Art After 5 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art continues to serve up hot entertainment every Friday evening in 2006, beginning with a winter season of intimate concert performances nationally renowned jazz artists and an international cast of musicians and dancers. Highlights of the season include a Feb. 24 visit from Avishai Cohen, called a “jazz visionary of global proportions” by DownBeat magazine, and a March 10 concert by the cutting-edge sax master Greg Osby.
The year starts with a trip to Brazil on Friday, Jan. 6 with an appearance by Xande Cruz and the Batukis Band Acustico. A percussionist, singer, and songwriter, Cruz presents an original music experience of unique grooves based on traditional Brazilian rhythms. Exploring the folkloric and modern elements of the Afro-Brazilian tradition “unplugged,” the performance mixes instruments like berimbau, surdo, tamborim, and timbau along with acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and vocals. His premier project, Luz, defines his commitment to folklore, urban and melodic sounds. The Zen One Dance Collective joins Cruz on the bill for Jan. 6, demonstrating the power and beauty of capoeira, a musical and acrobatic Brazilian martial art.
Music and dance from around the globe are the focus of the first Friday night of every month in 2006. Hiromitsu Agatsuma makes his Art After 5 debut on Feb. 3. Agatsuma has garnered international acclaim for his unique fusion of Western music and the tsugaru shamisen, a Japanese traditional string instrument. At the age of 14 he won the 1987 All-Japan Tsugaru Shamisen Competition. He was awarded the top prize in the Tsugaru Shamisen National Competition, Japan’s most prestigious, for two consecutive years. Despite the high acclaim he has received in hogaku (Japanese traditional music), Agatsuma continues to explore the potentials of his instrument and his musical specialty. In September 2001, he made his major label debut on Toshiba EMI with the eponymous “Agatsuma.” In “BEAMS,” his second album (released in July 2002), he recorded ten original works. The same album was subsequently released in America in January of 2003, upon which Agatsuma made his U.S. debut.
It'll be a Gypsy Dance Party on March 3 with a visit from Romashka, the self-described "wild bunch of virtuoso rhythm-throttling chop-splitting Brooklyn-dwelling world music aficionados" who have toured internationally in various Gypsy, klezmer, Balkan, jazz, funk, ska, and rock ensembles. The band capitalizes on the interconnections of Gypsy and klezmer traditions on their self-titled debut CD, with songs like the frenetically danceable "Mariana," the catchy "Loli Phabay (The Red Apple)," and the fun loving "Shimdiggy."
Traditional and cutting-edge jazz continue to fill the Great Stair Hall throughout the winter. Newcomers to Art After 5 include veteran Pittsburgh jazz organist Gene Ludwig (Jan. 20), vocalist and composer Carmen Lundy (Feb. 17), Philadelphia Orchestra hornist Adam Unsworth (March 17), and saxophonist Tia Fuller (March 24). The jazz lineup includes:
Jan. 13, Jim Ridl: Pianist, composer, arranger, and educator Jim Ridl performs internationally with his trio and quintet, the Dave Liebman Big Band, the Denis DiBlasio Quintet, the J. D. Walter Quartet, the Antfarm Quartet, the Manhattan Bones, and in a duet with vocalist Diane Monroe. Ridl’s ten-year tenure with jazz guitar legend Pat Martino received critical acclaim and produced three outstanding recordings.
Jan. 20, Gene Ludwig: Pittsburgh-based organist Gene Ludwig is one of the country’s most passionate advocates of the Hammond B3 organ, having performed and recorded in the 1960s and ‘70s with jazz heavyweights Sonny Stitts, Arthur Prysock, Pat Martino, and Lou Donaldson. With the release of his 1998 CD titled “Back on the Track” came a career renaissance for the now 68-year-old, who now records and tours on a national basis while remaining a Steel City treasure.
Jan. 27, B. J. Jansen and Conjura: Led by baritone saxophonist and bandleader B. J. Jansen, Conjura is a five-member ensemble formed in May 2005 and composed of some of Philadelphia’s finest jazz musicians. The group, inspired by the famous baritone saxophone/trumpet quintets of the late 1950s and early 1960s, takes its name from one of jazz legend Pepper Adam’s famous recordings, Conjuration.
Feb. 10, Steve Rudolph: Since moving to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1978, pianist Steve Rudolph has been largely responsible for the thriving jazz scene in central Pennsylvania. Rudolph is the founder and past president of the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz, one of the country’s most successful jazz organizations. Highlights of his career include seven European tours, performing as a soloist with Miami’s New World Symphony, and receiving the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Jazz Fellowship in 1995 and 2001.
Feb. 17, Carmen Lundy: Vocalist and composer Carmen Lundy is a woman of many faces: composer, arranger, producer, actress, painter, and sophisticated vocalist well known for her progressive bop and post-bop stylings. She has performed and recorded as a soloist with the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Japan, performing at jazz festivals and noted clubs, and had a sold-out engagement in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s “Singers over Manhattan” series. Lundy has performed or recorded with such musicians as Walter Bishop, Jr., Wynton Marsalis, and Ray Barretto.
Feb. 24, Avishai Cohen: Bassist/composer Avishai Cohen has been declared one of the “100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century” by Bass Player magazine. Cohen, one of the first Israeli-born jazz musicians to make a big splash in the U.S., moved to New York in 1992 after studying classical/jazz piano and bass. He was a member of pianist Danilo Pérez’s trio and a founding member of Chick Corea’s sextet, Origin. Since autumn 2003, Cohen has been touring with his trio and quartet. This performance is his first at the Museum.
March 10, Greg Osby: Saxophonist, composer, producer, and educator Greg Osby has made an indelible mark on contemporary jazz as a bandleader and as guest artist with such acclaimed artists as Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie. Since signing with Blue Note Records in 1991, he has released 13 recordings, including the critically acclaimed St. Louis Shoes, Public, Banned in New York, and 2005’s Channel 3.
March 17, Adam Unsworth: A French hornist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Adam Unsworth, recently made his jazz debut with Excerpt This! The groundbreaking recording contains original compositions and features local jazz greats Tony Micelli, Diane Monroe, and Ranaan Meyer.
March 24, Tia Fuller: Nationally renowned jazz saxophonist, composer, and educator Tia Fuller made her debut as a leader on the 2005 recording Pillar of Strength, an 11-track CD which features an all-female quartet. Fuller has generated significant critical acclaim for her original and standard jazz arrangements, full of intense energy, spirit, and groove.
March 31, Ella Gahnt: Ella Gahnt is a Philadelphia-based vocalist and arranger who has performed professionally since the age of 18 and has worked with legends like Grover Washington, Jr. Her signature sound honors the vocal styles of the great divas who’ve inspired her: Sarah Vaughn, Betty Carter, and her namesake, Ella Fitzgerald.