The Center City Jazz Fest.

CC Jazz Fest 2014

Now in it’s third year, this past April’s Center City Jazz Festival took hold like never before! A vibrant line up of artists from throughout the country, including many native Philadelphians, came together to bring the spirit of jazz to the masses. And, when I say masses, I am talking about enormous numbers of people of every color, creed, age, and gender, who crowded the six venues involved in this festival, both inside and out. And, when I say, inside and out, I am talking wall to wall people inside and 50 to 60 people waiting patiently in a long long line outside of each and every venue, hoping to get into any one of the 16 or so completely sold out shows.

The festivals creator, Ernest Stuart, prior to this event was like any other young jazz musician in Philadelphia. An unlikely festival promoter, and graduate of U-Arts, he had helped to put together and also performed regularly at a well known jam session, which happened at Time every Monday. The reasons for this jam session’s eventual/eventful demise should be left as material for another long story written at some later date, but suffice it to say, the scene at Time during and after the Center City Jazz Festival’s after-party/ jam session was something that no Philadelphian has witnessed in that venue, or any other, in quite some Time.

While attending a convening of Philadelphia “jazz”promoters, organized by Homer Jackson and David Haas of The Philadelphia Jazz Project, others and I on this panel learned from a somewhat quiet, but heated Ernest that his reason for creating the Center City Jazz Fest. was his inescapable seething disgust, concerning “the gradual marginalization that jazz is suffering at the hands of some promoters, who claim to be promoters of “jazz”festivals, but have few jazz headliners on their roster! The pop artists they book don’t even try to play anything related to jazz! They just play whatever they would at any other pop festival”. I am paraphrasing here, but you get the point. There were quite a few agreeing head nods (mine among them), followed by a couple of heated exchanges, but in Ernest’s defense, he did warn us all, prior to breaking his silence, that his reasons may offend some of the people in the room……

As well as this, he also disliked the fact that many “jazz”headliners at festivals were chosen based solely on record sales, or “crowd pull”, as opposed to their musical contributions. Ernest wanted to create a jazz festival, which was “like a shot in the arm for the city. A festival where a mass of jazz artists would descend on the city within a single day, and tight radius”.

Another great feature of the Center City Jazz Festival is that it includes many venues, which rarely present jazz, as well as those who do so regularly. It also does not include some others, who do so regularly. At present all the venues who participate in the Center City Jazz Festival do so on a voluntary basis, rather than for reasons of financial stimuli.

I performed at Milk Boy, playing bass as part of Steve Coleman & The Five Elements. Now, I’m not one to “toot our own horn”, but just being frank, this band has performed all of over the world, headlining almost every major jazz festival over the last 30 years at least three to four times, but the Center City Jazz Festival 2014 was the very first time that this band had ever been invited to perform at ANY jazz festival in Philadelphia!

When I arrived at the venue, just in time to catch the end of Justin Faulkner’s set, featuring Mike Boone, and John Swana, it was a task to make it through the huge crowd waiting to get in on the steps. While they were on stage literally killin’it, getting anywhere near the stage was impossible. We also had a large, great and very enthusiastic crowd, as did every other band in the festival. The Kimmel Center Creative Music Program, the only non-professional teenaged ensemble to perform the festival, had a line which started at Chris’and stretched to Broad St.

Simply put, those who have claimed that they are no longer promoting jazz events in the city, or say that “this is an unsustainable model”, due to unenthusiastic audience attendance, are doing quite a few things wrong! This is not rocket science. It’s not the music. It’s not the musicians. It’s not the spaces. It’s not the audience. It’s them! They are part of “The Curatorial Drought”that has swept this city over the last 20 years, where people who know little to nothing of the rich jazz tradition still expect to promote jazz events successfully…….

The thing that makes “jazz”cool, is the fact that it’s alive! Jazz, or whatever you want to call it, is no different than any other living, creative music done well, whether this be Rock, Blues, Pop, Hip-Hop, Techno, Rap, Country, Gospel, Jungle, or whatever based. Without a vibrant community who have the capacity to both respect and support it’s best efforts and exponents, there can be no “scene”, and without an active scene, there can be no living music!

