Two Philly jazz giants team up to support the future of music

Chris Jazz Cafe
Chris Jazz Cafe

Chris’ Jazz Café has been providing Philadelphians with the gift of jazz music since its opening in 1989.

The institution has held a special place in many music lovers’ hearts for years and has even seen some of the genre’s greatest musicians belting their own original music and some classics from the likes of John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Ethel Waters. With that much pull and with such a dedicated regular crowd, the tiny but mighty café located right in the heart of the city on Sansom Street has an impact.

So, it makes sense that a fundraiser helping to keep the genre and another historic establishment alive has lured many talented performers to do what they can — and it kicks off later this month. 

The fundraiser, also known as the ultimate Philadelphia musical duet (that’s what the  café is calling it), will bring Chris’ and the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts (PCC) together. The two legendary icons in the history of the city’s jazz scene will partner up on Thursday, Jan. 13 from 7 to 11 p.m.

As a news release states, the fundraiser will be in the form of a live and live-streamed show, and it will showcase alumni of the Clef Club who have become musical luminaries and internationally acclaimed artists in their field. All of funds raised will then be donated to the Clef Club to help its mission of preserving the legacy of jazz through accessible education.

“The Clef Club is such an integral part of Philadelphia’s jazz community. They’re nurturing the young talent that keeps the music alive, plus many of their students eventually make their way to our stage. We feel that it is one of the most important ways that we can contribute to this ongoing process of keeping jazz relevant in Philadelphia,” said Mark DeNinno, chef and owner of Chris’ Jazz Café, in a statement.

Lovett HinesCourtesy of Tim Koen

The Clef Club, much like Chris’, has a rich history. It was founded in 1966 by members of Musicians’ Protective Union Local 274, the American Federation of Musicians. Local 274 was chartered in 1935 as a separate Black local because Black musicians were denied membership in the racially segregated Local 77, the website states. The club also held the title of the longest surviving independent Black musicians’ union in the United States, and membership rolls included jazz greats like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Grover Washington Jr. and Nina Simone, to name a few. 

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Chris’ Jazz Café on this fundraiser,” noted Lovett Hines, artistic director of PCC, in another statement. “When I first started the educational program, I had two students. Over the past several decades, the Clef Club jazz education program has grown to serve thousands of students in the Delaware Valley who have gone on to become successful professional musicians. Funds raised will also go towards our capital campaign to renovate and upgrade our cultural facility at 736 South Broad Street on the Avenue of the Arts.”

Audiences have flocked from all 50 states and 160 countries to see performances at the Café, and, this go-around, the livestream will once again offer a stage for global audiences to support a good cause. One that will continue to fund talented creatives that bring music to our ears. Those who tune in on the 13th can check out Immanuel Wilkins on the saxophone, Kyree Rasheed on the drums, Micha Graves on the piano and many, many others working the trumpet, vocals, bass and guitar.

The price of admission is $25 per person. Tickets can be purchased at “Pay-as-you-wish” streaming is also available via or Venmo: @ChrisJazz-Café. For the live show at 1421 Sansom St., all guests must show proof of vaccination with a photo ID to gain entry.

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