Did you catch the news cycle earlier this month where A&E critics were checking for vital signs within the Philadelphia jazz scene due to recent venue format changes? With quite an outpour of commentary on blogs (here and here) from promoters, artists, and fans from around the regional community, we decided to talk with our patrons directly to hear their take on the scene.
Eric Flett, an Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Eastern University, recognized the liveliness of the jazz scene and underscores our role within it.
“I applaud the programming of the Painted Bride,” he wrote,” and I was fortunate enough to take my 16-year-old to see Dave Holland a few years ago. A spectacular show and a wonderful venue. The price was right, the quality of the band unparalleled, and the intimacy of the venue and respect of the crowd was great. Those are my three main considerations when seeking out jazz. I want a good experience, and I want my kids to have a good experience, because I want the jazz tradition to grow and move forward.”
Still, Flett has some concern about the future of jazz asserting, “Let’s find ways to make it easier for them by making the scene in Philly more accessible to its youngest players and budding enthusiasts,” he wrote. With music programs in jeopardy and tight budgets based on the economy, Flett worries that jazz could be on its way out unless places like the Bride step in to make it accessible and new.
Longtime Bride patron Edwin Steiner recognized challenges in Philadelphia’s jazz scene but said ultimately, “…Philly has grit and the ability for innovation.” He and his wife Gail have been enjoying jazz performances here for 20 years. “Thanks for keeping [jazz] alive!” Gail wrote.
The Steiners’ introduction to the Bride as an institution is heartwarming, but not uncommon. Edwin came upon the Bride by happy accident, and because of his positive experience here, he has been a frequent visitor ever since.
“One night I stumbled into the Bride where Naomi, our teenage daughter, had instructed me to pick her up from a catering gig. The mood was festive and the folk and space incredibly hospitable… ‘Come on in, eat and drink and hang with us!’ A real musicians’ party, where half of the crowd seemed to wind up on stage performing at one point or another. Upon leaving this ‘real deal’ party I noticed the poster with the upcoming show by Elvin Jones…
I asked the guy at your desk if there were still tickets. ‘It’s pretty much sold out but if you’re interested in ushering, taking down chairs after the show and a bit of cleanup, we could use your help.’ Now, I thought to myself, I had really arrived!
My wife Gail and I can only look back with pride and awe at almost 20 years of quality Jazz at the Bride personally, from Elvin, Hannibal, Kurt Elling to Dave Holland and Spoken Hand… the list goes on spanning a wide spectrum of an incredible variety of artistic class and excellence…. Thanks for 40 years and still going strong! May the blessings continue to abound!”
Of course, no matter what the Bride is doing, some jazz lovers are a little irritated when other music genres dominate music culture. Thomas A. Campbell wrote, “No disrespect, but it pains me so to realize that Justin Bieber get more gigs, press, etc., than _____________________ fill in the blank with a jazz musician’s name. It’s sinful.” The Bride has no hate for the Biebs, but we hear you, Thomas.
Instead of wondering the cause of Chris’ Jazz Café’s diversification, Brendan McGeehan wonders about the places where things are going right.
… what we must do is be more in tune with where the enthusiasm and energy is derived. Mr. Stuart’s festival [Ernest Stuart’s Center City Jazz Festival] last year was wildly successful. His “outside the box” thinking truly proved its worth. We should be trying to figure out the cause of the festival’s success, tap into it, and use it as a model for our year round programming. We need to be talking about what works for presenting jazz in Philly…This we owe to the wonderful players that deserve to be heard.
Critics also help to affirm the efforts of the Bride. Marked by two recent American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) awards for “Best Adventurous Music,” the Bride’s jazz series has progressively grown global featuring trailblazers who have made authentic cultural contributions to the growth of the genre such as Rudresh Mahanthappa, Emillo Solla, Francisco Mela. The Bride was also recently named in Downbeat’s Top 150 International Jazz Venues for the third consecutive year. Need proof? Just check out some of the photos from last weekend’s concert of The Cookers here at the Bride.
Thank you to all who responded to our call for authentic voices on the subject. We are grateful for your time, opinion, and patronage. Add to the conversation now by commenting below or share this blog post with a friend who’s Talkin’ All That Jazz.
End the end of the day, let’s not just talk about, let’s be about it. Save the date and consider joining us on March 16th for Bésame Brew, our annual party with a purpose honoring the artists and music that have graced the Bride’s stage over 40 years while celebrating spirit of exploration and the new possibilities that lie ahead. . .