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Penn Live Arts announces its 2023-24 season: The Crossing, Ulysses Owens, Jr., and more

Ulysses Owens, Jr. performing at the Harold Prince Theater at Penn Live Arts in Feb. 2023.
courtesy of Penn Live Arts
Ulysses Owens, Jr. performing at the Harold Prince Theater at Penn Live Arts in Feb. 2023.

Cécile McLorin Salvant had just released the second single from Ghost Song when she stepped onto the Zellerbach Theater stage in mid-December of 2021, joined by a new band. For those who heard her that night, the concert served as the soft launch for a bold new direction, as well as an early taste of the most acclaimed jazz vocal album of the following year. It was also a reminder of the high artistic standard at Penn Live Arts.

Cécile McLorin Salvant with her group at the Zellerbach Theater, during a Penn Live Arts concert on Dec. 12, 2021.
courtesy of Penn Live Arts
Cécile McLorin Salvant with her group at the Zellerbach Theater, during a Penn Live Arts concert on Dec. 12, 2021.

Not that a reminder was needed. Penn Live Arts, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, has announced its 2023-24 season, curated by Executive and Artistic Director Christopher A. Gruits. It's another sterling mix of jazz, new music, theater and contemporary dance — including Salvant, who'll make her return next Feb. 3.

But first, the Branford Marsalis Quartet kicks off the season on Sept. 29, with Philly's own Justin Faulkner on drums. Another dynamic drummer, Ulysses Owens, Jr., returns with his big band (Oct. 29), not long before emerging alto saxophonist Erena Terakubo makes her debut (Nov. 19).

Bassist, composer, curator and Jazz Night in America host Christian McBride will present his New Jawn (Dec. 3), nominally reconnecting with his Philly roots. And a hometown hero, Ruth Naomi Floyd, will perform her first Penn Live Arts concert next April with an interdisciplinary project titled Are We Yet Somehow Alive? — presented in the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral on South 38th Street.

Another offsite presentation will be Monochromatic Light (Afterlife) — a meditative chamber piece by percussionist and Penn music professor Tyshawn Sorey, commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory, where it was presented last fall. In its Philadelphia premiere, which closes the season (next June 14-15), the piece will take place at Icebox Project Space, New Music at Crane Arts in Fishtown, with The Crossing.

The Crossing, whose latest album, 'Titration,' features new music by Shara Nova.
John C. Hawthorne
The Crossing, whose latest album, 'Titration,' features new music by Shara Nova.

The Crossing will perform in two additional contexts, beginning with the world premiere of SIN-EATER, a Penn Live Arts commission, in collaboration with Ragazze Quartet (Oct. 14-15). And The Crossing at Christmas, an annual tradition, will take place at Iron Gate Theatre on the Penn campus (Dec. 15).

Among the many other programs of note are several that intersect with academic departments at Penn. The all-male Dutch vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis teams up with Sollazzo Ensemble to perform Feast of the Swan (Oct. 19), co-sponsored with Penn’s Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. Penn music's Artist-in-Residence Meg Bragle, whom you may also know as a WRTI classical host, will perform The Songs of Solomon, the music of Salomone Rossi (Nov. 9). The Daedalus Quartet will collaborate with English professor Jay Kirk on a concert titled Bartok’s Monster (Jan. 21). And the JACK Quartet will perform the world premiere of Beautiful Trouble, by Assistant Professor of Music Natacha Diels (Feb. 2).

Subscriptions are on sale now at PennLiveArts.org or 215-898-3900.