Hometown Heroes

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Jazz Project

Editor's Note: Sam Reed passed away on July 7th, 2021 at age 85. Few Philadelphia musicians have had careers as rich and varied as saxophonist and bandleader Sam Reed. Born in South Carolina in 1935, Sam was six when came to live in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philadelphia, then home to a vibrant Black community with an active music scene.

Photo Courtesy of the Artist

The best jazz singers have a knack for connecting with audiences. Few musicians of any stripe share Michelle Lordi’s gift for creating them. While Lordi has graced the usual stages with her emotionally captivating, starkly expressive voice—South and Chris’ Jazz Café close to home, renowned venues like New York City’s Birdland and Mezzrow farther afield—she’s made a unique home for herself in far more unexpected places.

Photo by Richard Conde

When you grow up as the youngest of seven children, you quickly figure out how to set your ego aside. Saxophonist Yesseh Furaha-Ali learned that lesson as a child in Upper Darby, and it’s guided him through a uniquely communal journey in music.

Katya Krishnan

When trumpeter Alonzo Demetrius arrived at Berklee College of Music in the fall of 2014, he expected to have his musical world opened up to new pathways. What came as a surprise is the way the school broadened his political thinking as well.

Michael Donnelly

In 1992, Jack Lloyd, entertainment writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “A funny thing happened to Monnette Sudler on her way to becoming a folk singer.” That “funny thing” was her immediate induction in the early 1970s into the cutting-edge, free-jazz funky group “Sounds of Liberation” with fellow Germantownians vibist Khan Jamal and saxophonist Byard Lancaster.

Ryan Collerd

Journalist Dorothy Kilgallen led off her popular New York Evening Journal column (syndicated in 140 papers) with a 1963 story about Philly bassist Jymie Merritt that traveled around the world. Turns out, Merritt was a bit miffed at drummer Art Blakey.

Larry Fink

For more than half a century, pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali has been the dark matter of Philadelphia jazz —a mysterious force whose presence has been felt more through his influence on others than via his own work.

There are certainly unique and flavorful totems of what it means to be Philadelphian: soft pretzels, cheese-steaks and everything Tastykake. You can get them baked and doled out in other towns, but they’re never quite as delicious as when they are made and served from home.

Photo courtesy of the artist

As Philadelphia’s fifth Poet Laureate, Trapeta Mayson merges her love of art with her love of community through words often accompanied by jazz music. Her poems often reflect her life story: born in West Africa, raised in North Philly, and now a licensed clinical social worker residing in Germantown.

Photo ©sg koezle- info@jazzfoto.net

Bassist and composer Tyrone Brown has been an all-around musical maestro in town for a long time. Leafing through the jazz listings of the last four decades in Philadelphia, it’s easy to see that Brown has played everywhere with almost everybody in the city.