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Christian McBride's New Jawn, and other delights in Moment's Notice

Welcome to Moment’s Notice, WRTI’s regular guide to the Philadelphia jazz scene. We’re here to tip you off to the best shows during the week ahead. Sign up now to receive this service in your inbox every week. And if you want to let us know about a show on the horizon, or share any other feedback, drop us a line!

Spotlight: Christian McBride’s New Jawn — Dec. 3, Penn Live Arts

First, a truism: every band in the rotating stable of bassist Christian McBride is worth catching live. But with the New Jawn — a pianoless quartet featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, and drummer Nasheet Waits — he manages a rare synthesis between earthy groove and exploratory fire. You hear it on Prime, the band’s excellent 2023 studio album, and you can see it in their riveting NPR Tiny Desk Concert. But having experienced the New Jawn in concert at the Big Ears Festival back in the spring, I can personally attest that there’s no substitute for the in-person soul transmission. The only question here is whether McBride himself will be torn between opening curtain and the conclusion of the Eagles-49ers game.

Dec. 3 at 7 p.m., Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut Street, $52.50 to $80; purchase tickets.

Billy Strayhorn Project — Wednesday, Ethical Society of Philadelphia

Vocalist Tyrone Brown leads this tribute to composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn, singing material from his songbook with expert accompaniment from pianist Dave Posmontier, bassist David Brodie and drummer Doug Hirlinger. Violinist Mollie Ducoste will join the ensemble as a featured guest.

Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m., Ethical Society of Philadelphia, 1906 Rittenhouse Square, $15; purchase tickets.

courtesy of the artist

Ikechi Onyenaka — Friday at Independence Blue Cross RiverRink

The sweet-tart, imploring tone that Ikechi Onyenaka favors on alto saxophone may remind you of a few predecessors in the realm of contemporary jazz. Drawing from his R&B-flavored 2021 release The City Dreams EP, he’ll perform as part of the Winterfest Tree Lighting at Independence Blue Cross RiverRink.

Dec. 1 at 6 p.m., Independence Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 South Columbus Boulevard, free with skating session; more information.

J. Michael Harrison Celebrates 30 Years In Radio — Saturday, Vinyl Revival

WRTI’s own J. Michael Harrison commemorates this on-air milestone by celebrating an contemporaneous anniversary: the release of Greg Osby’s album 3-D Lifestyles, which converged modern jazz with hip-hop. Osby will revisit that album in conversation with Harrison during this event, which also features a performance by Bethlehem and Sad Patrick, a duo of vocals, percussion and guitar.

Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., Vinyl Revival, 26 North Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, PA, $20; more information.

Jazz singer April Varner.
courtesy of the artist
Jazz singer April Varner.

April Varner — Saturday, Chris’ Jazz Cafe

A prepossessing young jazz singer with a pure and luminous tone, April Varner recently won the sixth annual Ella Fitzgerald Jazz Vocal Competition, whose jury included one of her most obvious precursors, Jane Monheit. For her turn onstage at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, she’ll have the backing of the Tim Brey Quintet, featuring Brey on piano, Victor North on saxophone, Ben Turner on guitar, Madison Rast on bass and Anwar Marshall on drums.

Dec. 2 at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Chris’ Jazz Cafe, 1421 Sansom Street, $30, $85
and $105, with dinner packages; purchase tickets.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.