Category Archives: Blog

The Girls in the Band

“The Girls in the Band” is a documentary that tells untold or stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists, including Mary Lou Williams and the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Originally released in 2013, the Collector’s Edition DVD is now available.

For more information, go here.

Shirley Scott: Queen of the Organ

From NPR’s Jazz Night in America:

Known as the “queen of the organ,” Shirley Scott was one of several Philadelphians who developed the electric Hammond B-3 into a viable instrument for a soulful, bluesy style of jazz. With dozens of recordings to her name, she was already a major voice when she became the leader of the house band at Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus. Among the young players who timidly found their way onto the stage at Ortlieb’s were Warfield and Stafford — and, in doing so, they got a lot more than they bargained for.

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Billie Holiday Inducted into Philadelphia Walk of Fame

Billie Holiday was born in West Philly 100 years ago. This morning, her star will be reborn as Lady Day is inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

I am proud to have played a role in making this happen.

Billie Holiday Joins Walk of Fame

For me, it was personal. After a failed romance when I was in law school, I started my day by playing “Good Morning Heartache.” My best friend would ask me, “Why are you always listening to that junkie?” I ignored him. We now know Lady Day was an early victim of racial profiling.

Billie helped me get through a rough patch. It will be my pleasure to help keep her bronze plaque clean.

UPDATE: Billie Holiday’s Walk of Fame plaque unveiled. It’s located in front of the Kimmel Center.

Billie Holiday - Walk of Fame Plaque - 10.26.15

John Coltrane and Cultural Heritage Preservation

Jazz legend John Coltrane personified cool.

John Coltrane

Coltrane was into cultural heritage preservation before it was cool. His composition, “Alabama” was in response to the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls. His mournful tribute captured the zeitgeist of the Civil Rights Movement.

Philadelphia shaped and nurtured Coltrane. On June 5, 1945, the Dizzy Gillespie Quartet, featuring Charlie Parker, performed at the Academy of Music. Coltrane and Benny Golson were seated in the next-to-last row. In an interview with the Smithsonian Jazz Oral History Project, NEA Jazz Master Golson recalled:

When we heard – John and I – when we first heard Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie – I told you he was sounding like Johnny Hodges – our lives changed that night. We had never heard any music like that. Never. We were screaming like these Beatles groupies, when they used to hear the Beatles.

Coltrane kicked his heroin habit at his home in Strawberry Mansion, a neighborhood in North Central Philly. The Mural Arts Program, in collaboration with the community, honored a former neighbor. On or about Sept. 15, 2014, Pennrose Company demolished the Tribute to John Coltrane mural.

John Coltrane Mural - Resized

Pennrose has not contributed a dime to replace the tribute to an American icon. The cultural resource was paid for, in part, by taxpayers. After being called out, a company rep lied about “ongoing discussions.”

I know they lied because I was part of the only discussion that has taken place. At the March 10, 2015, meeting with Mural Arts, Lopa Kolluri, Pennrose’s Vice President of Operations, asked for a “menu of options.” Mural Arts sent a proposal and several follow-up emails to which Pennrose has yet to respond.

Pennrose’s arrogance is particularly galling given the company has feasted on public subsidies seasoned with political donations for nearly 40 years. In 1989, a Philadelphia Inquirer story noted the company’s reliance on government subsidies.

Pennrose doesn’t think our stories matter, but we do. It’s our responsibility to remember the ancestors and preserve their legacy for present and future generations. #BlackCultureMatters

3rd Annual Philadelphia United Jazz Festival

The 3rd Annual Philadelphia United Jazz Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, from noon to 10pm. The free festival will be held on South Street, between Broad and 16th streets.

3rd Annual Philadelphia Unified Jazz Festival

The festival features an exciting lineup of talent, including Odean Pope, Sam Reed, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Warren Oree, Bobby Zankel, Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble, and the U.S. Army Jazz Big Band.

For more information, visit Philadelphia United Jazz Festival.

Sarah Vaughan Forever Stamp Will Be Issued in 2016

The U.S. Postal Service announced that the Sarah Vaughan forever stamp will be issued in 2016:

Jazz and pop singer Sarah Vaughan (1924-90) will be commemorated on a forever stamp in the Music Icons series, with 16 stamps in the full pane.

The Divine One will join fellow Union Local 274 members Count Basie, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald who also have been accorded this honor.

Shout, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Shout!

The story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe is coming to the stage on Broadway. The guitar virtuoso played with jazz greats, including Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lucky Millinder and Duke Ellington.

Sister-Rosetta-Tharpe-Duke-Ellington-and-Cab-Calloway

BroadwayWorld reports:

Shout, Sister, Shout! is the story of the trailblazing performer Sister Rosetta Tharpe who influenced scores of popular musicians, from Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Eric Clapton and Etta James. Rosetta Tharpe was gospel music’s first superstar. A guitar virtuoso with a clear, ringing voice, she took the rich musical traditions of Black Pentecostal churches and made music for the world to enjoy. Audiences adored her and said she played guitar “like a man” — even though men learned a thing or two from her.

Before we had the phrase “women in rock,” Rosetta rocked churches, tent-meetings, revivals, dance clubs, stadiums, and concert halls — from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Ole Opry. Her remarkable journey–from Cotton Plant, Arkansas to an acknowledged influence on Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and a generation of British rockers–shows how a black female gospel musician was an essential player in the development of rock-and-roll. She is a pioneer and considered by many to be “The Mother of Rock and Roll.”

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