Jazz in Jersey

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This article by Phyllis Maguire was prepared for the September 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

The Season in Jazz

There’s absolutely no smoking allowed, and the musicians

start playing long before midnight. And you won’t find too many clubs,

as one saxophonist pointed out, where you walk past real Van Goghs

to get to the bathroom.

But the fact is that Philadelphia has a brand new jazz venue: the

Philadelphia Museum of Art is now hosting live jazz every Friday evening.

With two sets each night, jazz artists from Philadelphia, as well

as national and international talent, are now performing in the museum’s

Great Stair Hall.

And they are winning a devoted, growing audience. On a recent Friday

evening, young couples on dates kicked off their evening with glasses

of wine and a stroll through the galleries, accompanied by the sounds

of New York soprano saxophonist Steve Slagle, trumpeter and Grammy

nominee Tim Hagans, Philadelphia vibraphonist Tony Miceli, bassist

Tony Marino, and drummer Tom Whaley.

Families visiting the museum ordered light dinners — including

crabcakes and salmon — and desserts at linen-draped tables set

up around the musicians, while rapt listeners sat stacked the entire

length of the great marble stairs, under the drawn bow of Saint-Gaudens’

lean "Diana."

Cognoscenti Don Tannenbaum is always part of the crowd; he and a group

of friends reserve two tables every Friday night and stay the entire

evening. Having listened to jazz in the idiom’s Golden Age — hearing

Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Billie Holiday at

now-defunct Philadelphia hotspots like Pep’s Bar and the Showboat

— Tannenbaum makes this startling announcement: Not only is the

museum the city’s newest jazz venue, but it’s already its best.

"There aren’t many other places to hear jazz in the city anymore,"

he says, "and people in clubs are more interested in socializing

than hearing the musicians." Unless you’re sitting right on top

of the band in some city jazz clubs, he continued, it can be hard

to listen to the music.

"Here, the music fills this glorious space" — he gestures

up to the several stories of marble atrium lined with balconies, Doric

columns, and medieval tapestries — "and you can hear every

note and nuance."

Tannenbaum also praises the talent the museum has assembled for the

Friday night series. Laura Henrich, the museum’s evening program coordinator,

is responsible for booking the artists.

"I got a lot of advice, and listened to hours and hours of music,"

Henrich says. "Then it becomes a matter of taste, balance, availability,

and budget." Getting a good mix of artists from Philadelphia,

as well as national and international musicians, was one guiding principle,

she adds.

She also wanted a representative sampling of different jazz sounds.

The fall line-up reflects that diversity: Afro-American vocalists

Gino Siston and Sunny Sumter as well as Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos

Neto are featured later this month. New York pianist Bill Charlap

is coming with his trio in October, while Boston’s Rebecca Parris

and Caribbean-born Izaline Calister — both vocalists — are

slated for different Fridays in November.

Pianist and Philadelphia resident Orrin Evans is booked

for the last Friday of the year. Evans started playing in Philadelphia’s

veteran clubs — Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus on North Third Street in the

city’s Northern Liberties section, and Chris’s Jazz Cafe on Sansom

Street at 14th — when he was only 17.

Like many American cities, Evans says, Philadelphia is a great place

for young jazz musicians to get educated musically and to break in.

But also like other American cities, Philadelphia doesn’t provide

enough opportunities for musicians to pay the rent once they come

into their own artistically.

"We really have to go to Europe or Japan to be able to get gigs

seven days a week," Evans says, pointing out that seeing live

music in the United States — other than for touring rock groups

— is often relegated to only the weekends. With audiences not

getting many chances to see live jazz performances, they often don’t

appreciate the kind of improvisation and experimentation that is the

core of jazz expression.

"It’s easy to fall into the rut of just wanting to hear standards

or tributes to innovators who came before," Evans says. He appreciates

the fact that the museum has created an artist-friendly venue "where

the audience comes and actively listens." Plus, he continues,

"being surrounded by art when you’re creating music is always

an advantage. It’s a great inspiration."

The museum got the idea for the jazz series after enjoying several

years of success with its Wednesday night events. Every Wednesday

evening, the museum hosts different types of performers, along with

offering special wine and beer tastings, chef’s special dinners, and

seminars. Coming up on Wednesday evenings this fall are performances

of Kathak dancers from India, Bulgarian folk musicians, a Japanese

flute master, and hip-hop dancers.

"Each evening has a different personality," says the museum’s

Henrich. "I liken Wednesdays to an indoor street festival, while

Fridays are more like a jazz cafe."

On Fridays, musicians play two one-hour sets, separated by a half-hour

break. That gives attenders the chance to visit the exhibits if they

don’t want to stroll during the performances. All of the museum’s

galleries are open on Friday nights, and two different guided tours

are available for a more in-depth look at exhibits and galleries.

