Marc Cary | courtesy of the artist
Philly Jazz Guide: Top picks for live music around town in April
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and however you feel about that somewhat calcifying designation there’s ample opportunity to do some appreciating this month. The city’s own twist, “Philly Celebrates Jazz” (which at least seems more enthusiastic than mere appreciation), had its official kick-off on Thursday at City Hall with the presentation of awards to guitarist Kevin Eubanks and vocalist Ella Gahnt.
There are more honors to come; on April 4 Jazz Bridge will host the Eddie Green Legacy Band at Collingswood Senior Community Center in Jersey. Co-led by trombonist Don Collins and vibraphonist Randall Sutin, the band celebrates the music of pianist Eddie Green, whose death in 2004 and accompanying financial woes directly led to the formation of Jazz Bridge as a helping hand to musicians in need at times of crisis. [TIX / INFO] Then on April 6, The Spirit Lives Through Jazz Fellowship at Canaan Baptist Church in Germantown will pay tribute to Lovett Hines, artistic director of the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, as well as historian and Jazz Bridge program director Kim Tucker, with a performance led by young Philly saxophonist Hiruy “Henry” Tirfe. [TIX / INFO]
It’s also a time for festivals. The smallest in scale, the Manayunk JazzFest takes place April 2nd through the 4th at several venues, including a headlining set by Philly tenor titans Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna at the Venice Island Performing Arts Center on Tuesday. [TIX / INFO] The Center City Jazz Festival will occupy its usual cluster of venues around Broad and Sansom on April 27th for the eighth year running. This year’s line-up includes DC keyboard master Marc Cary, Chilean guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza, and a host of locals, including fest founder Ernest Stuart’s trio Threezus with bassist Jason Fraticelli and drummer Lionel Forrester Jr. [TIX / INFO]
Where the CCJF takes place over the course of one jam-packed day, Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival sprawls out over the whole month, presenting a number of opportunities to catch the out-funk bassist in different settings and collaborations. It begins with two nights at South (April 13-14), featuring two distinct generation-spanning ensembles: on Saturday Tacuma will be joined by pianist Sumi Tonooka, trumpeter Braxton Bateman, bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Ronnie Burrage; on Sunday by sax legend Oliver Lake, guitarist Kelvyn Bell and drum prodigy Nazir Ebo. On the 17th Tacuma will lead a panel of Ornette Coleman alumni following a screening of Shirley Clarke’s 1986 documentary Ornette: Made in America, then on the 21st Milkboy will host the remarkable trio Synergy Effect with Tacuma, guitar wizard Marc Ribot and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun. The whole thing culminates in a grand finale at the Community Education Center on the 21st, with an eclectic event including sax giant Gary Bartz, vocalist Fay Victor, experimental hip-hop artist HPrizm of Antipop Consortium, and trio New Ghost, among others. [TIX / INFO]
While not a festival, on April 4 saxophonist Bobby Zankel launches a new series at the Clef Club that he’s calling Philadelphia Stories Original Music. The intention is to showcase the city’s creative music community, featuring original music across a wide expanse of styles, by both established and up-and-coming artists. The first of the monthly first-Thursday concerts features the Wonderful Sound 4, the latest small-group iteration of Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, with pianist Sumi Tonooka, bassist Richard Hill and drummer Nazir Ebo, joined by legendary fire-breathing saxophonist David Murray. They’ll share the bill with Freedom Cadre, the trio of bassist Peter Dennis, saxophonist Joseph Borsellino, and drummer Joey Sullivan. [TIX / INFO]
Beyond all the special events, there’s plenty of shows throughout the month from the usual suspects. Ars Nova Workshop bookends April with two concerts: on April Fools’ Day, Bachir Attar of the Master Musicians of Jajouka (who have counted Ornette Coleman and William S. Burroughs among their fans) teams up with saxophonist Arrington de Dionyso as Jajouka Baraka, on a double-bill with window-rattling Chicago trio Boneshaker. Then on the 26th, they’ll close out the month with the record release party for Twilight Time, the retro-50s latest from Philly guitarist Nick Millevoi’s Desertion Trio, with husband-and-wife duo CUP (Nels Cline and Yuka C. Honda) on the bill. [TIX / INFO]
Fire Museum has a particularly busy month, beginning on April 3 with a mix-and-match evening of solos and duos at Vox Populi featuring guitarists Ava Mendoza and Matt Hollenberg, saxophonist John Dikeman, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Julius Masri. The next night at the Art Dept., they’ll host a solo set by rising star saxophonist Maria Grand, with the Arkestran duo Jupiter Blue (guitarist D. Hotep and vocalist Tara Middleton). On the 16th they’re at The Rotunda with Xylouris-White, the ancient-to-experimental duo of Cretan laouto player Georgios Xylouris and drummer Jim White, and the mesmerizing acoustic-electric guitar duo Elkhorn. Finally, on the 23rd they’re at Martha with Heart of the Ghost, the trio of saxophonist Jarrett Gilgore, bassist Luke Stewart, and percussionist Ian McColm. [TIX / INFO]
It’s exhausting just thinking about all these shows, but there’s plenty more where those came from. The lightning round: Ardmore Music Hall has two can’t miss performances: drummer and soundtrack composer Antonio Sanchez brings his band Migration on April 3 [TIX / INFO], followed by the Robert Glasper Trio with DJ Jahi Sundance on the 14th [TIX / INFO]. Sundance has also worked with drummer Kendrick Scott’s neo-soul inflected band Oracle, which plays South on the 26th and 27th [TIX / INFO]. On April 4 at Chestnut Hill’s Paris Bistro there’s Typical Sisters, a guitar trio whose evocative music floats somewhere in between modern jazz, ethereal post-rock, and Morricone desertscapes [TIX / INFO]. Pianist Orrin Evans celebrates his birthday on the 5th and 6th with party guest Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café, which also has a stunning quartet led by Odean Pope on the 27th, featuring Bobby Zankel, violinist Diane Monroe, and harpist Gloria Galante. Vocalist Cyrille Aimée brings her Stephen Sondheim project to World Café Live on the 14th [TIX / INFO], while pianist Chick Corea and banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck reunite at the Keswick on the 27th [TIX / INFO].