JAZZER: Philly Jazz Fresh Cut From The Vine


BY ZIVIT SHLANK JAZZ CORRESPONDENT With full-time jazz clubs closing and limited space on your radio dial, it takes an unwavering devotion to present jazz. Started by a collective of artists fresh out PAFA, The Painted Bride started in 1969 with the mission of providing a welcoming space for artists and musicians of all colors, cultures and styles to be heard. The Bride’s Jazz On Vine series is no exception. Thanks in large part to music curator Lenny Seidman, Jazz On Vine is celebrating its 40th year, making it the longest running, ongoing presenter of jazz in Philadelphia. In that time span, Jazz On Vine has seemingly hosted just about every major voice in modern jazz, both on a local and global scale. Recently, Seidman has been taking stock of such an incredible legacy, which beckoned the question “What’s next?” He decided to look no further than the Bride’s hometown. The future of Jazz is blossoming right here in our musically rich soil. Tonight, the Painted Bride presents Philly Jazz: Fresh Cut From The Vine, a 10-piece ensemble composed exclusively of homegrown talent. At the helm are three of Philly’s most passionate and promising musical voices: bassist Jason Fraticelli, trumpeter Josh Lawrence and drummer Anwar Marshall. The program will consist of original works composed by all three. Phawker recently hung out with the guys at Paris Wine Bar to break bread and discuss.

PHAWKER: The name of the even is a bold statement and begs the obvious first question, how are y’all going to present a fresh perspective on jazz?

JASON: For one thing, the opportunity is fresh for the three of us because we have never had this situation where we could write, compose and arrange for such a large group, it’s 10 musicians.

JOSH: What’s really cool about this is that the three of us come from different places musically. There’s a lot of common ground, but our approaches are very individualistic. It was an interesting process to meld them together.

ANWAR: We basically put our heads together and said “What instruments do we want to use and who’s the best at it?” (Laughs) We got pretty much exactly who we wanted to have. Having the opportunity to customize ever aspect of the performance is pretty unique.

JASON: With the exception of one or two pieces, it’s all original music. As a musician on the scene, a lot of the gigs we’re playing feature standards and/or organic improv, but here, it is all of our original music that we put together specifically for this. That automatically sets it apart and makes it fresh and new. These are our ideas, the things we want to say through these different styles of music.

PHAWKER: Did the Bride approach you all to do this or vice versa?

JOSH: They approached us earlier this summer. At first we thought it was a lot of time between then and October (laughs). Lenny Seidman, the Bride’s music curator, his main thing is that he wants to support the music and local musicians. He said it can’t just be a trio; they can go see that at Time or a number of other spots. He gave us a budget, said let’s make this a 10-piece ensemble and play whatever you want. That was it.

JASON: He said, ‘Pull the stops out!’

ANWAR: What I love about that is…he picked people that he knew would take this seriously so the end product would be amazing. We were talking about this the other night remarking about how awesome it is to be the test dummies for a project like this. Hopefully this is the first of many.

JASON: Let’s show the Bride that we need to keep doing this. Our generation in the Philly scene needs this! The jazz generations of the past, the Jill Scott and The Roots scenes are enjoying successes and their great, but with this generation, we need to work extra hard to present something that’s so good, people can’t ignore it.

PHAWKER: Jazz and Philadelphia are synonymous with each other. The Painted Bride’s Jazz On Vine Series is celebrating its 40th year. Is the intention to pay tribute to that while also looking ahead to the future?

JASON: Basically when we got together, we asked each other ‘Do we wanna collaborate or write some things on our own?’ And then finally we just said “See ya in a couple weeks!” We didn’t really think about what would be appropriate to pay homage to the history or whatnot; it was just more of an honest approach.. Jazz music can change and shift around. So, say, a piece might be very bebop influenced or whatever, but that’s only recognized after the fact. Is this connected to the past or to this genre or that genre? It may not be up to us to define. The fact that Jazz involves improvisation is the one thing that ties everything together. Despite the other things we like to do, we are at the heart jazz musicians because we love to improvise. Being as honest as we can be is the main thing.

ANWAR: The frustrating thing about being a jazz musician in 2012, is that you look at the past, especially with Philadelphia, you hear John Coltrane and it’s intimidating! He was as big and as honest as jazz could be. He didn’t really care what people had to say! I think that’s how a lot of musicians would like to make music but never get the chance to. I think a program like this is going to showcase that passion.

JASON: Yeah this is something that’s going to be so passionate that even if it’s not your thing, you can’t deny it. I think that is the torch that has to be carried on most of all.

JOSH: The way I look at is it’s a reflection of a certain time, a personal statement. The ’60s were a time when John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix were all making music! Louis wasn’t playing that much differently that he was back in the ’20s, but it didn’t make it any less artistically valid. Some people may look at jazz nostalgically saying that it’s old, that it’s not relevant. The fact that it’s us doing it on October 20, 2012 makes it completely new and now.

PHAWKER: When all is said and done, what is the ultimate outcome you all hope for?

JOSH: We want them on [knocked on] their asses. We want people to leave the show just wowed and thinking ‘That was amazing!’

ANWAR: For me personally, I want this to solidify the fact that there are still possibilities with this music. Hopefully we’ll see more projects like this not just with the Painted Bride, but elsewhere, too.

JASON: Our wish from the beginning was that we wanted to sell this out. We’ve got 250 seats to fill, so let’s pack the place! We’re hoping to get a beautiful reception. But as our mentor, the late Philadelphia pianist Sid Simmons liked to say, ‘Play your ass off!’