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Kimmel Center Announces New Jazz Residency Teams, Focus On Social Justice Issues

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Kimmel Center Announces New Jazz Residency Teams, Focus On Social Justice Issues

The Kimmel Center Cultural Campus has announced three new Jazz Residency teams for the 2019-20 season: Ruth Naomi Floyd (Composer/Vocals) and Charles "Chaz" Lattimore Howard (Lyricist/Poet); Immanuel Wilkins (Composer/Saxophone) with Rog Walker (Photographer) and David Dempewolf (Video Installation); and Richard Hill Jr. (Composer/Voice/Bass). Each team will create a new, relevant, and engaging "Philly Made" work for the community. In the Kimmel Center Jazz Residency's seventh consecutive year, all three of these original pieces will focus on the relationship of Philadelphia against a social issue, including the homelessness issue, the introspective examination of one's cultural identity as a citizen, and a futuristic look at neighborhoods.

"I am so proud of the Kimmel Center's ongoing Jazz Residency program; in its seventh consecutive year, we continue building a legacy of new jazz in Philadelphia by fostering local musicians, writers, thinkers, and more," said Anne Ewers, President & CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. "16 world premieres have resulted from this Residency Program, the culmination of a lengthy creative process involving public workshops, student teaching opportunities, and audience feedback. We relish witnessing past Residency participants continue to flourish, growing as artists and influencing the jazz form both here and around the world."

Jazz has a long history as a catalyst for social change. Ruth Naomi Floyd (Composer/Vocals) and Charles "Chaz" Lattimore Howard (Lyricist/Poet) will use jazz to hold a mirror to Philadelphia's engagement with its unhoused population, while working with Aaron Graves (Piano), Nasir Dickerson (Soprano & Tenor Saxophones), Lee Smith (Double Bass & Electric Bass Guitar), Aaron Mingo (Rapper), Khary Abdul-Shaheed (Drums), and Dania Hallak (Additional Vocals). Through music, lyric, and spoken word, the pair, along with their collaborators, are asking questions, opening a dialogue, and creating a body of work that allows these individuals to truly be seen.

"The timing of this musical work is significant because it will allow us the opportunity to share our combined artistic languages with new audiences and communities. Homelessness is an intractable urgent issue," said Ruth Naomi Floyd. "We've entitled our project Dissent Descent: Jazz from The Bottom and seek to communicate a powerful message about homelessness in Philadelphia...we are illustrating both the content as well as the purpose of this performance. This is not meant to be music produced exclusively for those who can afford tickets of admission, neither is this music some kind of affirmation of the upward climb for success, popularity, wealth, and influence. Rather [it] is aimed downward and is meant to be produced and performed from the perspective of being at 'the bottom' of society."

Immanuel Wilkins (Composer/Saxophone) with Rog Walker (Photography) and David Dempewolf (Video Installation) will explore through music and visual art how Philadelphia has shaped the cultural foundation of his identity, while working with band members Micah Thomas (Piano), Daryl Johns (Bass), and Kweku Sumbry (Drums). Through combining Wilkins' musical influences in jazz, gospel, and R&B with field recordings and visual arts, audiences can expect an immersive experience and a fresh take on what the next generation of jazz in Philadelphia looks and sounds like.

"Identity is about Philadelphia being a cultural foundation for me, as well as the many subcultures of Philadelphia serving as the DNA for the city itself," said Immanuel Wilkins. "The personal transformations over my lifetime have been shaped by the communities I was involved in - the church, the music community - I was playing in church, R&B bands as well as the Avant Garde scene while also playing straight ahead jazz - there were many things made available to me. Not only just musically, but also socially. I lived in the suburbs most of my life but I 'grew up' in the inner city. So, a lot of this work is about making sense of those two worlds as well - going back and forth between friend groups in the city and suburbs - this became a serious pillar for my identity."

Richard Hill Jr. (Composer/Voice/Bass) - alongside band members Jim Holton (Cello, Keyboard), Gusten Rudolph (Drums), Elliot Bild (Trumpet) Nasir Dickerson (Saxophone, EWI), Kwame Geez (Saxophone), Mollie Ducoste (Violin), Owen Valentine (Violin), Zoe Lynch (Violin), Lovett Hines (Educator), Sumi Tonooka (Piano ), and Cheryl Hill-Herder (Spoken word artist) - is creating a futuristic look of Philadelphia's neighborhoods. Bookended by music that the audience helps compose, Hill and his band are transporting audiences to 2050 to experience what Philadelphia's North, South, West, Northeast, and Center City neighborhoods will sound like through musical dance rhythms. .

"As Charlie Parker said, 'Now is the Time'. [My project is] the dance of diversity. This suite will use rhythms of various micro communities in Philadelphia," said Richard Hill Jr. "I want this piece to encourage children and adults to take a moment and embrace the diversity that Philadelphia offers." Talking about risk: "I like to use meters that are not common. As an artist and composer, it is my duty to push the envelope."

