Philadelphia bassist kicks off Jazz Appreciation Month with award, festival

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Philadelphia kicked off April’s Jazz Appreciation Month by naming native son Jamaaladeen Tacuma as this year’s recipient of the Benny Golson Award. (Provided)

Philadelphia kicked off April’s Jazz Appreciation Month by naming native son Jamaaladeen Tacuma as this year’s recipient of the Benny Golson Award. (Provided)

Philadelphia kicked off April’s Jazz Appreciation Month by naming native son Jamaaladeen Tacuma as this year’s recipient of the Benny Golson Award from the Office of Arts and Culture.

The bassist said it came as a surprise, and confessed to tearing up a bit at the ceremony.

“I feel it’s not only an award for myself, but also everybody who ever went into a studio with me, or a concert, or had anything to do with my success. I want to acknowledge them as well,” he told WHYY’s Dave Heller.

Click the play button above to hear their conversation on NewsWorks Tonight. 

That list of acknowledgements could be very long, as Tacuma’s professional career began in the 1970s straight out of high school. He passed up a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music to instead play with jazz organist Charles Earland, and then tour Europe with saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

“It was supposed to be for two weeks, but we ending up staying six months,” he recalls. Tacuma was a mainstay in Ornette’s Prime Time band for over a decade.

In addition to being a prolific collaborator with a wide range of musicians, Tacuma took on the role of promoter as well four years ago when he started the Outsiders Improvised and Creative Music Festival, which takes place each April in Philadelphia.

It begins on April 6 at Milkboy, with Free Form Funky Freqs. Tacuma is joined by G. Calvin Weston on drums and Vernon Reid on guitar. The opening band is Sirius JuJu.

On April 15 at South Kitchen & Jazz Bar, the fest continues with the premiere of Jupiter 4, Tacuma’s new quartet featuring guitarist Nels Cline, Chad Taylor on drums and Alfredo Colon, sax and electronics. The final show is April 29 at International House, with Ornette Coleman’s Primetime Band under the direction of Denardo Coleman, featuring saxophonist Odean Pope; plus sets by guitarist and singer James Blood Ulmer and the quartet Secret Mall led by Alfredo Colon.

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