West Parkside: Bringing Jazz Back to West Philadelphia

A Philadelphia businessman recently opened a jazz venue in West Parkside to spark an interest for arts and live music in what he calls an “upcoming neighborhood.”

Jamal Parker, 41, owns the jazz venue, Le Cochon Noir, which translates to “The Black Pig.” Parker opened the spot at 5070 Parkside Ave. about a year and a half ago.

Today the venue, situated across from Fairmount Park, supports jazz musicians five nights a week.

“The interesting thing about where we are located is that this is a challenged area–a neighborhood to stay away from,” Parker said. “But places like Northern Liberties and Manayunk were the same and now, they are bubbling and lively.”

Growing up, Parker’s parents filled their home with music from his father working in radio to his mother’s constant need to have music bounce off the walls and float into their eardrums. Parker said he had no option, but to love jazz.

“My first love for jazz happened somewhere in my adolescent years,” Parker said. “But, when I was in college and started taking courses in jazz and music that’s when I realized I had fallen in love with jazz.”

Now, his love for music is bringing in awards.

Downbeat magazine, which is a leading jazz publication, named Le Cochon Noir one of the Top 150 Great Jazz Rooms in its international jazz venue guide in 2011. This year the magazine released the Top 212 Great Jazz Rooms in its February issue and the West Philadelphia venue was listed again.

“We do jazz every night we are open,” Parker said. “When you talk about a jazz club it is either a restaurant that does sub-par food, but great music or great food and sub-par music. This place does it all.”

Legendary artists have graced the stage such as Bluesman Larry Wise, who has played along side Muddy Waters and Big Momma Thornton. Le Cochon Noir also prides itself by having local talent from Philadelphia play at its venue like The Dukes of Destiny.

Chris “The Rev.” Marsceill, 31, a Philadelphia native, plays the piano at Le Cochon Noir every Sunday.

“It is a great mix here. The food is wonderful. The art is great,” Marsceill said.

Le Cochon Noir also hosts an art exhibition on the last Friday of every month called Final Friday. The venue boasts high ceilings that can allow local artists to exhibit up to 20 paintings that cover its walls, Parker said.

“It is nice having a place where the art changes every month,” said Marsceill, who crafted his sound in New Orleans. “The following month you will have different clientele and people from other neighborhoods.”

“The music is a nice link to the art,” Marsceill added. “It is layback and very southern. For the past year this neighborhood has been improving.”

Parker said he hopes a “renaissance” occurs in Parkside and that his venue can help improve the popularity of jazz in Philadelphia.

“It is certainly a challenge to get people to support local live music, especially, if it’s not popular music like soul, R&B or hip-hop,” Parker said. “For a town like Philadelphia, we have a talented history of jazz musicians and it is sad to see the lack of support for jazz.”



Connor Showalter and Jade McKenzie will bring Eyes on the Street and PlanPhilly dispatches from the West Park and Lower South planning districts as part of their work for  Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a publication of Temple’s Multimedia Reporting Lab. PlanPhilly is a Philadelphia Neighborhoods partner.

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