The Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival is hoping to bring people in its community together for the 12th year running. Tracing a path northwest through University City and into the rest of West Philly, Lancaster Avenue itself is a border between distinct Philly neighborhoods and different communities, but organizers say everyone finds common ground in jazz music.
“It really helps us to preserve a little bit of the neighborhood heritage,” said James Wright, director of community, economic and real estate development at People’s Emergency Center (PEC), which along with PEC Community Development Corporation organizes the
Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival. “This neighborhood has had music going on for a long time. People always talk about music that was going on in the ’70s.”
Back in the day, according to neighborhood lore, there were multiple record stores on Lancaster Avenue, where doo-wop artists would make pitches to record promoters right in the store. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, with famed singer Teddy Pendergrass, was from the area. As old-timers tell it, “there was music all around,” Wright said, and a large part of that was jazz music,
“The neighborhood benefit of the festival is to just preserve that identity,” he said. “Things are changing, people are moving out or getting older. To have that jazz legacy is just great.”
The festival will be held at Saunders Park Greene, a park recently refurbished by Penn Presbyterian Medical Center to become a jewel of the neighborhood.
“Over time, that park has gone from being this back space to the neighborhood that was kind of seedy and not too pleasant to a real neighborhood amenity,” Wright said. “The jazz festival really helps highlight that.”
From a few hundred attendees in its first years, last year’s festival attracted 4,000 people. This year, saxophonist, educator and composer Tim Warfield, a York, native, will perform with his organ band.
Part of the festival is a “master class,” a four-week program for local youth to learn jazz from Philly native trumpeter and composer/arranger Jamal Jones. The youth will perform a recital at Alain Locke Elementary School at 4550 Haverford Avenue on July 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Lancaster Avenue Jazz Festival
The Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival, which is free, will be held on July 21 at at Saunders Park Greene at 39th Street and Powelton Ave. (The rain date is July 22).
Performing will be:
-Glenn Bryan on keyboard
-Chris Lewis on saxophone
-Vocalist Ella Gahnt
-Bobby Zankel and the Warriors of the Wonderful Sound.
-The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble
-Tim Warfield is expected to perform around 3 p.m.
Don’t forget to look out for a children’s village full of activities and food trucks including Irie Jamaican Restaurant, Chewy’s Food Truck, Pound Cake Heaven, Gigi’s & Big R soul food, Curbside Creamery, Maroosh Halal Cuisine and What’s On The Grill.