Icepack | April 30-May 7

Philly jazz still very much a happening organism, even at its saddest

Despite the lockdown from COVID-19, the lights of Philly’s jazz community still shine bright thanks to a number of virtual performances. | Image: Tolga Ahmetler

You know why I believe that things might be getting back to some-sorta normal – the old normal, not a new normal, especially since Gov. Wolf says that Philly is nowhere near the stages of re-opening in a mad plan that already resembles the confounding plotline of this season’s “Westworld?”

The football draft. The complicated controversies of bringing in new QB Jalen Hurts apparently has the sort-of goofy, dramatic and messy ramifications in Philly’s draft choices as having eight “Dolores-es”, two “Maives” and however many  Ed Harrises appeared on the futuristic HBO series on Sunday night. 

So, cheers Philly. We’re all arguing about the Eagles, rather than worrying about hospital beds or finding the right COVID-19 mask on Etsy. We’re back, baby.

Small things

I’m paying attention to the little things so that you don’t have to. For example, when South Street’s venerable Bridget Foy’s restaurant at the corner of 2nd & South (open since 1978) was badly smoke and water damaged in a 2017 electrical fire, the 1800s-built property was to be razed and hopefully re-opened within the 2020s. Before this moved forward, Foy’s owners bought out the neighboring corner of 2nd & Baimbridge for the critically and dining publicly acclaimed Cry Baby Pasta and the sun shined. OK. That took a second to explain. 

Anyway, Cry Baby Pasta is going along fine-as-red-wine within the COVID-19 take out stakes, when, suddenly, familiar menu items from the old Bridget Foy’s are appearing on the take-out and delivery menu. Again, this might seem like a small thing, but to anyone who made BF a go-to eatery, this is a big deal. 

#HoofersAtHome

Know what I like? A lot? Tap dancing. Seriously. Whether it’s a pair of Jimmy Choos or Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Cap-Toe Oxfords, cram a tap on the toe and heel and let’s get to clicking and clacking. 

That’s why I’m over the moon that Philly’s Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, located on S. 21st Street, has been hot on a new project #HoofersAtHome – a series of short dance films that keep their roster of professional dancers rehearsing remotely while bringing tap fans like me much-needed noise and rhythm. Managing Director Katie Budris and ensemble dancer and videographer Meg Sarachan came up with #HoofersAtHome, and check out LadyHoofers.org for the Hoofers home-style flash dances.

Philadelphia rapper and activist Asher Roth has quietly released a new album you need to check out. | Image: Kerith Gabriel

New music

Missing the 420 holiday by mere days was Asher Roth – Philadelphia rapper, marijuana activist, and creator of the Olde Kensington Trash Club (that’s not a band, but rather an actual park cleanup and beautifying committee) – when he quietly released his new album, Flowers on the Weekend, the other day. On the Retrohash Records label, Roth – the man behind the verdant, North Philly community-first venue Sunflower Hill – now makes hip-hop about gender politics rather than weed and frat rapping, and has a cool new track called “Cher in Chernobyl,” of which I am most fond. Rock on.

Jazz Month

April was, and is Jazz Appreciation Month. However, unless you sat home listening to your Rahsaan Roland Kirk albums (I still keep “Theme for the Eulipions” at my fingertips), or were lucky enough to catch Sunday’s Ars Nova “Quarantine Concerts” with Philly jazzbos Monette Sudler and Uri Caine, there’s not been much jazz to appreciate on the live tip as of late. Thankfully though, jazz in Philly is a happening, breathing organism – even when it’s at its saddest. 

First, there’s Harry Hayman IV. You’ve known the always dapper, sartorially smooth manager-director since the old days of Zanzibar Blue, when it was on 11th Street, between Spruce and Pine, and mixed poets and wordy rapping hoods with this city’s top tier jazz and soul players, 1990s style. I was there. He was there. We know who else was there, so no fronting on this one. 

Anyway, he’s stayed a part of the Bynum Family’s jazz and food operations up through the present day of South Jazz Parlor and has lived to write, produce and direct that tale, cinematically (and several others, what from trailers you can find for his cocaine-and-club-daze script “An Appetite for Destruction,” “Hi, I’m Dominic,” and “36 Hours”). Anyway, the new film that Hayman is seeking completion funds for is “Metronome,”  a noir-ish flick about the roots of Zan-Blue in the Cadillac Club, the North Philly nightspot owned by Benjamin and Ruth Bynum that played host to the likes of Aretha, George Benson and Philly’s Billy Paul, the latter of whom recorded a long out-of-print live album there – and yep, I have a copy. 

“I am writing it as a present to Robert Bynum, with an original soundtrack too,” said Hayman. “Even wrote a song for him called “Lighthouse.” Orrin Evans, James Posyer, BAD PLUS, are on the score…Lee Mo, Gerald Veasley too… going to be dope.” Check out the trailer and drop Harry some ducats at one of his METRONOMETHEMOVIE socials.

Act4Music 

If we’re mentioning Philly’s Lee Mo – jazz and R&B vocalist and composer extraordinaire, Temple U grad – and we say she’s involved in “Metronome” as well as finishing a new solo album for release by 2020’s end, it’s probably crucial too to bring up her involvement in The Act4Music streaming series festival put together by fellow local jazz masters Anthony Tidd and Earnest Stuart this weekend and featuring jazzbos across the globe.

Bootsie Barnes 

Lastly, the god of Philly jazz saxophone, composer-player-educator Odean Pope, took some time away from mixing his upcoming new album of originals recorded with Lee Smith and Bobby Zankel to talk about fellow Philly horn man Bootise Barnes who passed away this week. Barnes, like Pope, had every opportunity to make it big and stay in New York City during the post-Bop scene of the late 1950s. 

“Worrying about making money though.… It took time away from rehearsing, from learning,” said Pope of his and Barnes’ more affordable Philly as a place where they could learn and experiment at their own pace. While Pope became a lion of the concert hall, Barnes became THE club king – if you didn’t see Bootsie blowing hard at one bar or another, it wasn’t a weekend. 

“Bootsie had his own sound which he developed in Philly, and he was his own man,” said Pope. “I will miss him.” 

We all will, Mr. Pope.

  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.