THE PHILADELPHIA PHENOMENA:
Elliott Levin- reeds, words
Jamaaladeen Tacuma- bass
Calvin Weston- drums
All photos in this listing by Jaci Downs Photography - www.JaciDowns.com
People may be aware of The Sound Of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Story, The Philadelphia Experiment, even The Young Philadelphians... but THE PHILADELPHIA PHENOMENA is the unique high-energy, earth-rooted, astral travelling original and spontaneous harmolodic compositional sounds of these 3 musicians born and long-based in Philadelphia but extending throughout the World, if not the Universe.
If one was to believe descriptive snippets, the thing to do when Elliott Levin approaches is find a place to hide. In a worst case scenario, try to climb a tree -- at least, that is the advice hikers would receive about the oncoming approach of something "ferocious...frenzied...bearlike." However, the comparison with bears is based on the size and appearance of the Philadelphia performer, while the other adjectives are filling one of their more esoteric purposes in the English language, attempting to describe just what it is free jazz performers do when they blow into their horns. Whatever it is, Levin does a lot of it, on tenor saxophone and flute. He also has a quite active career as a published poet and likes to combine the two aesthetics in his performances, much to the delight of the growing live poetry audience and to the chagrin of hipsters who insist jazz poetry is a form of torture, worse than cold showers. Other listeners might find the entire free jazz experience itself torture, in which case it's back to the beginning as far as advice regarding Levin: there is nothing watered-down or weak about his performances, no attempt to make the music a bit more accessible to the novices, tender-hearted or just plain wimpy. He also doesn't seem to play music as if it was connected to some kind of career strategy, other than to just play all the time. Besides playing professionally with a variety of groups, embarking on semi-regular journeys around the country, he also jams. No description of the Philly jazz scene exists that does not include something along the lines of "And Elliott Levin has been known to sit in, buggin' out with his sax and flute..." A Philadelphia drummer described Levin as "the guy that calls you at two in the morning, wanting you to haul your drums over to some jam session."
Levin grew up in Philly, but studied music and creative writing on the west coast at the University of Oregon. He took private lessons with a former Philadelphia Orchestra saxophonist, Michael Guera, and embarked on further research with the great jazz pianist, Cecil Taylor, in whose groups Levin has also performed. Claire Polin is Levin's primary instructor on flute. The weekend grocery list of Levin credits includes playing with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes for a decade as the saxophonist in the Sound of Philadelphia band, as well as with Odean Popes' Saxophone Choir, Tyrone Hill, Don Preston, Scram!, New Ghost, Atzilut (Fourth World), Talking Free Bebop, and various collaborations with bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma. Levin's gigs with Taylor included the groups Phthongas and Unit Core Ensemble, and he can be heard on the Taylor FMP album Live in Berlin. On the poetry scene he has performed with Miguel Algarin, Gloria Tropp, Mbali Umoja, Marty Watt, and Frank Messina. Levin has published several books of his verse, which also appears in publications such as L.A. Weekly, Blue Beat Jacket, The Painted Word, Po' Fly, Vital Pulse, and Poets and Prophets. He has received awards from New American Radio in New York, The City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, and the California Endowment for the Humanities.
Few musicians leave their audiences with a feeling that they have truly witnessed something amazing. Artist/Producer/Performer/Arranger/Innovator AND Bassist - JAMAALADEEN TACUMA does just that. This native Philadelphian has always stretched the old mold of what and how a bassist is supposed to play. Tacuma has simply re-defined his instrument's artistic potential.In the mid 70's, his creatively free approach to the bass caught the eye and ear of the legendary saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Tacuma became a member of Coleman's electric band, Prime Time, he toured with the group and played on some of Coleman's historic recordings such as: "Dancing In Your Head", "Body Meta", and "Of Human Feelings". As a soloist, Tacuma continued to press the musical envelope with his debut album in 1983 entitled simply, "Showstopper". Several records followed, some of which include: Renaissance Man (1984), Music World (1987) and JukeBox (1989), Cosmetic, Boss of The Bass, which confirmed his ability to flip between various musical genres. Even the critics have had high praise for Tacuma's musicianship and artistry. One year he received the highest number of votes ever for an electric bassist in the "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" category of the Down Beat critics' poll.
