Various Artists

Live At Ortlieb's Jazzhaus

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The list of jazz greats who have come out of Philadelphia is endless. Over the years, the Pennsylvania city has boasted everyone from John Coltrane, the Heath Brothers, McCoy Tyner, and Lee Morgan, to Grover Washington, Jr., Jimmy Smith, Pat Martino, Charles Earland, the Brecker Brothers, and Sonny Fortune. Many of Philly's jazz greats have ended up moving to nearby New York -- or, in some cases, Europe -- but even so, Philly has never had a shortage of jazz activity. In Philly, countless jazz clubs have come and gone over the years; since the late '80s, one of its top jazz spots has been Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, where owner Pete Souders (himself a saxophonist) has regularly employed such well known Philly residents as drummer Mickey Roker and Shirley Scott (who is best known for her organ playing but has stuck to the acoustic piano at Ortlieb's). Released in 2000, this two-CD set documents performances at Ortlieb's by a variety of Philadelphians, who range from internationally known artists like Scott, Roker, pianist Sam Dockery (one of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the '50s), and drummer Bobby Durham, to improvisers who are highly regarded in and around Philly but little known outside of the area -- including saxmen Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna and Jimmy Oliver, pianist Sid Simmons, and bassist Arthur Harper. Although acoustic hard bop dominates Live At Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, the set detours into Dixieland on the Independence Hall Jazz Band's "Agnes the Musician" and electric funk-jazz on "My B String Weighs a Ton" by the group M.B.'s Bass Direct. Veteran singer Evelyn Simms is featured on "Angel Eyes," while male vocalist Len Bryant has a pleasant spot on "It Never Entered My Mind." Vocalists, however, are only a small part of this release, which is regrettable because Philly still has its share of excellent jazz singers. But then, Live At Ortlieb's Jazzhaus isn't meant to document Philly's jazz scene on the whole -- only activity at Ortlieb's. And for the most part, it paints an attractive picture of the club.

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