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.
October 22, 2011
Pete Rugolo, 95, the chief arranger for the Stan Kenton Orchestra in its late-1940s heyday and a prolific composer and arranger for television and film, including the series Richard Diamond, Private Detective , The Fugitive and Run for Your Life , died Sunday in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Mr. Rugolo was still in uniform, leading the Army band at Fort Scott in San Francisco, when he handed a half-dozen arrangements to his idol Stan Kenton at the Golden Gate Theater. When he left the service, he was hired by Kenton and went on to write more than a hundred arrangements for that big band, helping establish the progressive sound of its peak years.
October 17, 2011 |
It's curious that Curio Theatre wasn't too intimidated by the Wilma Theater's 2008 production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice to produce it itself. That earlier version, with its Barrymore-winning original music, sun-bleached set, and stylized direction, set a standard that this small, new-ish, low-budget West Philly company would have a rough time matching. Even curiouser? Curio's production, under the direction of Liz Carlson, gets at the heart of Ruhl's work, humanizing it, bringing its tragic elements to the fore, and making the Wilma's production seem downright aloof.
October 10, 2011 |
AS A KID growing up in Frankford, George Ballard liked to follow the American Legion parades through his neighborhood, and would march along with the drummers. Maybe it was then that George decided he wanted to pound those drums himself, because somehow he conveyed the ambition to his father, who gave him a set of drums he bought from a pawnbroker when George was only 10. That was how it started. George took drumming lessons for 75 cents a session, and by the time he was 16, was allowed to sit in on the Herb Thornton Band, which he heard playing at the Philadelphia Boys Club.
September 3, 2011 |
It's an accomplishment to keep any band together for 10 years, let alone a big band performing difficult music in the same room - in this case, a room where the stage is too small to contain the ensemble. But this week, saxophonist/composer Bobby Zankel and his Warriors of the Wonderful Sound marked that milestone, celebrating a decade of playing first Thursdays at Tritone. Someone arrived with a pair of "Best Wishes" balloons, but otherwise it was business as usual for the Warriors, who spent two hour-long sets maneuvering through the thorny terrain of Zankel's complex compositions before a small but enthusiastic crowd in the red-walled South Street bar. The evening began, in fact, less like a party than a memorial service, paying homage to the late, undersung trumpet great Bill Dixon (who died last year)
April 5, 2011 |
True icons of music are being celebrated with new releases and a little help from their friends. ROBBIE'S BACK: Just because he's doing a couple of TV shows - "Late Night with David Letterman" tonight, "The View" tomorrow - is no reason to conclude Robbie Robertson will be hitting the road again. The guy famously gave up touring decades ago in the rockumentary "The Last Waltz. " Still, there's juicy news for fans. Robertson's "How To Become Clairvoyant" (429 Records, A)
December 17, 2010 |
A year ago, Harry Prime thought his singing career had come to an unhappy end with the sale of the Roasted Pepper restaurant in Chalfont, where he had performed for seven years of Thursdays. "Like a body blow," he describes it. The former big-band singer lived over the restaurant, which made the commute to his gig possible. At 90, macular degeneration has left him unable to drive or read. "All I can do is sing," he says, but as of last November, finding an audience had become a challenge.
June 25, 2010
Much as the classic jazz singers of yore mined the Gershwin and Porter songbooks, today's more modern-minded chanteuse pores through Bjork's repertoire, so much that the Icelandic pop eccentric's every song seems on the verge of becoming an idiosyncratic standard. So why shouldn't those tunes get the big-band treatment the way those 1940s gems did in their own day? That's the idea behind alto saxophonist Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra , which supplements the traditional big-band instrumentation with electronics, while vocalist Becca Stevens splits the difference between swing stylings and Bjork's more-offbeat approach.
May 4, 2010 |
Mark Davis, 93, of Cherry Hill, one of the last musicians from the local big band era who played many of Philadelphia's elite balls and parties for almost 50 years, died Sunday, May 2, at Lions Gate in Cherry Hill. Mr. Davis started playing the violin at 5. By the time he graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1932, he was ready to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra. However, to support a family, he knew he would have to supplement what orchestra musicians made in those days, his son Ken said.