South Philly resident and native promotes new jazz music with the Kimmel Center
Ranging from Arabic to Cuban rockets, local residents juxtapose jazz composition with multicultural twists.
Through June, the Kimmel Center hosts its sixth annual Jazz Residency Program – an in-depth, nearly year-long process fostering the creation of original jazz works by Philadelphia musicians. For several months, performers, drawn from all levels of musicality, engage in public workshops, work-in-progress events, and then, finally, the world premiere of their compositions in June.
The Kimmel Center residency founded the program not only to commission original new jazz, but also to produce music that is meaningful and relevant to Philadelphia communities.
“One of the first and most important groups of people we serve and work with are the musicians themselves… What do jazz musicians need?” Jay Wahl, artistic director producer of the Kimmel Center. “How meaningful would it be? Likewise, how might audiences travel with these musicians so that they can be part of the project on deeper levels of engagement.
With a trio of sets, two of the three teams in the 2018-19 season are led by South Philadelphiars, including a Newbold resident and a Queen Village native.
Highlighting different topics each year, the theme of this residency is centered on culture ideas of identity and belonging – a topic that was not originally planned but came naturally, as the concept turned out to be a recurring notion among musicians’ applications to the program.
“They’re completely different, but there’s something thematically related,” Wahl said. “…This project, if you look at the range of musicians involved, it tries to create all the ways jazz can have meaning today. It is not a fixed art museum. It’s flourishing. It tells meaningful stories and opens doors to new ideas, to see who we are today. It is not an art form of the past. It makes you wonder. It makes you think of big ideas.
These big ideas illustrate our similarities – rather than our differences – in weaving traditional American jazz with the sounds of other countries.
Leading a project is trombonist and Queen Village native Dan Blacksberg, who discovered a love for music while attending elementary school at William M. Meredith School.
In partnership with Rabbi Yosef Goldman of Temple Beth Zion – Beth Israel, Blacksberg’s emerging jazz composition draws parallels between klezmer music and Jewish and non-Jewish music from the Middle East and North Africa.
His outfit features Rabbi Goldman on vocals and percussion, Nick Millevoi on electric guitar, Chad Taylor on drums, Jaimie Branch on trumpet and Matt Engle on bass.
The South Philly native, who studied at New England Conservatory of Music, says he has always had an interest in bridging Eastern musical techniques with prolific American jazz artists such as Duke Ellington.
“With everything going on in the world, Blackberg said:It seemed like a good time to pursue this idea…I start from the point of view of who I am, and with whom do I want to be connected in the world musically speaking?
Blacksberg emphasizes that jazz, especially experimental jazz, is meant to be open.
“One of the things that experimental music is, it’s like an experiment. This raises more questions than answers,” he said.
Deepen your cultural identity while offering new perspectives, from Blacksberg thoughts echo those of Newbold musician and guitarist Dariel Peniazek, who is another composer selected for the Kimmel Center’s 2018-2019 residency.
Peniazek, who collaborates with poet, playwright and lyricist Maya Peniazek, enlivens traditional jazz with African, Latin American and South American rhythms. His set also includes Arturo Stable on percussion and Grammy-nominated Cuban singer Ariacne Trujillo.
Playing mostly tres cubano, a traditional Cuban guitar-like instrument, Peniazek, who studied jazz composition and performance at Temple University, says in his new work he aims to blend these rhythms with a Philadelphia approach.
“I wanted to find a way to deliver my kind of version of what I hear in my head – my fusion of things that I learned as a musician from Philadelphia and also as someone who lives in the world of music. Latin music,” he said.
Further fusing music from Philadelphia and Latin America, Peniazek hosts weekly world music and Latin jazz trio performances in a space at 15th and Ritner streets. The experience has helped cultivate his current vision with the Kimmel Center, as he aims for ethnic fusions in his new work to build public understanding of our shared experiences.
“The idea of being Latin American or being from somewhere else or from here – I try to talk a lot more about the interconnectedness of all of us. We as human beings have roots in different places,” Peniazek mentioned. “For me, in Latin America, it brought me a lot of great things for life.”
Blackberg and Peniazek says a beneficial aspect of the residency is sampling these new works with the public throughout the process.
However, the most rewarding part is associating with performers who share similar musicality and values beyond the stage.
“Jazz is based on collaboration, mutual listening and mutual improvement”, Wahl says. “It’s in dialogue, so we’re thinking about that in a lot of different balances here… The collaborations are really rich, and we’re really thinking about how jazz as an art form, gives us an avenue to talk about really relevant issues, which are all over the city – the jazz coming from the art in the streets talks about what is relevant in the city.