The Jazz Scene: Rare sightings, rising stars, and recaptured masters

Drummer Ari Hoenig comes to Chris’ Jazz Café at the end of February. (Photo by Jimmy Katz.)

Saturday, February 10, will be quite a night for jazz in our region as three world-class artists perform here.

Quietly and without fanfare, the jazz program at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell consistently presents singular artists who don’t appear in this area very often. On February 10 at 8pm is Grammy-winning trumpeter Terence Blanchard and his young, funk-inspired E-Collective. Coming to the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville that same evening, also at 8pm, is a rare acoustic performance by fusion guitar master Al Di Meola. And in Center City, the Kimmel Center has an 8pm show headlined by Laurin Talese, a talented area vocalist many believe is headed for stardom. 

Branford Marsalis and Stanley Jordan

Always-surprising reedman Branford Marsalis comes to the Kimmel on Friday, February 16, at 8pm, in a program called From Classical to Jazz. Marsalis will join forces with organist Jean-Willy Kunz, a well-known classical organist and the first organist-in-residence of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. If anyone can get Kunz swinging, it will be Marsalis.

Guitarist Stanley Jordan hit the jazz scene in a big way when he signed to the Blue Note record label in 1985 and had a hit record with Magic Touch, which was number one on the Billboard charts for an unprecedented 51 weeks. Jordan’s style — tapping on the guitar strings with both hands, which gave listeners the impression they were hearing several guitarists at once — was unique for its time. While the novelty wore off, Jordan is still in demand for personal appearances and recordings.  He visits South on Sunday, February 11, for shows at 7 and 9pm.

Tommy Igoe and Ari Hoenig

At one time, drummer Tommy Igoe was best known as the son of drummer Sonny Igoe, who worked often with legendary Philadelphia saxophonist Charlie Ventura.  Tommy has come into his own in recent years as a bandleader, educator, clinician, and one of the most versatile drummers working today. Igoe and the young rotating cast of the Birdland All-Stars, named for New York City’s famed jazz club, check into the Annenberg Center on Saturday, February 17, at 8pm. 

Another world-class forward-thinking drummer, Ari Hoenig, visits Chris’ Jazz Café with his trio — pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist François Moutin and guitarist Gilad Hekselman — Friday and Saturday, February 23 and 24, for shows at 8 and 10pm each night. The Philadelphia-born percussionist, a favorite of jazz critics, has successfully expanded the groundbreaking concepts of Max Roach via Hoenig’s explorations of the drum set as a melodic solo instrument. (Hear this to good advantage on two solo recordings, Time Travels and The Life of a Day.)

Brubeck is back

It’s hard to realize today just how popular jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) actually was. He was one of the few jazz musicians ever to grace the cover of TIME magazine (appearing November 8, 1954), virtually invented the concept of the "college jazz concert,” and ultimately managed to appeal to a public who may not have cared about jazz before. The quartet of area pianist Eric Mintel successfully channels Brubeck’s music and sound, taking it into venues including the White House and Kennedy Center. Mintel’s popular group will perform in another unlikely jazz spot, the venerable Bucks County Playhouse, on Friday, February 9, at 8pm.

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