The 2019-20 Jazz Residency musicians were selected by a six-person panel made up of some of this country's most prominent jazz minds - including Dr. Aaron Flagg, Chair & Associate Director of Juilliard Jazz in New York City; Lonnie Davis, President & CEO of Jazz Arts Initiative in Charlotte, North Carolina; Georgina Javor, Assistant Director for Programming, Concerts, and Touring, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City; Ellen Rower, Arthur F. Thurnau and Undergraduate Jazz Coordinator at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Eric Gould, Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; and Jay Wahl, Producing Artistic Director for the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Some highlighted successes of former Kimmel Center Jazz Residents include: a debut album entitled The Fisherman from 2016-17 resident Max Swan; brought to life in WXPN studios as part of WXPN's Key Studio Sessions, Swan worked with his live band/Residency team including guitarists Simon Martinez and Josh Nussbaum, bassist Nick Perri, drummer Lenny Mobley, keyboardist Matt Keppler, and the trombone line of Sam Gellerstein, Nick Lombardelli, and Chris Mele. The Kimmel Center presented Max Swan Presents: MONO//POLY, featuring Suzanne Sheer in the SEI Innovation Studio on December 14, 2018. Following a world tour last year with John Legend, 2015-16 Jazz Resident Korey Riker released his third album in February 2018, a collection of live material titled PTSD Volume 1, which he recorded with his Kimmel Center Residency team. 2016-17 Resident Jawanza Kobie's Bird Stories went on to be presented by the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in May 2017 and The Mann Center in August 2017. 2017-18 Resident Luke Carlos O'Reilly worked on and performed in the Hill-Freedman World Academy benefit concert with a live band in November 2018. The Music Department at Hill-Freedman World Academy had a benefit concert featuring live performances of the songs from What's Going On, the second offering from the school's Hill-Freedman Records label. The money raised from the benefit helped with promoting the current album, as well as fund the next album recorded by students. Since then, O'Reilly has participated in additional Kimmel Center Cultural Campus FREE events, including the monthly Sittin' In: Live Sessions and PNC Grow Up Great, and the recent Traveling Outside the Wire, an afternoon of poetry and performance in partnership with Warrior Writers, in honor of Veterans Day 2019. 2016-17 Resident Joanna Pascale performed the world premiere of her new choral work based on her critically-acclaimed show The Language of Flowers, with unique collaborations between Pascale and the youth of the Sister Cities Girlchoir, at World Café Live in December 2018. This empowering, woman-centered jazz/choral extravaganza draws on material developed during her Jazz Residency with the Kimmel Center. Pascale will return to the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus with The Language of Flowers (April 25, 2020, SEI Innovation Studio), as part of the Jazz @ the Kimmel series.

"This year's Jazz Residency projects truly speak to the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus' mission to engage the region's diverse communities with art through performance and education," said Jay Wahl, Producing Artistic Director of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. "The topics chosen hold significant weight, and the issues being tackled are relevant to Philadelphians of any background. We hope these experiences are catalysts for conversation, spurring audiences to examine these subjects through the perspective of our artists, and appreciate the future potential of jazz both in our city and beyond."

In addition to the Jazz Residency, the Kimmel Center has proudly produced various full-length works born out of its Theater Residency, a 2-week annual intensive in partnership with Joe's Pub at the Public, inviting artists to gather and create new works on the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus. Entering its seventh season in June 2020, these works include: Mary Tuonomen's Hello Sadness!; Jamie Leonhart's Estuary; Ethan Lipton's The Outer Space, which then played at The Public Theater in New York City; Deb Margolin's 8 Stops; Dito Van Reigersberg's Martha Graham Cracker production of Lashed But Not Leashed; Courtnee Roze's The Culture; Martha Stuckey's Due to the Sensitive Nature; Daniel Alexander Jones' BLACK LIGHT; David Sweeny's Johnny Showcase alter-ego in The Johnny Shortcake Show; Molly Pope's Polly Mope; and James' and Jerome's The Conversationalists. Upcoming Theater Residency performances on the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus this season include Martha Graham Cracker's Lashed But Not Leashed album release show, with the Kimmel Center proudly serving as album Executive Producer (December 12, 2019, Perelman Theater); M'Balia Singley's Turn (February 26 - 29, 2020, SEI Innovation Studio); and TWO BLUES: Two Plays (April 2 - 5, 2020, SEI Innovation Studio), a performance featuring two plays, Turquoise and Just Give Me One Half Hour With My Mother, both by Obie Award-winning playwright Deb Margolin. Former Theater Resident Ethan Lipton will return as part of the Jazz @ the Kimmel series with Ethan Lipton & his Orchestra (March 14, 2020, SEI Innovation Studio).

The Kimmel Center has also commissioned visual art, most recently an aerial "papel picado" piece entitled Look Up! Look In. by Mexican-American, Philadelphia-based artist Karina Puente and Karina Puente Arts International. Puente designed 53 hand-cut panels suspended above the Commonwealth Plaza, 5 feet wide and ranging between 6-12 feet long. Look Up! Look In. was a companion to Los Trompos, ten 3D spinning tops from Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999, visiting, or at the Kimmel Center Box Office. More information at

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