Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in June - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
PRISM Quartet | photo by Jacqueline Hanna

The word “community” gets thrown around a lot, but for the last 14 years, Jazz Bridge has done much to make it ring true with regards to the Philly jazz scene. In part, and for the general public, that comes through its regular concerts, which regularly bring the best local musicians to venues in neighborhoods throughout the city. Its true mission, though, happens behind the scenes, as the money raised by those events is used to help area jazz and blues musicians in need of medical and legal help.

Throughout its history, the name of co-founder Suzanne Cloud has been synonymous with Jazz Bridge, as the group’s public face, tireless advocate, and occasional performer. Now Cloud is stepping down into a well-deserved retirement, though she’s ensured the organization’s mission will continue. At Jazz Bridge’s 14th Annual Fundraising Gala on Sunday, she’ll pass the reins on to Jeff Duperon, a longtime supporter and current president, as well as a familiar voice from WRTI. Trumpeter Duane Eubanks, member of the local jazz dynasty, will perform, while former Mayor Michael Nutter will serve as the night’s Honorary Chairman. [TIX / INFO]

No one’s done more to foster the local free improv community than saxophonist Jack Wright, whose famed Spring Garden house has sheltered a couple of generations of in-the-moment music-makers. On June 4 and 5 he’ll host a group of improvisers both local and beyond (several of whom have spent time as his tenants) for the Third Annual East Coast Free Music Festival. Anyone who’s heard Wright perform over the years knows he has an unusual relationship with time, so it should come as only a minor surprise that the last “annual” festival took place in 1985. Jack promises that future editions should come with a regularity more in keeping with the Earth’s orbit, but for now the only thing that’s sure is that 13 gifted improvisers (including Wright, keyboardist Ron Stabinsky, percussionist Toshi Makihara, guitarist Zach Darrup and bassist Evan Lipson, among others) will come together in various combinations to create sounds never heard before or since. [TIX / INFO]

Some communities are long-standing, and some are created for a specific purpose. That’s what Wilco guitarist Nels Cline has been up to in recent months with the creation of “Lovers (for Philadelphia),” which will have its much-anticipated premiere at Union Transfer on Saturday. Through the auspices of Ars Nova Workshop (whose founder, Mark Christman, will also be honored at Jazz Bridge’s fundraiser), Cline has been digging through the crates and the archives to conceive a variation on his Lovers project built entirely upon our city’s rich musical history. The original, which he released on Blue Note in 2016, was a long-in-gestation dream project playing on the idea of “mood music,” an uncategorizable big band effort that drew equally from Henry Mancini, Jim Hall and Sonic Youth to take a prismatic soundtrack for romance. This weekend he’ll bring together a stellar group, including several local favorites, for a new version that celebrates such Philadelphians as McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Byard Lancaster, The Delfonics, Ethel Waters and others. [TIX / INFO]

It remains to be seen if the night’s honorees include Pat Martino, but the influential guitarist will be spending the weekend nearby at South. Martino’s remarkable story has been told often (from his pioneering fusion work to his memory-erasing battle with a brain aneurysm to his decades-long return and deep dig into his blues and organ-jazz roots). He’ll make his debut at the Broad Street club on June 2 and 3 with his longtime trio of organist Pat Bianchi and drummer Carmen Intorre Jr. [TIX / INFO]

Another Philadelphia institution, PRISM Quartet, is launching the second round of its Color Theory project this week with a pair of concerts at local libraries. Always interested in expanding the sax quartet repertoire, PRISM in recent years has commissioned a number of forward-thinking jazz composers to write for the band, while the first incarnation of Color Theory teamed them with the inventive classical ensembles So Percussion and Partch. The two streams converge with Color Theory 2.0, which premieres new works by a pair of drummers for whom jazz has been a jumping-off point for explorations of a wide spectrum of musical innovation. Ibarra has gone from working with avant-garde jazz masters like David S. Ware and John Zorn to hybridizing classical and experimental music with influences from her Filipino roots. Sorey is an inventive drummer with the likes of Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman and a cerebral, minimalist composer on his own. They’ll performing the premieres at the Joseph E. Coleman Northwest Regional Library in Germantown on Saturday afternoon, followed by a performance at the Parkway Central Library on Monday evening. Both are free. [TIX / INFO]

Calvin Weston revisited one of his (and jazz’s) most formative bands back in April when the late Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking Prime Time band reunited at International House. Weston’s never been one to dwell on the past very long, however, and on June 7 he’ll bring a new project to his hometown for the first time. One of several long-distance collaborations he’s embarked on lately, Broken Whole teams the drummer with Bay Area guitarist Mika Pontecorvo and his band Cartoon Justice. For their album Terra Lingua (Sketches), Weston improvised a set of drum tracks to which Cartoon Justice recorded accompaniment during a marathon session. At the Rotunda, they’ll actually all be in one room together, making the spontaneous music-making that much more spontaneous. They’ll also throw local sax stalwart Elliot Levin into the mix, leading his own trio and joining in for an anything-goes free improv set. [TIX / INFO]

Speaking of drummers who continue to embark on new adventures, the legendary Tootie Heath returns to his native Philly to play at Chris’ Jazz Café on June 15. The youngest of the renowned Heath Brothers, Tootie will lead a trio featuring the young pianist Emmet Cohen, who’s been making a name for himself working closely with veteran musicians – he was last in Philly with the equally iconic Kind of Blue drummer Jimmy Cobb. [TIX / INFO]

Trumpeter Jaimie Branch is among the modern jazz scene’s most exciting artists, a wholly individual improviser who combines an expansive and often challenging vocabulary with a gift for sudden bursts of melody that bring her more audacious leaps into sharp focus. On June 9 Fire Museum will bring her to Da Vinci Art Alliance to join forces with The Party Knüllers, the duo of Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and Norwegian drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg (continuing the long and fruitful history of exchange between Oslo and the Windy City). They’ll share a bill with the trio of saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Shayna Dulberger and drummer Juilus Masri. [TIX / INFO]

On the same night, the great saxophonist Oliver Lake will bring his big band to the Painted Bride. An always thrilling musical thinker, Lake stocks his ensemble with similarly daring minds, and his big band runs the stylistic gamut. More poignantly, Lake’s performance looks set to be the final jazz performance in the Bride’s longtime home, bringing an end to a key component of that aforementioned community, at least in its current form. [TIX / INFO]

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