May 22, 2016 |
Just minutes after leading the newly formed Clef Club Youth Big Band through a rendition of David Raksin's haunting, romantic theme from Laura last Saturday, Marc Johnson sat in an adjacent classroom, laughing softly. Through the wall, he could hear the band, composed almost entirely of high-school-age musicians, tackling one of avant-garde composer/bandleader Bobby Zankel's notoriously thorny pieces. "Some kids would flat-out refuse to play that," said Johnson, an artist mentor at the Clef, pointing a thumb toward the next room.
February 7, 2016 |
The streets of Philadelphia are littered with young bands and solo bards who ended their journey because success was improbable or fleeting, the road is rough, and making real art on a regular basis is difficult. Not Roxborough-born Ben Arnold, though. He's a lifer - a sensitive troubadour dude who has traveled and travailed, making his solo way through the independent-label, singer-songwriter world since 1993's Soar. He's lived to tell the tale of being signed to Ruffhouse/Columbia (1995's Almost Speechless )
January 17, 2015 |
Toward the end of a thoroughly enjoyable interview, saxophonist Maceo Parker, who brings his show to the Merriam Theater, wishes to say his mission is all about one thing: "Love, love, love, and love . You're in Philly, right? That's all about brotherly love, so you know what I'm talking about. " Parker first became famous as James Brown's most soulful and credited sideman (how many times have you heard the Godfather of Soul shout for "Maceo"?). The saxophonist got his start in his hometown of Kinston, N.C. "My older brother Kellis played trombone, the other, younger one - Melvin - drums.
July 11, 2014 |
WHAT KEEPS bands craving and competing to be part of the Vans Warped Tour - the caravan of contemporary music celebrating its 20th annual tour-stop today at the Susquehanna Bank Center, in Camden? Nearly 100 bands (!) will be playing on 10 different stages, for a crowd of "somewhere between 10- and 15,000," guesstimated Jess Bowen, drummer for the Summer Set, a Warped third timer. With ticket prices kept low ($45 at the gate), "nobody's getting rich on this tour," she added, with a laugh.
May 8, 2014 |
AS musicians and educators, the gents in the Jost Project have a modest goal: only to turn the world on to the joys of jazz by sharing the secret code of improvisation. "If you want to pass my improv classes, you better be sure I can always hear the original tune that you're working from," group founder/vibraphonist Tony Miceli said, with a laugh. He teaches at the University of the Arts, Temple and Curtis. Yeah, that's the heart of jazz - working subtle variations and embellishments on a theme.
April 30, 2014 |
It's a challenge to keep even a small band going for any length of time in the current jazz climate, and maintaining a big band that splits its time and membership between two cities is even harder. But pianist Orrin Evans has done just that, helming his Captain Black Big Band for more than four years since its beginnings at Chris' Jazz Cafe in late 2009. So why does he regularly corral 14 musicians from New York and Philly to tackle the ensemble's boisterous arrangements? "When I figure that out, I'll probably stop doing it," Evans said with a shrug last week over lunch at McMenamin's Tavern near his home in Mount Airy.
October 5, 2013 |
Vincent R. Milando, 86, of Atlantic City, a former trumpeter and band leader, died of kidney failure Sunday, Sept. 29, at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. In the 1960s, he was the entertainment director for eight years for the Gaslight Club in Washington, and then for the Gaslight Club in Manhattan - not the folkie Gaslight in Greenwich Village - his daughter, Vinessa, said. The jobs, she said, "entailed choosing what was going to be played and who was in the band," she said.
May 24, 2013
Sun Ra Arkestra It's Marshall Allen's 89th birthday on Saturday, and we're all invited to the party. Allen joined Sun Ra's Arkestra in 1958, and he has led the big band since 1995, following Sun Ra's passing in 1993. The saxophonist and flute player, who still lives in the Sun Ra Residence in Philadelphia, has kept the band active touring, recording new arrangements, and guesting with others (the Arkestra appears on the new album from U.K. band Primal Scream, for one). The band can number up to two dozen players, including bassist Charles Davis, who became part of the Arkestra in 1955 (he turned 80 this month)
August 10, 2012 |
Phrases like "a musician's musician" and "a singer's singer" normally seem restrictive. Such acclaim can pigeonhole an artist, creating an air of insular complexity unappealing to the general public. Saying as much about vocalist Kevin Mahogany could never be such a slight. With a big, supple voice, blue swing styling, and an easygoing way with any rhythm placed before him, Mahogany has long been a critical darling and a crowd-pleaser. Currently, he can be found thrilling crowds with the good groove material of Next Time You See Me , his collaboration with his guitarist pal Dave Stryker and his organ trio.
May 25, 2012 |
WHEN THE late Frank Rizzo was Philadelphia police commissioner, he wanted Donald Wilson to be his bodyguard. Although Don was fond of Rizzo, he had to turn him down. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I have music to play. " Don was a devoted cop for 22 years, but his first love was music — jazz, to be specific. He was a virtuoso on the piano and trumpet, and played in the police band and at the jazz clubs that once flourished in Philly, performing with John Coltrane and other notables of the jazz world.