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Center City Jazz Festival flips it sunnyside up

Like matinee performances? Center City Jazz Festival returns with a jam-packed afternoon of talents 'n' tunes.

Philly-spawned drummer Justin Faulkner will play an “electric” vein with bassist Mike Boone and trumpeter John Swana.
Philly-spawned drummer Justin Faulkner will play an “electric” vein with bassist Mike Boone and trumpeter John Swana.Read more

WASN'T Philadelphia's bad-joke reputation as a town that "rolled up the sidewalks after dark" put to bed decades ago?

Still, tomorrow's multivenue Center City Jazz Festival kicks into gear at the unhip hour of 1 p.m. And the fest's saxophone-tootin' headliners - world-music flavored freewheeler Steve Coleman and mainstream marvel Tim Warfield Jr. - hit their respective stages 'round 6 p.m., not midnight!

"Last year's [second annual] CCJ festival was mostly in the daytime, and this year we've compacted it all," festival founder Ernest Stuart shared. This noteworthy, crowd-pleasing trombonist has squeezed himself out of the lineup, in part to retain his managerial sanity. He will lead a post-fest jam session at Time Restaurant from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Music lovers will pay a paltry $5 admission for that extra dollop of jam, atop the quite reasonable, all-inclusive festival general admission price of $15 in advance, $20 on the spot. We can thank the Knight Arts Challenge for subsidizing the costs.

Packed with music

Many a musician is "just rubbing the sleep out of their eyes" at the festival's kickoff time, said Stuart, but he insists there are many good reasons to stage it then.

The day-glow is "more conducive" for ticket holders to "duck in and out of the venues" - the closely located Chris' Jazz Cafe, Time Restaurant, Milkboy Philadelphia and Fergie's Pub - to sample a little bit of everything.

Set starts are "staggered by 15 minutes" on the tasting menu. Stuart said his carefully curated lineup "will force you to make difficult choices or keep on the move."

Also on tap? The edgy trio Thumbscrew (guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara), much-in-demand Philly-spawned drummer Justin Faulkner (working here in an "electric" vein with bassist Mike Boone and trumpeter John Swana), seasoned vocalists Joanna Pascale, Rhenda Fearrington, Portuguese export Giovana Robinson and bluesy Miss Ida Blue (with members of the Boardwalk Empire Orchestra and Vince Giordano & Nighthawks).

You'll also discover guitarist Mike Kennedy, Trio Up (Rick Tate, Nimrod Speaks, Ronnie Burrage), and a citywide student group assembled at the Kimmel Center's Creative Music Program, among others.

Sleep deprived

Notwithstanding Ray Charles' classic vow, "Nighttime is the right time," flipping the fest sunny-side up actually appeals to some artists "who can then run back to New York and do a Saturday evening gig - usually their best-paying of the week," said Stuart. At least two CCJF guests will be pulling off a trail of two cities tomorrow.

CCJF's timetable is likewise a lure to both "older jazz fans" who tuck in early and, at the other extreme, "young folks who're looking for an excuse to start partying early," added the producer. "The demographics for last year's festival audience were all over the place."

Plus, there's historic precedence.

While "before my time," Stuart shared, Saturday jazz matinees used to be popular at Philly joints like the Aqua Lounge, Cadillac Club, Showboat Jazz Theater and Peps.

"Once you're inside" a club, both spectators and performers "forget what time it is, relax and enjoy themselves," Stuart noted. "You can sit down, have a full meal or just have a drink. Or hang in back at the bar - probably the better place to be if you plan to club hop."