The Jazz Scene: Summer swings throughout the city

Barbara Montgomery will sing in Fairmount Park this July. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

While the major concert venues are solidifying schedules for the upcoming season, the Philadelphia summer jazz scene continues to jump, with a number of performances featuring top regional performers.

Our area has some of the finest vocal talent to be heard anywhere, and a gathering of the best of them will take place on July 6, 7, and 8, in a free public event called Voice of the People: Celebration of Singers. This impressive confab, which will take place at the Hatfield House on 33rd Street and Girard Avenue within Fairmount Park, is sponsored by the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Parks on Tap, and Jazz Near You. Vocalists include Barbara Montgomery, Rhenda Fearrington, Lili Anel, Raimundo Santos, Paul Jost, Ella Ghant, Anne Sciolla, Michael Andrews, and Suzanne Burgess. The vocal celebrations begin at 7pm, and will feature themes that musically explore the concepts of interdependence, diversity, love, and freedom.

Jazz in the neighborhood

The Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival, taking place on Saturday, July 15 from noon to 7pm, will celebrate its 11th anniversary with a group of first-rate jazz performers who, individually and collectively, represent what the presenters call “The New Wave of Jazz.” Artists include saxophonists Matthew Clayton and Jaleel Shaw, trumpeter Josh Lawrence, vocalists V. Shayne Frederick and Lee Mo, drummer Nazir Ebo, the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, and poet/vocalists Phoenix Mystique and Allene Foster. Sponsored by the People’s Emergency Center, this family-friendly event takes place at the Penn Presbyterian Center’s Saunders Park Greene at 39th Street and Powelton Avenue.

The Cedar Park Neighbors civic association has been presenting a summer jazz series for years. This year’s Live Jazz Fridays program in the park at 49th Street and Baltimore Avenue will feature bassist Cedric Napoleon on July 7, R&B vocalist Garfield Fleming and Friends on July 14, and the Philadelphia Clef Club/Chappy Washington Band and Friends on July 28. These shows run from 6 to 8pm and are free and open to all.

Dixie, western, and swing

Traditional jazz, a.k.a. Dixieland, is still very much with us.  As one example, The Tri-State Jazz Society has long promoted Dixie, and on Sunday, July 9 at 2pm will present the Tri-State Jazz All-Stars quintet, under the auspices of the swinging saxophonist, Dr. Robert Rawlins, at the Community Arts Center, 414 Plush Mill Road in Wallingford.

Some jazz aficionados may not consider the veteran country ensemble, Asleep at the Wheel, to be a jazz group. But since its formation circa 1970, AATW has remained one of the foremost interpreters of Western Swing, and they swing like mad on era stalwarts like Jumpin’ at the Woodside, One O’Clock Jump, and other timeless jump tunes. AATW will get toes tapping when its Texas Dance Hall Tour checks in at the Keswick Theater on Saturday, July 18 at 8pm.

Guitarist Howard Alden is one of the finest and most-recorded swing-oriented guitarists working today. Alden has played on the soundtracks of films like Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown, where Sean Penn plays a Django Reinhardt guitar wannabe; has appeared on radio’s Prairie Home Companion and Riverwalk Jazz; and on countless recordings. Alden will guest star with the Django-influenced area favorite, the Hot Club of Philadelphia, on Saturday, July 15 at 8:30pm at the Venetian Club on 8030 Germantown Avenue. 

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