Philly Jazz Warms Up Chilly Weather


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Jazz was blooming in the majestic halls of Kimmel Center and at the mainstay clubs of Philadelphia during these first few weeks of Spring.

KIMMEL CENTER (Perelman Theater) continued its Mellon Jazz-"Dreaming of Dizzy" (meaning Gillespie, of course) series with the Randy Weston Trio plus Billy Harper. They were joined in a program named after one of Dizzy’s best known numbers, "A Night in Tunisia" reflecting his musical journey into his own African roots. Weston, one of the most acclaimed jazz pianists and composers working today made the connection between African and American music early in his 50 year career. Born in Brooklyn, he moved to Africa in the late 60's. His CD (and DVD)," Live in St. Lucia, released in 2002, has gotten rave reviews. Tenor sax man Billy Harper moved to New York City from Texas in 1966 and has worked with his own and various groups.

Kimmel (Verizon Hall) Wednesday Mellon Jazz series continues April 7 with Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. This top flight jazz trio celebrated their 20th anniversary together last year. They came together in 1983 when Jarrett had them together playing some stunning standards. Their most recent CD is Up For It, from a 2002 live French performance.

ZANZIBAR BLUE, the slick jazz supper club, on April 2-3. offers up the distinctive jazz styling of Kurt Elling, a jazz singer using vocalese (not scat) to mainly instrumental numbers. He innovates further on this style of musical story telling popularized by such well known groups as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and The Manhattan Transfer. This Blue Note recording star has earned six Grammy nominations and has the same number of CDs to his credit. All About Jazz said his most recent release was "a work of art"” His vocalese, however, does not compare with the lyrics of Mercer or Gershwin for this ancient surveyor of the scene. A much more traditional jazz/blues/ballad singer Lou Rawls had the sold-out club in awe with a performance earlier that reprised many of his finest hits such as Tobacco Road along with a few numbers from his new Sinatra songbook album. He may not have quite the powerhouse voice of yore, but it was in fine fettle that night with the crowd literally cheering as he sang. His back up was equally fine with the piano man and guitarist doing foot- stompingly exciting takes. As often happens with back-up bands, no one seemed to know their names.

CHRIS' JAZZ CAFE, the compact cheery club reminiscent of the now-famous Swing Street spots bourght the swinging sax stylist Benny Wallace and his quartet along with prime pianist, Mulgrew Miller on April 2. This was Wallace’s first appearance here in some 25 years. He has worked with such major talents as Chick Corea, Dave Holland and John Scofield. he reminds some of the late great Ben Webster. His newest recording is "The Nearness of You" featuring Kenny Barron. Mulgrew has been a major pianist working variously with Art Blakey, Woody Shaw and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Their collaboration at Chris was one of joyous rapport with the crowd suitably in awe.

ORTLIEB'S JAZZ HAUS, the longest continuously running jazz club in town was featuring, piano star, Orrin Evans, and his quartet March 26 and 27. Saturday’s performance will be something of a birthday celebration for Evans, a jazz favorite almost any day of the week.

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