Jazz history was made in Philadelphia. It’s the city where such legendary musicians as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Philly Joe Jones, Shirley Scott, Billie Holiday, Jimmy McGriff, Bill Doggett, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Grover Washington Jr., Trudy Pitts and Jimmy Smith made major contributions to jazz.
Lenora Early, founder of the John Coltrane House, observed:
Philadelphia is the most important focus of John Coltrane’s development as a virtuoso musician. Philadelphia’s rich black jazz milieu in the 1940s nurtured the novice teen reed player just up from the South. The house on North 33rd Street was special to Coltrane. In this house, he wrote “Giant Steps,” a title that foreshadowed his future musical stature. In this space, in 1957, Coltrane experienced a life-altering epiphany when he freed himself from heroin addiction cold turkey.
All That Philly Jazz, a digital history project, is mapping Philadelphia’s jazz heritage, including historic landmarks and events, legacy clubs and other points of interest. Sadly, much of Philly’s jazz legacy has disappeared. As a result, the history largely resides in the memories of those who were there.
So we have launched a mobile platform to crowdsource collection of stories, photos and videos. All That Philly Jazz’s free app is available on Google Play and iTunes (search term “icihere”).
Homer Jackson, project director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, said:
Philadelphia’s jazz legacy is like that family secret that everyone knows about you and your family, yet you have no idea about it. Our city’s musical status in the world is rich and valued. Our story is well-known in places like London, Paris, Osaka, Berlin and Rio de Janeiro while at home we have yet to explore, appreciate and celebrate the greatness that emerged from these very streets. It’s time for us to look into the Philadelphia family album of jazz and understand just how wealthy we truly are and can continue to be.
Jazz enthusiasts anywhere in the world can go to http://ph.ly/MyPhillyJazz and share their memories of Philly’s jazz scene back in the day. If you were there, that would be awesome. If someone shared a story, photo, etc., with you, please share it with us. After all, if we don’t tell our story, who will?
If Billie walked south on Broad, she would have arrived at Pep’s in less than five minutes. Along the way, she would have passed the Dunbar (Lincoln) Theatre.
Although we’ve barely scratched the surface, the first iteration of the map is telling the story. Broad and South Streets, and Columbia Avenue (now Cecil B. Moore Avenue) were chock-a-block with jazz spots.
But All That Philly Jazz is not just about the past. It’s about building new audiences for jazz musicians by exposing Millennials and others to a unique American art form.