The jazz scene in Philly is still going strong with varied stars of different eras holding forth throughout the town.
ZANZIBAR BLUE, the stylish jazz/supper club, Broad and Walnut Streets, (215.732.4500) brought back the always exciting, longtime favorite, Jimmy Scott, whose vocals have been thrilling audiences for half a century on May 16-29. June 2-3 has James Carter, reed master (he plays them all) called by the N.Y. Times, as the "ultimate peacock jazz musician. June 10 has vocalist/bandleader Regina Carter who creates jazz magic with a violin as well. Jimmy Scott is not only a world-class musician, but a first class showman which he has demonstrated many times. Shows are at 7:45-10 p.m. This club has been called the most sophisticated jazz venue in Philadelphia and that is something of an understatement. It is in fact the only really sophisticated club in town and it manages to bring in some of the world's finest talent who play while customers drink and eat.
CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE, 1421 Sansom Street, (215.568.3131) welcomed Bud Shank, sax giant who worked with the best, on May 19-20 as noted in last week's calendar and he delighted the audiences gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday. He clearly reflected his work with such all stars as the Charlie Barnet and Stan Kenton powerhouse groups of the earlier years. He was ably supported by Sid Simmons on piano. Shank may be 80, but his playing had all the power and excitement of a youth with the one difference being his clear demonstration of the years of experience.
The following week, the Beau D'Jango group recalled the jazz glory of the famed Hot Club of France. This young group provided a delightful replication of the sometimes heated, sometimes humorous, exchangers between D'Jango and Grapelli. They had the audience behind them and at times were way ahead of them. It made for a surprisingly delightful set that recalled the Hot Club of France to perfection. Powerhouse Philly tenor star Bootsie Barnes and his trio comes in June 16 along with Mike DiRubbo as guest. Shows are from 8 p.m. to 1 A.M., $10. June 6 brings in Ari Hoenig.
ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS, 847 North Third Street (215.952.1035), the longest running and physically longest laid out jazz club in Philly, has a double treat for jazz fans on May 26 with tenor sax titan Larry McKenna ably supported by the Mickey Roker Quartet and on May 27, the inimitable vocalist, Joanna Pascale backed by Roker. There may be finer tenor sax men than McKenna, but God knows where and Joanna can sing so distinctively you have to wonder where she learned so well as such a young age. Roker, of course, is the best in the business at what he does. Pete Souder, the club owner, continues to provide top talent that can still draw people away from the cluster of many Center City clubs up and down Broad Street. Shows are 8:45 p.m-1:30 a.m.
THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, 26th Street at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (215-763-8100) is still going strong with its art after 5 series, showcasing Carl Hancock Rux, an Obie Award winning playwright, poet, novelist and musician who mixes up jazz, hip-hop, R&B, rock and gospel. Show is at 5 p.m. on June 2, and the art is that of the fabulous Andrew Wyeth on exhibition this week. This is a place for art in every dimension.
THE CINEMA (FORMERLY CINEMAGIC) 3925 Walnut Street, June 13, 8 p.m. has CINC with Paul Lytton, drums/electronics; Ken Vandemark, reeds; Philip Waschmann, violin, viola/electronics for $12 admission. Lytton has been called an inventive, drummer in the tradition of European free jazz and a pioneer in electronic sound processing.
KIMMEL CENTER featured Philadanco dance group which made artful use in several numbers of Billie Holiday vocals. It was a delight listening once again to her distinctive, never duplicated song stylings as you watched the dancers. The dancers were impressive, but I fear I was so captured with Billie's songs, it really didn't make any difference.
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good
I was first exposed to jazz when I discovered that one of Jimi Hendrix's influences was Wes Montgomery. I played guitar growing up and idolized Hendrix, so I knew that anyone he looked up to must be good. I was 16 at the time. I went to Tower Records and purchased a CD by Wes, and I was hooked from the very first ten seconds. The sound of the song Lolita illuminated my bedroom, as I just sat back amazed at how colorful and soulful this music was--I understood it, even though at the time I didn't understand how to go about playing it. I get chills listening to Wes' solo on Lolita, and I can still listen to that song ten times in a row and never get tired of it. There is a truly timeless quality to genuinely spontaneous jazz music, and it is that quality that has inspired me to devote my life to studying and playing this music.