Music is back at Clef Club

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Photo by David Ellis

After two years of lockdown, the music has returned to the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.

The iconic venue at 736 S. Broad St. has been closed for the entirety of the pandemic but will reopen on April 23 with a performance by Germantown native Jonathan Blake and his band Pentad.

The official grand reopening is set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for the first major concert at the Clef Club in more than two years.

“The lockdown and various COVID-19 related protocols over the last two years greatly hindered the Clef Club’s mission to celebrate and preserve the legacy of jazz through accessible education, talent development and public performances, as we were forced to close in February 2020,“ said Lovett Hines, artistic director. “We lost 95% of our revenue, which includes concert tickets, rentals and concessions, but we’re now looking forward to welcoming the public and students back into our building to continue our legacy of preserving jazz history and educating and nurturing young talent.”

The Clef Club 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 union because Black musicians were denied membership in the racially segregated Local #77.

Members included John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Grover Washington Jr. and Nina Simone. 

In 1985, the institution established a world-class music education program, developed by Hines, which was open to youth and adults participants to participate in a broad program of private instruction, master class, ensembles, summer jazz camp and performance. Some of the names that passed through include multi-Grammy winner Christian McBride, multi-Grammy nominated Orrin Evans and Joey DeFrancesco, Jaleel Shaw, Immanuel Wilkens, Joseph Block, Yessah Furaha-Ali and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Kamal Grey of the Roots.

Blake is another.

“I joined the Clef Club when I was 14 years old and I benefited tremendously from its programs at such a young and impressionable age,” said Blake. “PCC was doing outreach programs for younger kids and exposing young Philadelphians to the arts who might not otherwise be able to experience live music. I credit Lovett for instilling my love for composition. In addition, Philly has always been a huge melting pot for the arts, and PCC did not turn anybody away. I formed lifelong bonds with other students and embraced all types of music. It’s kind of a full circle moment for me to come back and do this homecoming/reopening show with my own band. It’s the ultimate sign of the kind of impact Lovett and PCC has made in my life.”

Blake’s concert will also feature Immanuel Wilkins, Steve Nelson, David Virelles and Ben Street. Tickets can be purchased at https://clefclubofjazz.org/event/johnathan-blake-jazz-cultural-voices-concert-series.