Memory of Philly’s Jazz roots lives on

Mayor Michael Nutter has declared April Jazz Appreciation Month in Philadelphia.

But jazz in Philadelphia has seen better days.

The foundation of America’s most distinctive music was built partly in Philadelphia, as John Coltrane, Eddie Lang, Billie Holiday, Sun Ra–among others–lived in the city. Jazz Appreciation Month and Day (April 11) have been promoted in other cities for years, but Philadelphia never picked up that riff.

“Certainly lots of issues have their month, their day, but what it gives us the opportunity to do is celebrate and highlight something already there but people forget about,” said Gary Steuer, Chief Cultural Officer.

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Jazz Appreciation Month is a branding campaign using banners, posters, and the internet to promote jazz in a city that used to have a lot more of it. Jazz clubs like Zanzibar Blue and Otlieb’s have recently closed.  Ron Carter, a sought-after bass player from New York, remembers playing the Showboat and Pep’s in the 60’s and 70’s.

“I played in those rooms. It’s unfortunate they aren’t here. I miss coming to Philadelphia and working the clubs. I’m sorry they don’t have anything going right now,” said Carter.

Jazz Appreciation Month is meant to stimulate both fans and impresarios.  In addition to a smattering of Center City clubs, like the longstanding Chris’s Jazz Cafe, a small venue in South Philadelphia may be opening soon, pending bank loans and a liquor license.

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