On Saturday, the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy hosted an Inter-generational Jazz Jam outside the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park for Jazz Appreciation Month. The event partnered with Jazz Philadelphia, an advocacy organization that supports emerging musicians, and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s Parks on Tap, a traveling pop-up beer garden.
This event was one of seven performances this month as part of Philly Celebrates Jazz, the city’s celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, said Carrie Leibrand, community engagement manager at the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.
Last year’s Jazz Appreciation Month events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Leibrand was glad to organize this year’s event in compliance with the city’s health department and COVID-19 guidelines.
“Artists have been impacted a lot with COVID,” Leibrand said. “So it was really important for our office and the city to be able to basically just pay musicians to come out and host live performances.”
For an hour and a half, 10 Philadelphia jazz musicians, from college-age to those who have been in the city’s music scene for decades, treated the dozens of listeners to a trio of trumpeteers, singers and drum solos. The audience of all ages swayed to the music.
Mike Boone, a jazz studies professor and bass player, curated a group of musicians of all ages for the performance.
“It’s hopefully what you would see at a normal pre-COVID jam session with a lot of young and older players who came together to play some tunes,” Boone said.
Mollie Ducoste, a violinist and fourth-year criminal justice doctoral student, was elated to play live music again.
“I can play by myself as much as I want, but it’s not as fulfilling as working with other musicians,” Ducoste said.
Jazz is a critical part of American history and culture, which is adventurous and steeped in the cultural traditions of Black Americans, said Gerald Veasley, president of Jazz Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is one of the central places where jazz was created, he added.
“We’re here to support the next generation of artists, who are wonderfully inventive, who are creative, who are passionate or dedicated,” Veasley said. “So that’s why we’re here because we love what these young people and the older musicians have to offer.”
Nadina Patterson, 72, a freelance artist from Southwest Philadelphia, attended the performance. A self-proclaimed jazz connoisseur, Patterson’s listened to jazz her whole life.
“It’s communication, it’s a language on its own, and I think that jazz has a relationship with everything,” Patterson said. “Jazz is comfortable. It’s soothing. It’s exciting sometimes. They’re doing fantastic. I mean it’s the first time we’ve been out in about five months now.”
Heather Blakeslee, executive director at Jazz Philadelphia, hopes that by showcasing local jazz musicians, Philadelphians will grow to understand the wealth of talent in the city so much that they will recognize them by name.
“We know all of our sports teams, we know the quarterbacks, the Eagles, but we don’t know who our jazz players are. That’s another huge part of who we are as a city,” Blakeslee said. “The whole point is to make sure that people know that Philadelphia is a world-class jazz city and that we’re here, that we have an incredible history in the city of amazing musicians, who are really kind of part of the fabric of our city and of our arts and culture, community, and we just want there to be as much jazz as possible.”