Whatever Ernest Stuart is doing, it’s working! @antiddote


Sittin' In

Sittin’ In – A jam session, a dance party, and also Philadelphia’s most innovative free monthly concert series, known for bringing the hottest talent around to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
Each and every month its curator, Anthony Tidd, selects another amazing performer/celebrity to host the night alongside their band of choice. Now in it’s second year, Sittin’ In has featured many genre bending combinations from Jon Batiste, Jeff Bradshaw, Pablo Batista & the Mambo Syndicate, Orrin Evans & the Captain Black Big-Band, James Poyser, Rich Medina’s Jump n Funk, to performance poet supreme Ursula Rucker!
DJ sets provided by our resident turntablist Matthew Law a.k.a Dj Phsh and our emcee Ciarra!You can be sure that it will always be a great night, and you never know who might sit in……


Get details on the next Sittin’ In

#whoissittinin #free #supportlocaltalent

There is no, there is no

There is no, there is no

There is no, there is no” was a spectacular tribute paid to one of the realest that we all shall ever know, Richard Nichols#dixpop, big papa and founder of “the camp”, teacher of many, the perpetual Back Watcher, feared sound-man, A&R supreme, father, son, husband, artists, brother, the glue, the fierce conceptualists, the linchpin, the grand-trickster, the right-on-brother, jazz radio DJ extraordinaire, marketing genius, and good friend.

A couple hundred people, all of whom had been touched by the gargantuan personality that was Rich, gathered yesterday at Union Transfer for his memorial, which was of course curated by him. In grand Rich style, it was a night to remember, where all the pieces came to together to present this night filled with amazing music and performances, laughter, reflection, and a few tears. Like Rich himself, this night will be legendary….

If the tribute paid can be considered a measure of the life lived, then Rich Nichols lived a very very amazing life!

#dixpop #theroots #thereisnothereisno

To Jam or Karaoke….That is the question

To Jam or not to jam
So…..yesterday’s Sittin’ In with Ursula Rucker was fantastic! We had a great crowd of wonderful people, and a phenomenal show! Ursula Rucker really killed it! I didn’t really like emceeing too much, but….what’s new?
Now, about the jam session portion….. Well, let me be diplomatic and say that people need to learn the difference between Karaoke, an Open mic, and a Jam session. They are NOT the same.
Karaoke requires the least amount of skill, and is intended for amateurs, occasional singers and sometimes professionals. There’s no band and the music sounds pretty close to the original, so you can literally request to sing any song you like and do as bad or as good a job as you please. You don’t even have to remember the words to the song because they’re on the screen.Karaoke covers just about every genre…..So if you want to sing 80s pop, no problem! You don’t have to ask permission to get up and you can get up 50 times in one night if you have it in you. There’s zero emphasis on originality or “bringing yourself” to the song. You can actually completely ignore the audience!
The Open Mic is similar to Karaoke, meaning anybody can get up, but the similarities end there. Since you are now dealing with real musicians and an audience this involves a higher level of skill. You need to ask permission before getting on stage. The band is there to back you, but you need to be courtious. You should know the song well, and the audience will now expect somewhat of a performance and not just somebody getting their rocks off by singing, “The Greatest Love of All” for the umpteenth time”.
Audiences want to see what YOU can bring to the song and will likely frown on you for singing all the same riffs as the original. Also, you can make requests, but you need to be prepared for the band saying, “No”, “I don’t know that”, or “We can only play it in Ab”.
There’s also a certain amount of improvising or making stuff up on the spot required. If you get up and suck, you will probably never be allowed on that stage again, unless you wear a disguise.
The Jam Session requires the highest amount of skill. You should never approach the stage without permission. You need to pay close attention to who is in charge, so you can make friends. You need to have the flexibility to create on the fly (otherwise known as improvising) so that if you enter something that is already occurring you can asses the vibe and fit in! You should be very familiar with working with singers or musicians, depending on who you are joining on the stage.
Musicians and singers have EQUAL footing, so the singer cannot expect to come up on stage and disrupt the flow of what is already happening! This is arrogant and will likely get you banned. Regardless of whether you are a singer or musician you should NOT hog the sonic space. Do not sing shoobeedoobedoos behind somebody else’s solo! You are expected to participate as a part of the whole. It is NOT about you, but it IS about how the entire ensemble sounds interacts and sounds.
You should be able to draw from a wide repertoire, which you have memorized and know well. You should have, or at least should aspire towards having your own unique voice. You need to be your own editor and think of the music as a whole, so if you don’t have anything to say in that 3rd or 4th chorus of your solo TAKE THE DAMN HORN OUT OF YOUR MOUTH and exit the stage (you know who I’m talking to). Jam session audiences are the harshest. If you suck, they will be happy to let you know.
Lastly, you should be aware of whether you are dealing with Karaoke, an Open mic, or Jam session……
Rant over….