A Documentary the on Heyday

December 15, 2008

A tour through the past

Props to Calaloo TV for producing this documentary. Lots of great info on Philly jazz venues that are long gone, especially on ‘jump street’ itself: Columbia Avenue.

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Live Review: Pandelis Karayorgis

December 15, 2008

pandelis-karayorgis

Miles Davis once likened pianist Bill Evans’ beautiful chord voicings to “crystal notes cascading down from some clear waterfall.” If Bill Evans’ style was comparable to a clear waterfall, flowing and organic, then Pandelis Karayorgis is the jagged rock at the bottom: Cutting and asymmetrical.

Karayorgis sounds like Thelonious Monk, if Monk stripped himself of all remnants of the blues and the internal logic of jazz, that ‘internal logic’ being the idea that minor 7th chords eventually resolve to major 7th chords, and then you start all over again. Karayorgis instead forms dissonant harmonies that resemble avant-garde classical as much as they do jazz. His rhythm section shifts nervously from one complex time signature to the next, refusing to establish a base for lengthy improvisation. Songs stop abruptly, tones shift without warning, and melodies are half-formed before Karayorgis’ piano descends into madness.

Karayorgis played a number of original tunes at last thursday’s show at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, but it was the covers of Monk and Duke Ellington that were the most intriguing. He somehow managed to tackle the most esoteric song in Ellington’s catalog, making me wish that I had remembered to bring a damned notebook to jot down exactly what song title it was. Nonetheless, it sounded like Ellington if he were exposed to a toxic amount of mercury. That, folks, is a fascinating sound, but not necessarily enjoyable. Indeed, I left the show unable to form a coherent emotional reaction to what I just saw. It appears that the jagged rock knocked me unconscious.

Welcome to Jump Street

December 15, 2008

Welcome to Jump Street. We are a publication dedicated to covering Philly jazz. We intend to document the past, assess the present, and pray for a good future.

‘Jump street’ was the nickname for Philadelphia’s Columbia Avenue in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. From 8th street to 33rd street,  jazz clubs dotted every block. Forty years of urban decay and one major riot later, the remnants of jump street’s storied past are nowhere to be found on what is now called Cecil B. Moore Ave. Other former jazz hubs, such as Strawberry Mansion and South Street, have suffered the same fate. Across the city, from the Coltrane house to Point Breeze, Philadelphia Jazz is in a state of disrepair. There is little documentation on the glories of the past, and there is scant coverage of what is happening in the present. Understanding the need for action, we have established Jump Street as an attempt to serve as a flagship publication for people interested in all things Philly Jazz. We can’t force people to take an interest in the music.  Likewise, we don’t hold any notions of converting new fans. We just want to keep the fire lit; as dim as it may be.

Luckily, there are nonprofits, such as the Clef Club and Ars Nova, keeping the music alive in the city. Chris’s Jazz Cafe and Ortlieb’s are going strong, and Bob ‘n’ Barbara’s still features the gut-bucket soul-jazz that is specific to Philly: The organ trio. We want to help prop these institutions up. We want to review shows and notify you of emerging artists. At the same time, we want to preserve and honor past Philly artists and venues, from the Heath brothers, to the Zanzibar Club, to John Coltrane, to Jimmy Smith.

Jazz will probably never be fashionable again, but it remains one of America’s greatest cultural exports. Philadelphia played a large role in shaping this music, and it can play a large role in preserving it. We here at Jump Street don’t want people to forget that.