JAZZ COMES in a lot of flavors, some more accessible than others. How can you tell which will please you?
This weekend's bigger and better, 2nd annual Center City Jazz Festival offers a fine and friendly way to sample a potpourri of fresh, sharply honed talents, most Philly-grown or -based, in an unusually convenient and casual fashion.
We're talking everyone from the intimate vocal chanteuse Laurin Talese (a former backup singer for Jaguar Wright and Vivian Green) to the camped-up drag triller Martha Graham Cracker.
Like your jazz pumped and danceable? Take heed of the gospel- and funk-tinged quintet Vertical Current.
Also on tap: tastefully muted trumpeter Leon Jordan Jr., much buzzed-about pianist Luke Carlos O'Reilly (Colombian born, Temple trained) and the pre-revolution Cuban music stylings of Conjunto Philadelphia. Plus super bassist Mike Boone, saxophonist/band leader Korey Riker and trumpeter Josh Lawrence, among others.
"Jazz is more than just standards," noted Center City Jazz Festival director and trombonist Ernest Stuart. "When you write new music in a genre as personal as jazz, you get a lot of interesting sounds. This year's festival will feature a greater mix of jazz influenced by hip-hop, rock, latin, dance and traditional standards."
And what if a particular artist doesn't float your boat?
"You can vote with your feet," half-joked event publicist Karina Kacala. "Just walk out and down the street and check out another artist or group."
Or, tonight, wander off to the galleries in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, though we doubt folks will be disappointed by the festival's kick-off bill there, with Afro-Cuban/Latin-flaired vocalist Venissa Santi and her like-minded soprano sax/flute playmate Jane Bunnett. Early buyers of festival tickets could nab an all-access pass that included this showcase social. Tonight, the only way in to the Santi/Bunnett bill is with a normal PMA "Art after 5" museum admission ($23.50; $21.50 seniors; $17.50 students).
Tomorrow, the Center City Jazz Festival wails from noon to late night, and for the afternoon hours might just as well have been dubbed a "Jazz Stroll." Echoing last year's well-attended innaugural event, the daytime activities exploit four Center City clubs that book jazz acts - two regularly, two now and then - in a geographically tight zone on both sides of Broad Street.
Besides the genre-focused Chris' Jazz Cafe (1421 Sansom), participating venues include the jam-session minded, two rooms-working Time Restaurant (1315 Sansom) and its next-block (1214 Sansom) neighbor Fergie's Pub, plus the normally more rocking Milkboy, just a few steps away at the corner of Chestnut at 11th.
Each showcase room will offer four different musical attractions between noon and 6 p.m. on Saturday. With the purchase of a wrist band ($25 in advance at the ccjazzfest.com web site, or $35 at any of the front doors), you'll then be able to hop from venue to venue at will. And safely - even if throwing down booze on the jazz cruise - as you'll be traveling on foot. "The clubs also will have food and non-alcoholic drinks available," stressed Kacala.
Kicking in an extra $10 for a wrist band (then coded differently) also gains entrance to Saturday night's festival capper at the nearby Arts Bank (Broad and South), with the most worthy Orrin Evans. For the uninitiated, he's a nationally renowned keyboardist/bandleader/composer dynamo who calls Philadelphia home.
Time constrained? Another option is to take in just Evans' performance - fronting a trio with drummer Bill Stewart and bassist Mark Helia - for a reasonable $15 in advance, $20 at the door.
Last year's first fest was "crowd sourced" via Kickstarter. This year, the Philly jazz celebration has won significant support from the Knight Foundation and Peco. "That's helped us set admission prices low," Kacala said.
For advance tickets, information: ccjazzfest.com.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 5:30 p.m. - Venissa Santi, featuring Jane Bunnett.
Upstairs @ Time Restaurant, 1315 Sansom St. Noon: Adam Faulk; 1:30 p.m.: Jodi Lawrence; 3 p.m.: Andy Martinek; 4:30 p.m.: Anthony DeCarlo.
Time Restaurant, 1315 Sansom St. 12:20 p.m.: Vertical Current; 1:50 p.m.: Korey Riker; 3:20 p.m.: Laurin Talese; 4:50 p.m.: Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret.
Chris' Jazz Cafe, 1421 Chestnut St. 12:10 p.m.: Chris Aschman; 1:40 p.m.: Neil Podgurski; 3:10 p.m.: Madison Rast, featuring John Ellis; 4:40 p.m.: Francois Zayas.
Fergie's Pub, 1214 Sansom St. 12:30 p.m.: Wayne Smith Jr.; 2 p.m.: Mike Boone; 3:30 p.m.: King Pony; 5 p.m.: Ross Bellenoit.
Milkboy Philadelphia, 1100 Chestnut St. 12:40 p.m.: Conjunto Philadelphia; 2:10 p.m.: Pagode Project; 3:40 p.m.: Leon Jordan Jr.; 5:10 p.m.: Luke O'Reilly.
The Arts Bank, Broad and South Sts. 8 p.m. Orrin Evans.