music of legendary compser-bassist Charlie Mingus. Joining in for this musical treat were top local stars: John Swana, trumpet; Chris Farr, sax; Tony Miceli, vibes; and Butch Reed, drums.
THE RED ROOM Dec. 4 brings in vibrant vocalist Denise King, who can handle classic pop and jazz standards with equal aplomb. Ms King also runs her own summer-long jazz sessions in addition to her singing and composing work.