Geno’s Empty Foxhole

Web Christman opened Geno’s Empty Foxhole on Christmas Day 1970 in the lower level of the parish hall of St. Mary’s Church, Hamilton Village, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The name came from the title of an Ornette Coleman album.

The small space played host to Sun Ra and his Arkestra, Rufus Harley, Charles Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Cecil Taylor, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, among others.

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Larry Robin, director of Moonstone Arts Center, shared that he took his now-wife Sandy here on their first date. It was Christmas 1976; Betty Carter was performing.

In a 2005 interview with the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences’ West Philadelphia Music Project, Christman recalled:

No, just, um my amazement at the hugeness of the crowd for Sun Ra, and later for Rufus Harley those are the two nights when the, there’s a little courtyard and then there’s the Parish hole and then there’s Irving Street which is one of those alley type streets that Philadelphia people were lined up all the way down Irving Street all the way to 40th street waiting to get in.

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9 thoughts on “Geno’s Empty Foxhole”

  1. I lived in Philly for over 40 years before moving to DC. Saw Sun Ra at Ginos in the 70’s and was blown away. Great time…

  2. In 1972 I saw Doug and Jean Carn when they had a group. And Jean Carn sang so purely on Angel Eyes that I thought all the glass in the windows must shatter. An angel visiting our planet, that night ….

    1. My husband and I were at the same show! Doug and Jean Carn were amazing. It was our first date. We have now been married for 42 years, 3 children (2 Penn grads, 1 Drexel, all married), 1 grandchild. It’s amazing what can happen after a first date! ❤️

  3. The space in the basement of the parish hall of St. Mary’s Church hosted two jazz clubs. The one opened by Geno Barnhart perhaps as described above. it closed by the end of 1972. In 1974 a club called the New Foxhole Café opened in the same space started up by a collective including Larry Abrams and myself, Andy Charnas, Rene Charnas, Jules Epstein, Michael Shivers and others. Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, Hank Mobley, Philly Joe Jones, Rufus Harley, Dave Liebman, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Pharoah Sanders and Anthony Braxton all played there.

    1. Thanks for sharing. All That Philly Jazz is crowdsourced by the people who were there. Would you like to write a guest blog post about the New Foxhole Cafe? Is the collective pictured in the photo?

  4. Geno’s was a wonderful plus in my younger years. I went to many shows and reveled in the quality and variety of the performances. The gate was nominal, the venue quirky and intimate, the sound surprisingly good.
    Some standout shows: Art Ensemble of Chicago (at their peak); Dollar Brand (Andullah Ibrahim); Ron Carter (around the ‘Piccolo” album); Julius Hemphill. I also was astonished by Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, and Archie Shepp around that time, don’t know if I saw them at Geno’s or elsewhere. Last, but certainly not least, was Sun Ra & Arkestra. The roster was such an impressive who’s-who of avant talent and showmanship. How Web Christman got them all to come to Philly, I am not sure, but I am still so grateful.

  5. Saw so many great shows…Art Ensemble of Chicago..Sun Ra..Pharoah Sanders..
    Rahsaan after his stroke…the Foxhole was a treasure

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