The Jazz Scene: Philly festivals bloom and tributes abound

Pianist Andy Kahn will pay tribute to Lennie Tristano at Chris' Jazz Cafe on April 21. (Photo courtesy of Rick Prieur.)

Philadelphia is getting closer to hosting a major jazz festival, thanks to a new non-profit, The Philadelphia Jazz Experience, and restaurant/jazz club honchos The Bynum Brothers. The Philadelphia Jazz Festival will run from Sunday, April 23 through Sunday, April 30, including performances on stages at South and Warmdaddy’s, and Paris Bistro in Chestnut Hill, all Bynum-owned venues. Vocalist/songwriter Maysa will concertize at the Convention Center’s Michael Nutter Theatre, and local R&B singer Jaguar Wight will appear at Ardmore Music Hall. National names booked include trumpeters Randy Brecker and Ingrid Jensen, singer/pianist Bob Dorough, saxophonist/flutist Lynn Riley, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

The Sixth Annual Center City Jazz Festival, more of a neighborhood fest, will take place on Saturday, April 29. The CC Fest presents regional players who perform during daytime hours at five venues — Chris’ Jazz Café, Milkboy, Time, Franky Bradley’s, and Fergie’s Pub — within walking distance of each other. Among those performing are veteran saxophonist Larry McKenna, guitarist Monnette Sudler, reedman Odean Pope, and vocalist Shakera Jones.

The 27th annual Berks County Jazz Festival in Reading runs through April 9, and highlights abound: Drummer Jeff Hamilton’s trio appears on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30pm; the quartet of Israeli clarinet/saxophone giant Anat Cohan will perform on the following evening at 7pm; and capping a full day of jazz concerts on Saturday, April 8 is the group of bassist/multi-instrumentalist Marcus Miller, who will perform at 10pm.

Another jazz pianist, the award-winning Cyrus Chestnut, will perform with his trio on Thursday, April 13 at 8pm on the Kimmel’s SEI Innovation Studio stage.

Tributes galore

Play it Again Sam is the title of the program at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill on Friday, April 7 at 6pm. On that evening, pianists Jeff Knoettner and Adam Faulk will channel the music of some of the great jazz piano players, including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Fats Waller, and Nat King Cole.

Since he came on the scene in 1993, trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas has proven to be among the most innovative and forward-thinking improvisers in jazz, somehow managing to successfully combine just about every genre known to music thus far. Ars Nova and the Painted Bride Arts Center will present Douglas and his quartet on Friday, April 13 at 8pm in a program dedicated to ground-breaking Dada artist Man Ray (a Philadelphian born to Russian/Jewish immigrants, he moved to Paris, changed his name from Emmanual Radnizky, and created singular works of art that spanned disciplines).

Veteran vocalist Ella Ghant is a wonderful stylist who often performs the music of the legendary jazz singers. On Friday, April 21 at 7pm, Ghant — accompanied by pianist Aaron Graves, bassist Lee Smith, and drummer Harry “Butch” Reed — will pay tribute to Ella Fitzgerald in a show at the Philadelphia Clef Club.

Pianist/composer/educator Lennie Tristano, who died in 1978, was one of the most original, inventive, and controversial artists in jazz history. Among other things, Tristano was the first to play and record free jazz, and the first to realize how recording studio technology could be applied to jazz improvisation. He also taught dozens of stars-to-be, including the still-working saxophonist Lee Konitz. Area pianist, educator, and Jacobs Music Artist-in-Residence Andy Kahn is one of the few players working today who can channel and respectfully interpret Tristano’s music. Kahn, with special guest saxophonist Larry McKenna, will pay homage to Tristano in a special tribute concert at Chris’ Jazz Café on Friday, April 21 at 8 and 10pm.