Sep 15, 2014
The William Way LGBT Community Center, with generous support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, is proud to launch the official website for OutBeat: America's First Queer Jazz Festival. Tickets for the festival, which is set to take place from Thursday, September 18 to Sunday, September 21, are now available for purchase at OutBeatJazzFest.com, including VIP Weekend Passes, Standard Weekend Passes, and Individual Tickets. Check out the website for an updated schedule with exciting new headliners.
The Jazz world has notoriously lagged behind other musical communities in welcoming LGBT artists. Whether it was the machismo of male instrumental soloists or the femme fatale persona adopted by so many female singers, there seemed little room for the gay man or woman in jazz.
Things changed slowly. To quote from a particularly on-point article from JazzTimes in 2001:
Political correctness may keep most educated liberals from calling anyone a “faggot” anymore, but how much have attitudes really changed? Some attention was drawn to the question in the ’90s, when three outstanding jazz musicians—pianist Fred Hersch, vibraphonist Gary Burton and singer-pianist Andy Bey—all came out publicly as gay men. Patricia Barber, a much-heralded singer-pianist and an open lesbian, showed her nerve by recording Paul Anka’s love song “She’s a Lady” on her 1998 album Modern Cool. Two years earlier came Lush Life, David Hajdu’s biography of arranger-composer Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), one of the very few openly gay jazzmen of his (or any) time. Duke Ellington, his creative partner, called Strayhorn “my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine.”
More than a dozen years later, there is a full-fledged weekend festival celebrating LGBT performers, and the event looks like a doozy. Kicking off the festival on Thursday, renowned pianist Fred Hersch will be interviewed by New York Times music critic Nate Chinen, followed by a special kickoff reception and fundraiser, all taking place in the centrally located William Way Center in Philadelphia's Gayborhood. On Friday, the Fred Hersch Trio will perform as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's popular "Art After Five" series. The evening will conclude with "Lush Life: Philadelphia Celebrates Billy Strayhorn," a showcase of Philadelphia's finest musicians, vocalists, and poets celebrating the life of Duke Ellington's longtime collaborator, pianist, composer, and arranger, Billy Strayhorn.
Saturday will begin with a pre-concert discussion with singer/pianist Patricia Barber and drummer Bill Stewart, moderated by JazzTimes' critic John Murph. Stewart's quartet will perform following the discussion at The Painted Bride Art Center. Also performing that evening is Grammy® Award-winning drummer Terri Lyne Carrington at Chris' Jazz Café with material from her Money Jungle project.
The first of its kind festival will culminate on Sunday with a marathon event at Philadelphia's Union Transfer. Performers will include Carrington, Barber, Andy Bey performing solo, Jennifer Leitham Trio, Dena DeRose Trio, the music of Drew Paralic, David Coss Quartet, Ben Flint and more.
OutBeat would once again like to thank the William Way LGBT Community Center and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and would also like to welcome our new sponsors and partners: JazzTimes, Philadelphia Gay News, Coors Light, Brooklyn Brewery, Union Transfer, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Painted Bride Art Center, Alexander Inn, and Sonesta Hotel. “Philadelphia has enjoyed a legacy of being a great music city. We’re also a city that affirms the lives of LGBT people,” says Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. “Hosting the first LGBT jazz festival in North America provides an opportunity to showcase the rich and vibrant culture of our city. We’ll be celebrating all of this for 4 days in September with OutBeat. I hope to see you there!”