Painted Bride Looks to the Future of Philadelphia Jazz
To celebrate four decades of presenting jazz, Philadelphia’s Painted Bride Art
Center decided not to get nostalgic about its storied past, and instead forecast its future. Many jazz greats have passed through the arts space’s doors during their rise to fame, and for a special Oct. 20 show, music curator Lenny Seidman opted to search close to home.
The program “Philly Jazz: Fresh Cut From the Vine” presented a 10-piece ensemble of young Philadelphia musicians. The group was led by a trio of up-and-coming composers chosen by Seidman to represent the jazz of tomorrow: trumpeter Josh Lawrence, bassist Jason Fraticelli and drummer Anwar Marshall. After this single performance of “Fresh Cut From the Vine”—whose name references the Bride’s Vine Street address—those involved hoped it would be the first in a series of similar opportunities for local rising stars.
The three leaders took to their assignments enthusiastically; each contributed three new compositions for the group. Lawrence and Fraticelli also collaborated on an arrangement of Puerto Rican cuatro master Ladislao Martinez’s “El Gallo y La Gallina,” which closed the show with a celebratory mood.
The show began in raucous fashion more than two hours earlier with Marshall’s composition “Sanguine?” The 24-year-old drummer, who plays regularly with pianist Orrin Evans, conjured a buoyant hard-bop groove and a head with just a hint of fanfare to fuel a round of solos by the four-horn front line. Marshall’s performance was followed by Lawrence’s elegant, Duke Ellington-inspired “Uptown Romance.” The 30-year-old trumpeter—who is on faculty at the University of the Arts, has played with Evans’ Captain Black Big Band and has recorded with Boyz II Men—wove images of a ballroom atmosphere before embarking on a lengthy, lyrical solo. His playing began to show traces of a New Orleans influence as the rhythm section added a touch of grit to the mix.
The remainder of the first set was handed over to Fraticelli, whose song “Mothers’ Suite” sprawled over more than half an hour. The piece began with chimes and chirping from guitarist Tim Conley’s laptop, which grew into a jungle-like din with pianist Brian Marsalla’s array of percussion and birdcalls. It ran through a wide range of emotions and styles, from Latin-tinged melodies to juke-joint shuffles. Matt Davis’ elegiac guitar solo was followed by Conley’s shrieking rock howls. Marshall and percussionist Francois Zayas engaged in a spirited duet. Fraticelli, who has performed with Cyro Baptista and Billy Martin, offered a vigorous, resonant solo that evoked cries of “J-Frat” from the audience. The work was rife with memorable melodies—perhaps too rife, as the arc reached catharsis and then kept going, burying too much worthy material under the weight of its monumental scale.
The second set opened with Lawrence’s “Frederico” (a salsa tune inspired by a Chopin piece), which featured Mark Allen. The versatile multi-reedist blew a gutsy baritone solo in contrast with Jason O’Mara’s tender flute. The hazy sway of Marshall’s “Indecision” led into the roiling rhythm of his “New Expectations.” Ellington once again emerged in Lawrence’s “Mooche”-like “Augmented Reality,” which paired a slinky groove with spectral electronics to create a Halloween feel. The eerie undertone was ably captured by Davis’ crepuscular solo and Brent White’s trombone moans. Despite Lawrence being the most tradition-minded composer of the three, this was the darkest piece of the night, replete with Charles Mingus-inspired bellows and final moments highlighted by white noise and plucked piano strings.
For the two concluding numbers, Fraticelli switched to cuatro, an instrument he learned from his grandfather (who seized the opportunity to take a bow). The bassist’s “My Summer In Puerto Rico” captured the island’s heat with a lethargic pace, girded by Lawrence’s muted trumpet, before the final explosion into the aforementioned Martinez piece. The trio of composers returned for a quick blues encore, gradually joined by the rest of the ensemble for round-robin solos.
Seidman introduced the second set by asking, “Who needs New York?” One show does not a vibrant scene make, but “Fresh Cut From the Vine” ably argued the point that Philly has more than its fair share of talented players. The city just needs forward-thinking presenters like Seidman and the Bride to provide opportunities for them to shine.