Project aims to bring jazz back to popularity

Homer Jackson is the director and creator of the Philadelphia Jazz Project.

The Philadelphia Jazz Project acts as a jazz liaison for the city of Philadelphia, helping to promote the celebration of jazz and the rich culture revolving around it. The Philadelphia Jazz Project is the brainchild of its director, Homer Jackson.

The project is in the planning stages of several upcoming jazz series, said the project’s administrative assistant, Melissa Talley Palmer.

“Our first of a series of Jazz Concerts at the Clef Club of Jazz opening this Friday, Community Conversation at the Gershman [YMCA] on Tuesday and a host of other activities,” Palmer said.

The Philadelphia Jazz Project started last year hosting a wealth of Jazz shows featuring rookies as well as musicians who are just coming on to the scene.

“I have always worked collaboratively with others,” Jackson said. “This opportunity gave me a chance to try something new as well as work with others, and to stop talking and do something.”

Jackson is a Temple alumnus. He said his creativity along with his passion were fostered while hosting Temple’s jazz radio station WRTI in the ’80s.

Jackson was approached by The Wyncote Foundation, which asked if he had any ideas for the jazz community in Philadelphia.

Jackson said he sees jazz as both a product and a culture.

“It’s a root component of most of the world’s pop music forms,” Jackson said. “And it’s American as apple pie. No one tires of apple pie. You can try it with different types of apples. Different crusts. It’s still apple pie.”

The Philadelphia Jazz Project is supportive of the work of new and emerging artists, Jackson said.

“I should really add, new and emerging musicians who are working on their instrument [and are] working toward the goal of becoming virtuosos on that instrument, whatever it may be,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said he believes jazz is continuing to evolve.

“Just when you thought it was boring, someone lays a slab of cheese on it to dress it up,” Jackson said.

Jackson is confident that jazz holds a special place in Philadelphia, a city where hip-hop and other musical genres take front and center stage in promotion often.

“Philadelphia is a place where jazz should easily be woven into the cultural fabric,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, it’s not. Jazz at times seems to struggle on the sidelines. Our goal within the jazz community is to increase its visibility and opportunity.”

He said he hopes that jazz will not be overlooked through the work for the Philadelphia Jazz Project.

“If we take a good, honest look, hip-hop has been hanging around and/or flirting with pop [music] for almost about 40 years now. At best, Jazz was [considered] pop for about five or six years, 10 years tops,” Jackson said.

Over the next five years, Jackson said he would like to see the Philadelphia Jazz Project build bridges between hip-hop and jazz.

“Some of the most knowledgeable people who can discuss the music, the musicians and various time periods, aren’t necessarily always jazz musicians or jazz fans. DJs and Producers, Diggers…if you will, have a wealth of knowledge and our city is blessed to have lots of them and some of the pioneers of that game,” Jackson said.

Discussions revolving around the Philadelphia jazz legacy are often talked about in a very abstract way, Jackson said. Jackson wants to make sure people are able to understand the significance of jazz in Philadelphia.

“The history and indeed, the living individuals who are part of that legacy, are right here. They are an asset,” Jackson said.

Priscilla Ward can be reached at

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