In Friday’s celebration of Jazz Appreciation Day, Philadelphia was “putting some swing into its spring,” which is the city’s theme for jazz appreciation month that takes place in April.
The celebration took place outside the John Coltrane House, a National Historic Landmark, which is located at 1511 N. 33rd St. in Strawberry Mansion.
It is the place where jazz artist Coltrane lived and developed his music. There are only three National Historic Landmarks in the United States dedicated to individual jazz artists, and the Coltrane House is one of them.
“John Coltrane loved the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood…and he was always welcomed home,” Mayor Michael Nutter said.
Nutter was just one of the few speakers who spoke at the day’s event. Other speakers included local jazz elder statesman Charlie Rice, City Rep. Melanie Johnson and Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer.
Steuer talked about the city being lucky to have a mayor like Nutter who is interested in preserving and celebrating the jazz community.
“We’re lucky to have a mayor who understands the steep importance to the soul of this city,” Steuer said.
Those who attended the celebration were not only Philadelphia locals with a love for jazz. Members of the community were joined by the Philadelphia Jazz Coalition and the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Jazz Coalition includes jazz musicians, club owners, media and music schools. Its mission is to promote and support the Philadelphia jazz community and its heritage. Jazz Appreciation Month is essentially headed by the coalition.
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia is a non-profit organization rooted in preserving the Coltrane House. The alliance, in conjunction with the Coltrane House, hopes to renovate and revitalize the home; discussions of these plans are in the works.
This celebration is more than just another day with a title to it; it has a purpose. The ultimate goal of having this day is to raise awareness of Philadelphia’s deep musical roots built on the foundation of the jazz genre. The jazz legacy need not only be recognized but also appreciated by Philadelphia residents in order for them to understand a large part of their city’s culture.
In his proclamation declaring April 13 Jazz Appreciation Day in Philadelphia, Nutter spoke of encouraging people everywhere to be more aware of Philadelphia’s jazz legacy. “I…urge all citizens to be aware of the vibrant, living legacy of jazz in Philadelphia and invite music lovers everywhere to join Philadelphians in enjoying Philadelphia Jazz Appreciation Month events taking place throughout the city,” Nutter said.
Rhenda Fearrington, a local jazz singer, expressed how much jazz music means to the Philadelphia culture and foresees events like the Jazz Appreciation Day celebration revitalizing the jazz culture and community in Strawberry Mansion.
Young local jazz musicians like William Wright found the event meaningful because they were honoring Coltrane. “It’s historic in the respect that they’re honoring the memory that John Coltrane left behind for the other Philadelphia jazz musicians to carry on,” Wright said.
Older jazz musicians who were present beamed with pride and reminisced on their history with the jazz culture. Wright appreciated their presence. “They really mean something to the community, so it’s good we have the opportunity to have them around while they’re still here,” Wright said.
One thing was made clear by the attendees of the day’s events, and that is you cannot mention the culture of Philadelphia without mentioning jazz music. Local pianist Adam Faulk said jazz music helped to identify Philadelphia and is recognized by the global community as part of the history of jazz music. Faulk described the jazz aspect of the Philadelphia culture as “a beautiful thing.”
Like Fearrington, Faulk said he hopes events like this will be nothing but positive for Strawberry Mansion and more people will become aware of the good things that happen here. “People outside of this community being brought in to realize this is the neighborhood John Coltrane lived in and walked these streets,” Faulk said.
See more information about Coltrane at https://www.johncoltrane.com/