A lively, diverse line-up of jazz and world music performers is taking center stage this spring in Art After 5 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Each Friday evening, the Museum’s Great Stair Hall is transformed into a concert hall, complete with table service, cocktails, elegant café-style appetizers, and desserts. Art After 5 features both emerging and established jazz performers, with forays on the first Friday of each month into other musical genres. Between sets visitors have a chance to explore the Museum’s galleries and special exhibitions.
The warm weather also marks the return of ‘Martinis on the Portico’ - where Friday evening visitors enjoy their favorite cocktails on the portico with the best view of center city in Philadelphia. Starting Friday, May 15, a new selection of refreshing and delectable drinks are served.
Following is the list of performances for the upcoming season of ‘Art After 5’:
(*Please note there will be no performance on July 24)
May 22, Kendra Shank
A jazz vocalist with crystal-pure tone and elastic phrasing, Kendra Shank combines jazz originals, standards, world music, French songs, folk/pop tunes, and open improvisation in an adventurous, genre-bending style. In Paris in the late 1980s, she came to the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn who co-produced Shank's acclaimed debut 1994 CD, Afterglow. Shanks relocated to New York in 1997, where she recorded two albums, Wish in 1998 and Reflections in 2000, that won Top Ten Album of the Year acclaim in numerous publications. She has been named a top female vocalist by Downbeat Magazine (1999, 2006, 2007), and has headlined at clubs and festivals internationally, captivating audiences with her genuine warmth, emotional depth, and musicality.
May 29, Sunny Jain
Born to Punjabi immigrant parents and raised in Rochester, NY, Sunny Jain is an internationally respected drummer, composer and educator who’s been hailed as a leading voice for “Indo Jazz,” a movement of first-generation South Asians equally steeped in the jazz tradition and the music of their heritage. With three critically acclaimed CD releases (and another 20 as a sideman) and multiple world tours under his belt, Jain is a musical trailblazer. In addition to the standard drum kit Jain also plays the historic drum of Punjab, dhol (double-sided, barrel shaped drum slung around the neck). His distinctive sound has been described as “undiscovered sonic territory that glistens with the exoticism of newness without falling into world-beat fusionist clichés.”
June 5, Gaida
The vocalist and composer draws on classical Arabic music, Syrian folk traditions, and free improvisations that expand on traditional Arabic maqams (modes). A performer of great emotional intensity, Gaida has worked with Amir ElSaffar, Brahim Fribgane, and Arturo Martinez, and has appeared in Jonathan Demme’s film Rachel Getting Married. She has also recorded with Gillian Welch and Alejandro Escovedo. Timeout New York calls her forthcoming CD, Levantine Indulgence: “a song sequence of alluring beauty.”
June 12, Kevin Valentine
Growing up in New York City, Kevin Valentine was exposed to many musical opportunities. He met future bassist Mike Boone when both were early members of the Boys Choir of Harlem, and performed everything from jazz standards to R&B covers in venues such as Amateur Night at the Apollo, Sweetwater's, the West End and Lennox Lounge. “I was always more interested in bending notes and shifting phrasings to the way I heard them in my head. I was still evolving,” Valentine recalls. He moved to Philadelphia for law school, but soaked up the city’s rich jazz culture, formed his own trio and went on to play at Zanzibar Blue, Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, the Pyramid Club and Chris’ Jazz Café. His brings his smooth, swinging vocal style to bear on classics of the American songbook as well as newer tunes.
June 19, Kruno Spisic
He began playing a four-string mandolin from Eastern Europe, known as the Tambura, at the age of 10. As a teen Kruno Spisic took up guitar. He discovered Django Reinhardt in college, leading him to a passionate study of the Gypsy jazz genre. These days Spisic and his Gypsy jazz ensemble fuse Eastern European folk traditions with Django-style swing. This resulting sound captivates listeners with its blend of sweet Balkan melodies, romantic songs and hot jazz. Spisic has performed at folk festivals and jazz clubs all over the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan.
June 26, Stephanie Nakasian with Special Guests
She’s been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. The Washington Post calls her sound “sensuous” and the New York Times has praised Nakasian’s “vocal virtuosity.” Stephanie Nakasian is a modern interpreter of swing, ballads, bebop, and vocalise. Her husband, Hod O’Brien is an underground bebop legend, and daughter Veronica Swift O’Brien has been singing professionally for five years. Supporting the musical family will be Philly trumpeter John Swana, bassist Madison Rast, and drummer Dan Monahan.
July 3, Magos Herrera
Born in Mexico City, Herrera is considered one of the most beautiful voices and the most active vocalist of the contemporary Latin American jazz scene. A dazzling and accomplished singer-songwriter Merrera is revered throughout Mexico and Latin America for her beguiling rhythmic scatting inflected with soulful Latin-Andalusian phrasings. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English, her repertoire is filled with the romance and enchantment of Mexican and Cuban sones and boleros, and languid Brazilian beats.
July 10, Ant Farm Quartet
Known for straight-ahead modern jazz with a sheen of "clean beauty" (Philadelphia Inquirer), this all-star ensemble performs original compositions plus gorgeous covers of Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini, Lennon / McCartney, Rodgers & Hart, Joe Henderson, Luis Bonfa, Jobim and more. Ant Farm Quartet members, Tim Lekan (acoustic bass), Paul Jost (vocals and harmonica), Jim Ridl (piano), and Bob Shomo (drums) share a love of making music together that has inspired the recording of their latest cd, “Dialogues, pt. 2.”
