ABOVE PHOTO: Gregory Porter (Photos courtesy: Philly Cultural Beat)
By Steve Bryant
February’s designation as Black History Month has made it the time when performing arts venues traditionally present major artists in the area of music, theater, and dance. This year has not been an exception when such major companies as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and the Negro Ensemble Company bring their respective shows to Philadelphia. In addition, two individuals who have made their name as respected jazz performers will also be appearing this month, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia is presenting a major art exhibit, so there will be a variety of activities to choose from.
Kimmel Campus presents Gregory Porter
Gregory Porter has distinguished himself as perhaps the most influential jazz vocalist of his generation. For the past decade, the California native has gained worldwide recognition and critical acclaim for his unique synthesis of jazz, soul, and gospel. Porter’s seminal recordings such as “Liquid Spirit” and “Take Me to the Alley” garnered two Grammys, as well as becoming the first jazz album to make it to the top 5 in the Billboard charts in over a decade. Deeply pensive and spiritual, going to a Porter concert is like going to church. For an unforgettable auditory experience, I put Porter’s concert in the “must-see” category.
7 :30 p.m.
The Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St. Philadelphia
February 18, 2023
Kimmel Campus presents David Sanchez
Over the past few years, the concept of Black History Month has expanded to include the history and culture of the peoples of the African Diaspora. The Kimmel Center has recognized this relationship by presenting Puerto Rican musician David Sanchez. Considered one of the best tenor sax players of his generation, Sanchez hit the US jazz scene with the force of a Category 5 hurricane, merging the language of modern jazz idioms with the Afro-Boricua rhythms and music of Bomba and Plena.
Upon his arrival in the States, Sanchez became the youngest member of Dizzy Gillespie’s legendary United Nations Orchestra, which led him to perform and record with Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez. Sanchez later recorded with the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove and an array of Afro-Cuban musicians on the seminal “Ninety Miles Project.” Throughout his numerous recordings, Sanchez has continued to explore the music of his island, as well as that of other Caribbean islands such as Haiti. Sanchez doesn’t make it to Philly too often, so his appearance this month is definitely one of those “don’t miss” events.
300 S. Broad St.
Penn Live Arts presents The Negro Ensemble Company’s production of “Mecca Is Burning”
The Negro Ensemble Company is the most renowned presenter of African American dramatic productions throughout the theater world. The NEC was founded by actor Robert Hooks and playwright Douglas Turner Ward in 1967 to provide a haven and platform for African American actors and playwrights to create works that otherwise would not have access to Broadway stages, as well as elevating the authentic, underrepresented stories coming out of the Black experience. The NEC has been designated as the official artist-in-residence by Penn Live Arts and has produced the world premiere of “Mecca Is Burning,” an examination of the current national social climate as seen through the eyes of four families in Harlem. The personal lives of these families and the way they deal with issues of love, anger, fear and hope, serve as a metaphor for the divisive political climate which permeates our national discourse.
The Penn/Harold Prince Theater
3680 Walnut Street
Current to February 19
The African American Museum presents ‘Vision & Spirit: African American Art Works’ from the Bank of America Collection
AAMP has a very comprehensive exhibition titled “Vision & Spirit” which comprises over 100 works, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and mixed media created by 48 artists who were born in the 19th and 20th centuries. This exhibition focuses on the lives of these artists, providing an insight into their respective creative processes. Comprehensive exhibitions like this do not come often to Philadelphia, so “Vision & Spirit” provides parents with a rare opportunity to introduce their children to the richness of African American art, perhaps even serving as inspiration and encouragement for the budding artist in their family.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
701 Arch Street
$7 General Admission