Mark Christman made an interesting point when he took over the legendary Boot & Saddle — Broad Street’s epic music venue that closed during the pandemic, but will soon reopen once again.
“South Philly has undergone a rich transformation that makes that area nearly Center City,” said Christman, Executive and Artistic Director of the Ars Nova Workshop, a Philadelphia-based, free jazz-focused music presenter.
“Boot & Saddle is on the Avenue of the Arts which is, itself, now something of a jazz corridor with the Clef Club, Chris’ Jazz Café, South Jazz Parlor, the High School of the Performing Arts and Temple U’s WRTI-FM on the block. We’re in good company,” he said.
Though not jazz, per se, another longtime live venue of the past – The Dolphin Tavern – until recently an intimate, but loudly colorful room for DJ nights and dancing, also just opened it stages to live shows.
And with that, Broad Street has become a center of Philadelphia’s live music universe.
Until this new homebase in South Philadelphia, the live showcase that Ars Nova Workshop (ANW) created for jazz legends such as Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor was a moveable entity throughout the city. Now, Christman says “at least 92% of what Ars Nova does, going forward, is occurring at Boot & Saddle. And it will all reward the curious.”
The soon-to-be reopened Boot & Saddle will offer a hangout for under 300 patrons in its live performance room, and more in its bar-restaurant area run by chef-partner Evan Clancy.
“Ars Nova is not getting into the bar business, but does host a modest restaurant, liquor and retail presence,” says Christman, who hinted that organic, natural wine will be a part of the Boot & Saddle’s new culinary display.
The upcoming schedule of gigs includes NYC-based drummer William Parker and his Trio, newly-anointed ANW Chief Creative Catalyst and bassist Anthony Tidd’s Quite Sane ensemble, Philadelphia drummer (and The War on Drugs member) Charlie Hall’s all-star gathering celebrating the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis’ On the Corner, and an Ars Nova commission from Nels Cline – of Wilco fame – in a fresh quartet setting.
“Creativity is at the center of all of this at Boot & Saddle, whether its improvised music or natural wine,” says Christman. “When you are at Boot & Saddle, even without a show, there is a sense of place defined by Ars Nova’s values.”