July 17, Monkadelphia
This talented group of musicians is dedicated to the music of the great Thelonious Monk but puts its own spin on the music of this jazz legend while respecting its integrity and sustaining the underlying humor and passion within Monk’s repertoire. Their line-up includes: Chris Farr, tenor sax; Tony Miceli, vibes; Tom Lawton, piano; Micah Jones, bass; Jim Miller, drums.
July 31, Larry McKenna
Philly tenor sax legend and musicians' musician Larry McKenna is a longtime favorite at Art After 5, and jazz fans throughout the region. He has performed as soloist with jazz stars such as Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Jon Faddis, Buddy DeFranco, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Bootsie Barnes, Frank Sinatra and many more. Also an accomplished composer and arranger, McKenna’s recordings have received critical acclaim from reviewers throughout the United States and Canada. His solo performances showcase the veteran saxophonist in all his lyrical glory, interpreting unique versions classic standards.
August 7, Earl Pickens
Earl Pickens has opened for everyone from Barack Obama to Jayhawks founding-member Mark Olson and Philadelphia-based rockers "Marah." In winter 2009, joined by his band of banjo-toting, alt-country/bluegrass crooners "Earl Pickens & Family," Pickens recorded a unique acoustic interpretation of the classic U2 album "The Joshua Tree" in the living room of his Victorian-era Central Pennsylvania home. This rootsy, song-by-song take on the original album dismantles one arena-rock anthem after another, and reconstructs the arena-rock anthems with upright bass, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, a snare drum and haunting vocal harmonies. The end result presents the well-loved songs in a different light; altering yet enhancing their emotional resonance.
August 14, Lucky Thomspon
This South Philly-based percussionist has been playing drums since childhood and got his start playing at churches and special engagements. In the 1970s he began touring and making television appearances with his group “The Current Survivors.” Since then he has collaborated with Nina Simone and Patti Labelle among others. In addition to serving as Musical Director of Natalie’s Lounge at 40th and Market Streets, Thompson teaches jazz, percussion and improvisations at the University of Pennsylvania.
August 21, Warren Oree with Jazz Headz
Some of Philly’s most popular band leaders come together as one unified jazz ensemble to create a collage of sound that reflects the Philly Jazz Sound that has been heralded worldwide. Leader Warren Oree (upright bass) is known for his work with the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble and has performed at jazz festivals throughout Europe, the Caribbean and South America. Additional players include Duane Eubanks on trumpet, Lucky Thompson on drums, Orrin Evans on piano and Umar Raheem on saxophone.
August 28, Victor North
For a young jazz musician growing up in Alaska, Philadelphia seemed like a far-off Valhalla of music, and for saxophonist Victor North, getting to Philadelphia was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Having lived here for more than 15 years, Victor has established himself as a versatile sideman, and he has recently begun devoting more time to showcasing his own ensemble.
September 4, Box 5
Box Five is the brainchild of Mary Bichner, a young composer and performer from Philadelphia. Her music combines Mozart-inspired chord progressions and Brit-rock hooks into a musical succotash she likes to call “classipop.” This show will feature a rock band and a string quartet.
September 11, Ranaan Meyer
Ranaan Meyer, double bassist and composer, began his musical studies at the piano at age 4 and took up the double bass at age 11. He attended the Manhattan School of Music and graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 2003. Beyond regular appearances with orchestras such as the Minnesota Symphony, Baltimore Symphony and The Philadelphia Orchestra, Meyer is also increasingly in demand as a composer, creating unique new works for his trio ‘Time for Three’ as well as for solo bass and other ensembles. Most recently Mr. Meyer completed a commission, “My Zayda” (for Violin, Piano and Double Bass) for the Kingston Chamber Music Festival in Rhode Island.
September 18, Denise King with Philly 5
The Philly 5 represents five of the city's leading jazz musicians, including trumpeter John Swana, tenor sax Chris Farr, vibist Tony Miceli and the rhythm section of Maddison Rast and Dan Monaghan. Collectively they've played all over the world. For this performance the 5 are joined by vocalist Denise King, whose sophisticated stylings bring to mind one of her idols, Sarah Vaughan.
September 25, Elio Villafranca
Born in the Pinar del Río province of Western Cuba, Villafranca was classically trained in percussion and composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. Since his arrival in the U.S. in late 1995, he has been involved in jazz and Latin jazz scenes on both the East and West Coasts. Inspired by jazz and other musical genres that developed as a result of the African Diaspora, Villafranca creates original cultural and musical fusions notable for their spirited, groundbreaking innovations. Based in New York City he is resident professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He has performed in New York City at the Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and other venues.
About Art After 5
Art After 5 offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy evening hours exploring the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which houses a vast collection of art from around the world. The experience is enhanced each Friday by a program of music, dance, food, and drinks in the Great Stair Hall. Performances are presented in two sets: 5:45 – 6:45 p.m. and 7:15 – 8:15 p.m., with guided tours of the galleries offered throughout the evening. A full cash bar and à la carte menu of appetizers, light entrées and desserts is available with table service in the Great Stair Hall. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for senior citizens (62 and over); $10 for students with I.D. and children 13-18; children 12 years old and younger are admitted free at all times.