Chris' Jazz Cafe is the gathering place for seemingly every top jazz artist in Philly on Feb. 3. The purpose of this monster jazz wave is as Glenn Gerber, co-owner of the club, told us, to raise money for victims of another monster wave, the Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands in Southeast Asia.
Chris' is the compact little club at 1421 Sansom Street that reminds some of the great jazz clubs on 52nd Street known as Swing Street when they thrived in the 1940s. The fund raiser was Gerber's idea.
Just some of the 50-plus jazz artists who will contribute performances at various times are: Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, Victor North, sax; Jimmy Bruno, Mike Kennedy, Dave Manley, guitar; John Swana, trumpet; Sid Simmons, Ted Gerike, Tom Lawton, piano; Jim Schade, Dan Monaghan, drums; Lee Smith, Gerald Veasley, Charles Fambrough, Dave Brodie, bass; Lucas Brown, vibes; Mary Ellen Desmond, Meg Clifton, vocals.
Al McMahon, club manger, noted, "Many of these top flight jazz people will be coming in before and after other gigs at various locations just to contribute toward providing some Tsunami aid." He added, with rare emotion for McMahon, "I just love the generosity of these artists, everybody has been just fantastic."
Many of these musicians such as Bootsie, McKenna, Swana and Bruno are considered not merely the best such instrumentalists in Philadelphia, but nationwide. All of them are first rate craftsmen. Their reasons for contributing and how they feel about it were covered in part by just a few interviewed by Metro. Larry McKenna said, "I think it's (the Tsunami) a devastating thing and would like to contribute in whatever way I can, musically, which is probably the best way along with giving money. I think we will have a pretty good turnout for it."
When asked if he would be playing with Bootsie, his long-time tenor compatriot with whom he has had now-famous jazz "battles" of the saxophone, he answered, "I'm hoping we get to play together because that always comes off well and everybody seems to love it. There is some kind of chemistry there."
McMahon told us every effort would be made to have them playing together. Bootsie told us he was looking forward to it.
Mary Ellen Desmond, one of Philly's favorite pop/jazz singers, said, "It's a good thing and I am just happy to do it. I have a gig that night, but will be coming afterward and I am just honored to be included."
John Swana, probably the busiest trumpet man in Philadelphia if not the world, told us, "It's for a great cause and I am glad to be a part of it. It is a chance to be a part of something positive instead of just standing by and feeling bad, a chance to contribute." He noted, "I am teaching during the day and then play for the Tsunami at Chris' and then go to a gig so it's a full day. He emphasized that, "I am glad we are doing it because countless people tend to jump in for such events and then split. Maybe they should have another one in six months."
Judging from what everone told us, this fund raiser promises to be a jazz night to remember.
Chris' Jazz Cafe
1421 Sansom Street
5 p.m.-3 a.m, Thursday, Feb. 3
Admission: $15 or contribution