With jazz such a distinctly "indigenous American music," according

to jazz critic Charles Edward Smith, one exhibit to the right of the

Great Stair Hall — "Indivisible: Stories of American Community"

— seems particularly appropriate. It offers photographs and oral

histories of 12 American communities including North Philadelphia,

the Navajo Nation, an Alaskan fishing community, and Bluff, Utah (on

view through October 6).

The permanent exhibit of European art in the Annenberg Galleries to

the left of the stage also makes great viewing. The artists featured

there — Van Gogh, Pisarro, Cezanne, and Gauguin — might indeed

have appreciated the seductive tension of Miles Davis’s classic "All

Blues" being re-visited by a saxophone and trumpet, vibes, bass

and drums for several hundred appreciative listeners, as Alexander

Calder’s massive "Ghost" mobile wheeled slowly overhead.

— Phyllis Maguire

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway

at 26th Street, Philadelphia, 215-684-7506. $10 adult; students &

children free. Two jazz sets are featured each Friday evening from

5:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. The museum

closes at 8:45 p.m.

Larry Willis Trio, September 20. Jovino Santos Neto

Trio , September 27. James Williams Trio, October 4. Jim

Ridl’s Door In a Field, October 11. Bill Charlap Trio, October

18. Tony Miceli and Tony Marino, October 25.

Steve Wilson Quartet, November 1. Dave Liebman Group,

November 8. Larry McKenna Quartet, November 15. Rebecca Parris,

November 22. Jovino Santos Neto Trio, November 29. Mamadou

Diabate , December 20. Orrin Evans, December 27.

Top Of Page
Jazz in Jersey

Palmer Square

Nassau Inn, 800-644-3489.

JazzFeast 2002. The annual open air jazz and food festival

is scaled back this year to one day only. Sponsored by the New Jersey

Jazz Society and Palmer Square Management, music lineup features New

Legacy Jazz Band at noon; Joanne Brackeen at 1:15 p.m.; Bucky Pizzarelli

Trio at 2:30 p.m; Earl May Quintet at 3:45 p.m.; and Randy Reinhart

at 5 p.m. Food vendors showcase the culinary arts of more than 20

area restaurants. Rain or shine. Free. September 28, Noon to 6 p.m.

Arts at Peddie

CAPPS, Mount-Burke Theater, Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550.

$15.

Kenny Barron. Solo piano with six-time Grammy nominee.

Pre-concert chat with the artist at 7 p.m. October 11, 8 p.m.

Odeon. The group includes Ted Nash, saxophone and clarinet;

Miri Ben-Ari, violin; Bill Schimmel, accordion; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone;

and Matt Wilson, drums. Pre-concert chat with the artist at 7 p.m.

November 15, 8 p.m.

Fred Hersch Ensemble. An evening of music inspired by

and featuring the poetry of Walt Whitman. Pre-conert chat with the

artist at 7 p.m. April 4, 8 p.m.

McCarter

91 University Place, 609-258-2787.

Dave Brubeck Quartet. October 22, 8 p.m.

Terence Blanchard Quartet. Trumpeter, composer and bandleader

Terence Blanchard with the Jason Moran Trio. November 4, 8 p.m.

Andre Previn. Cool, casual, and original jazz piano by

Andre Previn with bassist David Finck. January 15, 8 p.m.

Three Mo’ Tenors. The acclaimed African-American tenors,

Victor Trent Cook, Rodrick Dixon, and Thomas Young, present an evening

of vocal music that spans opera, Broadway, jazz, blues, gospel, soul

and spirituals. January 26, 3 p.m.

Chucho Valdes Band. Jazz from Cuba. January 31, 8 p.m.

Mark O’Connor Trio. Jazz fiddling by the musician hose

CDs "Appalachia Waltz" and "Appalachia Journey" became

best-sellers. February 17, 8 p.m.

Stefon Harris & Jacky Terrasson. Jazz vibes and piano.

March 7, 8 p.m.

Sonny Rollins. Jazz legend and 2002 Grammy winner. March

14, 8 p.m.

Dee Dee Bridgewater. Grammy Award winning vocalist in

concert with the Christian McBride Trio. March 31, 8 p.m.

Princeton University Concerts

Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. $17 to $26.

You & the Night & the Music. Music from the American Songbook

by Princeton’s teachers of jazz. November 9, 8 p.m.

Stanley Jordan ’81. Jazz Winter Weekend concert opens

with the Princeton Concert Jazz Ensemble. February 7, 7:30 p.m.

Mingus Big Band. Jazz Winter Weekend. February 8, 8 p.m.

Nicholas Payton and Soul Patrol. April 12, 8 p.m.

State Theater

15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 877-782-8311.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band. "Creole Christmas."

$18 to $38. December 10, 8 p.m.

Audra McDonald. Tony Award winning vocalist with a big

band show. $22 to $50. April 26, 8 p.m.


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