The Jazz Scene: ‘Comfort & Joy’ and much more

Mary Ellen Desmond's 13th annual 'Comfort & Joy' concert is on December 11. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, under the direction of trumpeter Terell Stafford, will celebrate the music of John Coltrane — and his ties to Philadelphia — in a program called Trane-ing Day on Saturday, December 3 at the Kimmel Center. Showtime for this performance, which will also include a Christmas-oriented jazz suite called The Harlem Nutcracker, is 8pm.

Comfort & Joy

Jazz Times magazine described vocalist Mary Ellen Desmond as “the most refreshing voice in jazz.” For the last dozen years, she has produced and starred in Comfort & Joy, a holiday jazz concert/fundraiser that benefits those affected by HIV/AIDS. The 13th annual Comfort & Joy will be presented on Sunday, December 11 at 6pm at the Church of Saint Luke and The Epiphany at 330 South 13th Street. Desmond will be accompanied by a group of area jazz giants: pianist Tom Lawton, bassist Lee Smith, drummer Dan Monaghan, and the ageless saxophonist Larry McKenna.

Cabaret and jazz

Though the new Dino’s Backstage in Glenside bills itself as a cabaret, this elegant supper club does book its fair share of jazz. Area favorite, singer Paula Johns, appears there frequently, and booked for this month are singers Wendy Simon on Friday, December 2, and on the following night, Jill Salkin.

Chris’s Jazz Café, the nation’s second-oldest jazz club, is expanding its horizons a bit by booking, from time to time, cabaret performers with a jazz orientation. One of the finest is Ann Hampton Callaway, who has worked with Wynton Marsalis among many others, and she will appear on Saturday, December 3, for shows at 8 and 10pm. And one of the country’s finest young pianists, Philadelphia’s own Orrin Evans, will appear for three nights — something rarely done at Chris’s — on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, December 28, 29, and 30 (featuring special guest Kevin Eubanks on guitar).  And there’s jazz at Chris’s on New Year’s Eve as well, in the form of Latin jazz vocal sensation Venissa Santi and her quintet featuring guitarist Monnette Sudler.

Uarts and the Franklin

Also on Saturday, December 3, two of our area’s finest, guitarist Pat Martino, and a rare visitor to these parts, pianist Uri Caine, will appear in concert at the University of the Arts for a 7:30pm show. This is the first concert being presented by Philadelphia’s non-profit Jazz Bridge in conjunction with the publication of The Philadelphia Real Book, a unique work of original compositions by the area’s jazz musicians and singers. Next on the UArts roster are two concerts featuring trombonist Robin Eubanks, on Monday and Tuesday, December 5 and 6, at 8pm.

The lobby of Washington Square at The Franklin at 834 Chestnut Street — known at one time as the Benjamin Franklin Hotel — might seem an unlikely space for jazz and cabaret, but with the lobby opening of chef Anthony Marini’s Rarest restaurant, The Franklin is now presenting some of this area’s finest players and singers each Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There is solo jazz piano from 5:30 to 7:30pm with John Icaro on Thursdays, Matt Hayden on Fridays, and James Guglielmo on Saturdays from 6 to 9pm. The headliners come on at 7:30pm.  V. Shayne Frederick and his jazz trio perform on Wednesdays, the ever-popular Bob Egan opens up the microphone to his singing and playing friends each Thursday, and contemporary jazz group Three Flights Up appears on Fridays. 

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