Jazz Variations in Philly

AAJ Staff By

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Jazz giants were all over Philadelphia over the last two weeks.

The Sedgwick Cultural Center brought in Philly native and jazz legend, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson who worked with seemingly the entire range of bop, main stream and R&B jazz megastars. Just a few of those include: Tad Dameron, Tiny Grimes, Bull Moose Jackson, Earl Bostic, James Moody, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, He recorded his now-famed side, "Stablemates"? with Coltrane, a close Philly buddy. Just two other Golson tunes, now standards, include: "Killer Joe,"? and "Blues March."? Golson also worked with such jazz giants as Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Count Basie, George Shearing and Quincy Jones.

Asked about his status as a living jazz legend he laughed, saying, "I don't have any idea how all of that stuff happened."? On playing the Sedgwick again, he said, "It's always nice to come back home, bringing back a lot of things that are part of my life and now gone. It's just incredible."? Just some of the numbers he said he would probably be playing include such favorites as "Along Came Betty,"? "Whisper Not"? and "I Remember Clifford."? Asked how it is that Philly produced so many fine jazz people, he laughed again, saying, "I think it's pure happenstance. It just happened. I don't think it was anything in the water."?

Golson's newest CD, Terminal 1 is something of a homage to director Steven Speilberg, a jazz fan, of whom Golson said, "I love the guy and after working with him, that just reaffirmed that."? He noted Tom Hanks, the film star was also a jazz fan.

Wrapping up the interview Golson of his Sedgwick date: "I look forward to it because of two reason— the musicians that I play with and the audience I play for. They are just great."

The Sedgwick Cultural Center, 7137 Germantown Avenue, 215.248.8229, 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 26, $15-$22, Golson.

Zanzibar Blue this last weekend was showcasing another Philly jazz giant, bassist Gerald Veasley, A University of Pa. graduate, he worked with Grover Washington Jr., McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and even the Weather Report and Earth, Wind and Fire. He started playing bass at 12 and worked with Odeon Pope and John Blake. he was voted tops by Downbeat and named Best Bassist in Jazziz 1999 readers poll. He teaches at various major universities. He heads the Gerald Veasley Band and works as guest with Pieces of A Dream and also with The Electric Mingus Project. In September, he opened Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base at the Sheraton Hotel in Reading which features such Philly jazz stars as Jimmy Bruno. Veasley just returned from Japan and has worked with musicians in almost every genre for the past 20 years.

Zanzibar Blue, Broad & Walnut Streets, 215.732.4500, 8&10 p.m., Feb. 25-26, $25, Veasley.

The Painted Bride Art Center March 5 is featuring Steven Bernstein with Diaspora Blues showcasing the noted Sam Rivers Trio and Philly jazz great, Uri Caine on piano. The performance will integrate the music of Jewish American and African American music blending jazz, blues, and various cultural art forms. Bernstein is a trumpeter, composer, leader, who heads the Sex Mob and worked with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Martin and Wood. Rivers, an octogenarian reed man, has worked with everyone from Miles Davis to T-Bone Walker.

The Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, 215.925.9914, 7&9 p.m., Saturday, March 5, $30-$15, Diaspora Blues.

The Zellerbach Theatre of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, On March 1, The Bad Plus, a reportedly renegade trio, garnering praise from Rolling Stone, among others, is scheduled. And, on March 4 the center is spotlighting noted New Orleans native, trumpeter-composer Terrence Blanchard. His most recent CD from a vast collection is the Blue Note Bounce. Blanchard is Artistic Director for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. He has composed music for various films working with different directors, notably, Spike Lee. A dinner lecture in conjunction with the concert will be held on March 4.

The Zellerbach Theatre of the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, 215.898.3900, March 1, 8 p.m., $20-$5, The Bad Plus &8 p.m., Friday, March 4, $46-$22, Blanchard. RSVP by Feb. 25 for dinner/lecture.

The Kimmel Center brought in a trio of major jazz stars with a concert featuring Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove and Michael Brecker. Their Directions in Music program was first introduced in 2001-02 with a tribute to John Coltrane and Miles Davis that garnered two Grammy Awards and worldwide acclaim. This program was celebrating the music of such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, and, appropriately, Hancock himself. Hancock's nearly half century of piano/composing, leading efforts have included early work with such giants as Coleman Hawkins , Donald Byrd and Phil Woods going on to Miles Davis and expanding into electronic pop. Hargrove is clearly one of the top-trumpeters working today with demonstrated versatility from jazz to soul and hip hop. His CD with D'Angelo, Voodoo , won a 2000 Grammy Award. Philadelphia native tenor sax star Brecker is also a composer and seven-time Grammy winner who worked extensively with Coltrane compositions and innovations. He had worked with McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Chet Baker, quincy Jones, and Dave Brubeck, among others. He has also worked with such pop stars as John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra, among others.

Incredibly most of the concert with no intermission was an endless series of individual compositions that were great examples of technique, but not much in the way of music or listenable jazz.

Photo Credit
Benny Golson by Mark Sheldon


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