Tacuma has performed and recorded and collaborated with musicians on nearly every continent such as Japan, Korea, Europe and the Middle East. In September 2007, Jamaaladeen released a new recording entitled "THE FLAVORS OF THELONIOUS MONK RELOADED" paying musical homage to the great pianist composer Thelonious Monk and also releasing a new recording in October 2007 with "FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS" a trio with guitarist Vernon Reid (Living Color),and G. Calvin Weston (John Laurie, Medeski, Martin & Wood) on drums entitled "URBAN MYTHOLOGY" on Thirsty Ear Records. He has also played and produced for many American and European Jazz/Funk musicians. Furthermore, the release "Mirakles" by Derrick Bailey, G. Calvin Weston & Tacuma was cited as one of the "most important recordings of year 2000" by All Music Guide. He also recently completed a recording entitled "DUST" with BAUHAUS member Peter Murphy on the Metropolis label. He is also featured as writer and co-producer on the new 2006 release of the World Saxophone Quartet's album on Justin Time Records entitled "Political Blues" with a song by Jamaaladeen entitled "BLUE DIAMOND" Tacuma has collaborated with a diverse and talented roster of artists: Guitarists Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Marc Ribot, James Blood Ulmer, Jean Paul Bourelly and Derek Bailey.
He has performed and recorded with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, Grover Washington Jr., David Murray, Odean Pope, Wolfgang Puschnig, and James Carter. He has worked with orchestras led by Anthony Davis at Carnegie Hall, to recording and performing with the Hip Hop rap group, The Roots, DJ King Britt and DJ Logic. He has even written music for the hit TV show, "The Cosby Show". He has worked with poets Jayne Cortez, Quincy Troupe, Amiri Baraka and co-wrote and co-produced a song entitled "WOMEN FIRST" with the R&B Neo Soul group from Philadelphia, KINDRED (the family soul) on their new CD recording "IN THIS LIFE TOGETHER", on the Hidden Beach/Motown label (2006). Jamaaladeen has recently explored the music of legendary saxophonist, composer John Coltrane with a preview recording and an extended European tour which featured the British saxophonist and BBC award recipient Tony Kofi. Jamaaladeen's FOR THE LOVE OR ORNETTE released 2010 on his own label was a monumental recording made in honor of his mentor Ornette Coleman. In 2013 Jamaaladeen released Bon Vivant his 2nd studio recording with FREE FORM FUNKY FREQS trio with G. Calvin Weston and Guitarist Vernon Reid on his newly formed recording label Jam All Productions.
In recent years Jamaaladeen has been gaining recognition from some of the Unites States most prestigious artist foundations, 2011 Jamaaladeen received the Pew Arts & Heritage Award, The Marcus Garvey Foundation Award, Uptown Theater Hall of Fame Award 2014. Jamaaladeen has received composer’s residencies at the prestigious MacDowell Colony , Headlands Center for the Arts, and Civitella Rainier Italy, where he composed a new project he will be presenting in 2015. Staying true to his artistic and experimental approach to music, Tacuma is consistently bringing musical happiness to fans World Wide.
G Calvin Weston was born June 6, 1959 in Philadelphia, PA. He became interested in drums at the age of 6, when he (and his neighbors) discovered his talent for rhythm as he beat on every car on the block. He lived in North Philadelphia where he saw musicians like Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five and James Brown at the Uptown Theatre. Seeing his attention focused on the drummers, his Father bought him a small set. In high school Calvin learned to read music and played second snare in the drum ensemble. He co-founded the group Bad Influence which played in cabarets and clubs around Philadelphia.
At 17, Calvin joined Ornette Coleman's Prime Time Band, with bass player Jamalaadean Tacuma, his close friend from Philly, which toured extensively in North America and Europe. After recording four albums with Prime Time, Calvin went on to play and record with guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, until he joined John Luries Lounge Lizards in 1990.
During the late '90s Calvin recorded and toured with Billy Martin of Medeski Martin and Wood, Tricky, Eyvind Kang, Derek Baily, Mark Ribot, and James Carter. He also played on several movie soundtracks including “Get Shorty.” For his latest project, Calvin Weston's Big Tree, Calvin explores the many musical influences of his career as band leader and composer.
He also has a new band with world guitarist, Vernon Reid and bass player, Jamalaadean Tacuma and formed the group freeformfunkyfreqs and there new CD Urban Mythology Volume 1. He also plays with Jean-Paul Bourelly and Melvin Gibbs in the band called Gypsys Reloaded, that toured in March of 2008 and recorded a live CD at the Bimhuis. G. Calvin Weston has played on many recordings including Asmodeus: Book Of Angels Volume 7 with Marc Ribot, Trevor Dunn, and John Zorn.
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