The Jazz Scene: Fall is full of jazz stars in Philly

Terence Blanchard gives a workshop at the Clef Club, which is celebrating 50 years. (Photo courtesy of

Guitarist /vocalist John Pizzarelli will make his Chris’ Jazz Café debut on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19. This is quite a coup for the nation’s second oldest jazz club — only Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. has been open longer — as Pizzarelli is one of the most popular artists in jazz, with an appeal that stretches way beyond the hardcore jazz audience. Another guitar giant, Pat Martino, checks in the following weekend at Chris’s. Showtimes for both two-night performances are 8 and 10pm.  

Chucho Valdes, Joe Lovano, and Hiromi

Pianist and Latin jazz master Chucho Valdes is a five-time Grammy Award winner and has received three Latin Jazz Grammys. Versatile saxophonist/composer Joe Lovano, also a Grammy winner, is arguably one the top jazz saxophonists working today. These two giants will team up at the Merriam Theater on Friday, November 4 for an 8pm show.

Though best known as a fusion player, pianist Hiromi also effectively combines elements of classical music and progressive rock in her Trio Project band. Hiromi arrives at the Williams Center for the Arts in Easton on Saturday, November 5. Showtime is 8pm.

A hot house at Clef Club and HotHouse at PAFA

The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz, more active than ever these days, will mark its 50th anniversary with a weekend of celebration on Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12. On Friday, the club will host a reception, dinner, and a show, with performers TBA. The Saturday festivities begin at noon with a jam session and a jazz educators’ roundtable discussion. That evening at 6pm, the Clef Club hosts the fifth annual Jazz Awards gala, with honorees that will include drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Gerald Veasley, broadcaster Bob Perkins and music educator Charon Battles.

On Wednesday, November 16 at 7pm, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) and the Philadelphia Jazz Project will present the fourth in a five-event series known as HotHouse, a part of PAFA’s After Dark series. Headliners will be the Price/Speaks/Diehl Trio, featuring saxophonist/composer Larry Price, bassist Nimrod Speaks, and drummer/composer Kevin Diehl. The presenters describe HotHouse as a “musical laboratory for Jazz/New Music/Improvisers and Cutting Edge Artists that provides a public space for experimentation, rehearsals, concept and project development with an audience-response/dialogue component built in.”

Norah Jones and Charles Lloyd

Two new and major bookings for early December have just been announced.  Vocalist/pianist Norah Jones has won an incredible nine Grammy Awards in a career that began in 2002 with her breakout “Come Away with Me.”  After forays into other genres and commercialism, with her new album, “Daydreams,” she returns to her jazz roots in collaboration with legends such as saxophonist Wayne Shorter and organist Dr. Lonnie Smith. Celebrating this release, Jones will appear at the Academy of Music on Friday, December 2 at 8pm.

Veteran saxophonist Charles Lloyd has been on and off the scene since he broke through in 1960 with drummer Chico Hamilton’s group.  The innovative group he led, which lasted from 1965 to 1970 and included sidemen like pianist Keith Jarrett, was a ground-breaking ensemble that managed to appeal to hardcore jazz aficionados, critics, and young rock fans.  Indeed, he recorded with the likes of The Beach Boys, Canned Heat, and the Doors.  Lloyd hardly ever plays in this area, but will appear at Montgomery County Community College’s Lively Arts series on Sunday, December 4 for a 4pm show.

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