April 12, 2022
A long-standing venue dedicated to preserving jazz music is holding its first concert in over two years later this month.
The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts is hosting Pentad, a quintet led by Germantown native and drummer Johnathan Blake, on Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. The event is the official reopening of the institution, which closed in February of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the club is about more than just putting on concerts. It will also bring back its wide array of youth-centric educational programming that includes ensembles, lessons and a summer camp, which aim to pass jazz on to a new generation.
It was that programming that set Blake on track to become a professional musician.
“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,” Blake said in a press release. "It’s kind of a full circle moment for me to come back and do this homecoming/reopening show with my own band."
The drummer is the son of South Philly jazz violinist John Blake, Jr., who played alongside some big names in the local scene like McCoy Tyner, a pianist, composer and five-time Grammy award winner.
The last two years have been a challenge for the club, said Lovett Hines, PCC's artistic director.
“The lockdown and various COVID-19 related protocols over the last two years greatly hindered the Clef Club’s mission," he said. “We lost 95% of our revenue."
The club was founded in 1966 by the Musicians' Protective Union Local #274, which was created in 1935 by Black performers who were excluded from the existing local musicians' union.
Hines began crafting the nonprofit's educational programming in 1985. Notable alumni include jazz bassist and seven-time Grammy award winner Christian McBride and two members of hip-hop band the Roots.
"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," Hines said.
Tickets to Pentad's show at 736 S Broad St. cost $35 and can be purchased on the Clef Club's website. Vaccination cards and masks will be required at the event.