My Summer of Jazz in Philadelphia

Jazz and Philadelphia have always gone together in my mind.  One of my fondest Philadelphia memories is attending a Sun Ra concert on Halloween night many years ago. Sun Ra and his Angel Arkestra played on the altar of a church in West Philadelphia (I forget which). We all wore costumes. I was probably a gypsy-that’s my all purpose go to getup for Halloween except for the Halloween when I got married.  But I remember one boy who was dressed in a marching band jacket, and had painted a red heart on each cheek.  He informed us that Vladimir Mayakovsky was also known for painting hearts on his face.  I would not be surprised.

Sun Ra and his Arkestra were masterful.  They could get into a piece by Coltrane and transition seamlessly into a Bag Band Standard like “Take the A Train.”  At the end of the night, Sun Ra led his musicians in a kind of conga line down the middle aisle of the church and the audience rose from the pews and joined in dancing and chanting around the church.  Space is the Place!

Philadelphia City Hall

It has been a difficult summer for me, but Philadelphia did not let me down.  There were free Jazz concerts all over and I was lucky enough to be able to attend many of them.  Here are some pictures and links from two wonderful series of music, one in City Hall and one  in South Philadelphia.   The artists have videos on YouTube and I encourage you to sample all of them.

Jazz in the Gallery

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Monnette Sudler, guitar

Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble

Blackbird Society Orchestra

Bethlehem & Sad Patrick

The Jost Project 

Diane Monroe, violinist

Jazz Bridge in Hawthorne Square

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Goodbye my friend.  I’m glad you enjoyed the music.

Madame Butterfly-The Philadelphia Connection

Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madam Butterfly has a  Philadelphia connection. John Luther Long, a Philadelphia Lawyer, wrote the original story in Center City.  You can read more about  it here.

There’s also a recent  Philadelphia connection.  The two 12 foot high bronze statues below, currently on display in City Hall courtyard,  are on loan from artist   Jun Kaneko  to mark the Philadelphia Opera Company’s  upcoming performance of the opera.   Kaneko originally created brass heads for the  Opera Omaha’s spring 2006 performance of Madame Butterfly.     See more of  Kaneko’s breathtaking set designs  here.

 

Brass Heads in City Hall Courtyard

Here’s a portion of the Philadelphia production.

Virgil Fox, Bach, and the Wanamaker Organ

The above video is an interview of Virgil Fox, and a film of him playing the pipe organ at Wanamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia.   Click the arrow in the lower left hand  of the You Tube box to view it. 

The organ is still there in the Wanamaker building, although the store is now a Macy’s.  If you are in  Center city Philadelphia,  stop by to see the organ sitting overhead in the store’s Grand Court.  They still play it on a daily basis.

I first heard Virgil Fox’s Album, Heavy Organ, Live at the Fillmore East” when I was around 15.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.   A few weeks ago, my brother mentioned listening to Fox on You Tube and I started jonesing for  for Heavy Organ.  Before he got into the music at that concert,  Fox told the audience,   “I believe that Sebastian Bach is delighted that you are here. Bach and Shakespeare have felt everything. This man Bach is, as history goes on,  proving to to be one of the great inspirations for our inheritance.  All we have to do is open our pores and let him in.”  Fox played though 144 speakers at that concert.  He really knew how to put on a show.

Do yourself a favor and let in Johan Sebastian Bach and Virgil Fox.  Listen to Heavy Organ in streaming audio, by clicking   Here.  You’ll have to create an account at Wolfgang’s Vault, but it’s definitely worth it.  The have a lot of great music including free streaming audio.

To learn more about the Wanamaker organ, press  Here.