Roots, jazz, rock, soul and avant-garde sounds conquer the city this season.
There are living jazz legends, young pacesetters, killer improvisers and experimentalists of all stripes playing in Philly this fall. Seems that even at a time of downsized budgets, troubled venues and all the rest, you just can’t stop the music.
For top local talent, the best place to start is Jazz in the Neighborhood , an initiative of the nonprofit Jazz Bridge, which will present concerts from October through May 2013 in Old City, Cheltenham, Kennett Square, Media and Collingswood, N.J. The downtown shows will feature saxophone greats Larry McKenna and Bobby Zankel, pianists Jim Ridl and Tom Lawton , trumpeter Terell Stafford and more. There’s also a big night planned at the Painted Bride on Oct. 20: Philly Jazz: Fresh Cut from the Vine, a showcase for 10 inspired local players, will be co-led by bassist Jason Fraticelli, trumpeter Josh Lawrence and drummer Anwar Marshall. Meanwhile, check weeknight listings at Chris’s Jazz Café and Time Restaurant for other solid pros and up-and-comers, appearing regularly.
The Bad Plus , easily one of the most influential bands of the last decade, returns to Chris’s for a two-night stand on Sept. 28-29. This trio—composed of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King—has reinvented everything from Stravinsky to Aphex Twin to the Bee Gees, yet their sterling original compositions are just as central to their appeal. Medeski, Martin & Wood , another trio with something of a crossover indie draw, will take the stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Oct. 2. Of course, both groups owe a considerable debt to a master pianist such as Kenny Barron , who’ll appear at the Annenberg Center on Oct. 20 with the young and world-renowned Philly native Johnathan Blake on drums. And bassist Ben Williams , one of Blake’s notable peers, takes a break from touring the world with Pat Metheny’s Unity Band to play Chris’s on Oct. 27 with his own group.
You’ll want to reserve Nov. 9 for piano luminary Chick Corea , who’ll appear with vibraphonist and longtime associate Gary Burton in support of the new duo release Hot House; the Harlem String Quartet will join as well. The following weekend, Nov. 16-17, belongs to trumpeter Dave Douglas , one of the great chameleonic artists of our time, with a talent-rich quintet playing music from the haunting new disc Be Still.
These shows follow an Oct. 7 appearance by bassist Michael Formanek and his quartet with alto veteran Tim Berne, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Formanek and crew will celebrate the release of their ECM stunner Small Places at the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Ars Nova Workshop, Philly’s indispensable avant-garde concert presenter, is hosting the Formanek show, as well as visits from the Willem Breuker Kollektief, the Ab Baars/Ig Henneman Duo and Belgian master free-jazz pianist Fred Van Hove , who’ll make a rare solo appearance.
Roots and regional music, anyone? Guitar great Bill Frisell , steeped in jazz, Americana and most recently the music of John Lennon, will give a solo concert at World Café Live on Oct. 5, no doubt delving into his extensive bag of electronics and otherworldly sound processing. At the Keswick on Oct. 25, there’ll be a Banjo Summit , featuring bluegrass-rooted innovators such as Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers and more. Shifting across continents to the Painted Bride, don’t miss tabla master and world-music pioneer Zakir Hussain in an Oct. 6 duo collaboration with rising star bansuri (wood flute) player Rakesh Chaurasia . Also at the Bride on Nov. 11 will be Yemen Blues , a globalist groove-troupe led by Israeli-born vocalist/gimbrist Ravid Kahalani, featuring young jazz heavyweights such as Omer Avital and Avi Lebovich.
For all you avant-gardists: In addition to the Ars Nova Workshop slate, the Painted Bride devotes Sept. 28 to Burnt Sugar (The Arkestra Chamber) , an experimental groove project led by sought-after music scholar, public intellectual and conductor Greg Tate. Fire Museum Records continues its highly intriguing series at the Highwire Gallery Oct. 19 with shows by West Coast multi-reedist Vinny Golia and multi-instrumentalist and polymath Alan Sondheim on Nov. 17. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, working with the Bowerbird organization, has a pretty wild John Cage series planned for late October through January. Trombonist Dan Blacksberg and guitarist Nick Millevoi, together known as Archer Spade , have launched a performance series with events transpiring on Oct. 13 and 20. And last but not least, the Rip Rig series, at West Philly’s Café Clave, has events scheduled for Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, featuring the likes of Jasmine Lovell-Smith , Edward Watkins , Julius Masri and Jack Wright . “Music with various amounts of uncertainty,” goes the Rip Rig tagline. Not a bad description for the fall season as a whole.
SEPT. 23: Ed Sheeran , River Stage at Great Plaza, 7pm. Nobunny , Kung Fu Necktie, 8pm. Letitia Sadier, Johnny Brenda’s, 8pm.
SEPT. 24: Wild Nothing , Union Transfer, 8pm. Hot Snakes , Underground Arts, 8:30pm.
SEPT. 25: Gypsyblood, Kung Fu Necktie, 8pm.
SEPT. 26: Down , Electric Factory, 8pm.
SEPT. 27: Afghan Whigs , Electric Factory, 8:30pm. Miguel , Theater of Living Arts, 9:30pm. Damian Lazarus , Underground Arts, 10pm. Grimes , Union Transfer, 8pm. TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb , Johnny Brenda’s, 8pm.
SEPT. 28: Minus The Bear, Electric Factory, 8:30pm. Skeletonwitch, Barbary, 7:30pm. Weedeater , North Star Bar, 9pm. Turning Violet Violet , Johnny Brenda’s, 8pm.
SEPT. 29: Zammuto , Johnny Brenda’s, 8pm. Two Door Cinema Club , Electric Factory, 8pm.
SEPT. 30: Mice Parade , Kung Fu Necktie, 8pm. The Antlers , Union Transfer, 8pm.
OCT. 1: Big Business, Johnny Brenda’s, 8pm. Dollyrots , Kung Fu Necktie, 8pm.
OCT. 2: Godspeed , Union Transfer, 8pm. Crystal Castles , Electric Factory, 8pm. Post Sun Times , Kung Fu Necktie, 8pm.
OCT. 3: Polica , Union Transfer, 8pm. Animal Collective, The Mann, 6pm. Ben Harper , Merriam Theater, 8pm.
Let’s face it: The time for summer lovin’ is over. But hey, who needs to fall in love when there’s so much to love in fall? We've got recommendations for beer & food events, books, concerts, theater and more.
PW's Summer Guide 2014