Paying respect to Philly jazz.
To David R. Adler on last week's cover story about Philadelphia jazz:
As one of Philadelphia's "gifted local artists" that you mention in your article (I'm a jazz singer), I applaud and resonate with your positive outlook on the jazz scene in Philly. That positive outlook, however, does not come without some wariness.
Given the renaissance of Philadelphia, it seems logical that arts and culture take a seat at the table. As arts and culture go, so goes the city, because the manufacturing sector isn't coming back.
While the administration seems to get the picture, I'm still waiting for the city's numerous venues to catch up. I look with regret at the numerous "hip" restaurants along the strip on Market between Second and Third streets that are trying very hard to evoke a cool urban ethos but forget that part of that ethos is live jazz and not someone's iPod plugged into a sound system. Granted, restaurants' margins are slim, but you can't expect artists to play for next to nothing in venues that do substantial business on the weekends.
It may be a matter of defining "venues." I play gigs at hotels and other spots throughout the city that never show up in the weekly press (e.g., Dowling's Palace, Rembrandt's, Abbraccio's). If the media don't publicize a wide swath of venues, how can we expect the local jazz community to flourish? I invite PW and other weekly papers to be more aggressive in identifying and publicizing these spots because some great music is being made there by local musicians.
The article is right in identifying Philadelphia as ahead of Atlanta and other Eastern cities. Philadelphia needs to do more than tout the museums, restaurants and Constitution Center. This city is one of the premier jazz meccas on East Coast, and promoting it will benefit us all.
Thanks for a wonderful (and long overdue) tribute to Philadelphia's vibrant yet woefully unappreciated jazz community. Your readers may be interested to know that there has been a website (www.phillyjazz.org) since 1995 devoted to the players and venues in our region. Visitors are encouraged to contribute to the Phillyjazz Event Calendar as well as the Phillyjazz Map to keep us all up-to-date on jazz-oriented happenings in our area. Samples of cuts from CDs, bios of musicians and links to their pages are all available, and are constantly being updated.
Philly's jazz scene will have its ups and downs, but it's imperative for the world to realize just how many of its most innovative, influential and lasting contributors grew up on Butterscotch Krimpets (apparently a Coltrane favorite) and soft pretzels between sets.
JAN R. KLINCEWICZ
In his listing of jazz venues, David Adler omitted what was probably the granddaddy of them all, Billy Kretchmer's (right out of every cliched Hollywood jazz club) in the 1500 block of Ludlow Street (or was it Ranstead?) before all those high-rise office buildings did away with all the amenities that make for a vibrant community.
Billy's wife was tired of his traveling, so she laid down the law, and he opened the spot, which drew anybody and everybody in jazz. I got my first taste of jazz there in the late '50s, and it was around long before then.
The place was so full of cigarette smoke that it was hard to see the players. But then, what's to see? Jazz is to hear.
Somehow you neglected to mention the legendary organist Jimmy McGriff, a native of Philadelphia whose mother still lives in Germantown.