Philadelphia Art Alliance Blog

Review of Odean Pope performance in Phila Inquirer!

Our good pal A.D. Amorosi was kind enough to write this sweet review piece on Friday night’s Sold Out Odean Pope/Sunny Murray performance in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.  Click the link here to check it out or just read below:

Odean Pope at the Art Alliance

By A.D. Amorosi

For The Inquirer

Saxophone colossus Odean Pope is not aging gracefully

That’s a compliment.

The Philadelphia tenor axman, 70, is renowned for devout Coltrane-like muscularity and tonal sensitivity; versatility as a leader, whether it’s the nine reeds of his churchy Saxophone Choir or the cinematic funk of Catalyst; and potency in sessions with rhythmatists Max Roach and Art Blakey.

Pope showed during Friday’s Ars Nova Workshop show at the Philadelphia Art Alliance that he continues to breathe fire, improvising while holding dear each melody as if in a lover’s embrace.

Pope caressed every tuneful phrase, from the gentle arpeggio and subtone-blown warmth of his solo on the self-penned ballad “Tall Grass” to his hasty, tasty blips of Coltrane and Monk. He let each melodic phrase run away for a playful moment, entreating it with a deep skronk or a soft high squeak, before pulling each back for another warm kiss. Pope showed affection for Clifford Brown by emulating, then reinventing, the bop trumpeter’s complex riffs.

Half the credit for that passion and inventiveness went to Pope’s duet partner, Sunny Murray, 72. The free drummer and composer worked with giants (Albert Ayler, Don Cherry) and has turned percussion into a punctuation-heavy conversation rather than mere keeping time. Friday night was no different. But Murray, an engaging leader with albums under his name since 1965, didn’t just make weird rhythm or monologues out of odd propulsion, though he could be heard mumbling and chanting during Pope’s quietest subtone solos. Murray pursued a fascinating chatter with Pope, engaging the saxophonist in dialogue even when he seemed to be drumming to himself. Where Pope was cool and scholarly, Murray was a portrait of chance with cymbal rides loud, rim shots tap-dancey, and brush strokes splashy. At one point, Murray’s sticks on his snare’s skins sounded as if he were sanding silk.

Sauntering scattered moments like Murray’s “An Even Break (Never Give a Sucker)” turned into something like a free-jazz My Dinner With Andre, with its principles winding through existential dilemmas, random circumstance, and matters of the heart.


PEI Planning Grant Awarded to PAA!!

We are very pleased to announce our recent award of a planning grant through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative (PEI) for an upcoming exhibition involving the Miss Rockaway Armada (MRA).   Although this is only the first of many stages to bring this exhibition concept to life, we figured it best to let you all know about what we are up to.  Here is a description of the proposed exhibition:

“Let Me Tell You About The Dream I Had” by The Miss Rockaway Armada will present a newly commissioned installation throughout the galleries of the Philadelphia Art Alliance, along with musical and theatrical performances, and a mobile outdoor component for the exhibition. The indoor and outdoor elements will address the unique features of the historical building as a residence, as well as its relationship to Rittenhouse Square, and will explore the resurgence of interest in the handmade and the ways in which it expands current definitions of what is craft.

The Miss Rockaway Armada is a group of performers and artists from across the country, including members of other artist collectives such as the Toy Shop Collective, Visual Resistance, The Amateurs, The Floating Neutrinos, among many others. Formed in the summer months of 2006, the Armada converged in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to construct a flotilla of rafts that journeyed down the Mississippi River in 2006 and 2007. With the intent to create a new sustainable mode of travel as well as to present programs regarding arts and environmental issues, the project stopped in towns along the river to present musical performances and vaudeville variety-theater. The artists described the goal of this two-year project as “a live-by-example approach to creating change within American culture by soliciting dialogue around subversive and constructive ways of living.”

three musicians perform a vaudeville style show during the journey

three musicians perform a vaudeville style show during the journey

Here is video of the floatilla:

“Let Me Tell You About the Dream I Had” will focus on three issues that appropriately meshes the mission of the PAA with the impetus behind the activities of the collective. First, the exhibition will be specific to Philadelphia and its history. Because the PAA is situated across from Rittenhouse Square, early discussions have considered investigating the rather adventurous and inventive personality of David Rittenhouse, the renowned 18th century astronomer, inventor, mathematician, surveyor, and scientific instrument craftsman. However, additional interests specific to the history of the City will also be taken into consideration. Second, the collective will consider the historical features of the PAA building as an aesthetic launching point for both the indoor and outdoor components of the exhibition, making the unique aspects of the building a focal point of the installation. Initial ideas for the outdoor component have included a bicycle-powered vaudeville theater that could travel and perform for other communities in Philadelphia. Third, the project by The Miss Rockaway Armada will be exemplary of the new grass-roots approach to craft that has re-surfaced within the last decade, which has deep roots within craft history. With a focus on community and political activism, this movement has ties to the earliest goals of the Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century. William Morris hoped to create a brotherhood of designers and makers who would pursue the ideal of creating “utopian communities” by creating “art made by the people and for the people, a joy to the maker and the user.” This social reform aspect is the driving force behind such collectives as The Miss Rockaway Armada. Their goal through their projects is basic and calls for fundamental social change:

“We want to create: to invent a new sustainable way to travel, to demonstrate different ways of living and moving that are friendlier to the environment and to each other, to indulge in that essential urge to make something out nothing. We want to meet people: to learn from new folks along the way, to teach what we know, to share our art, our music and our performance, and to make new friends. Finally, for adventure: to reclaim and reinvent the old American urge to strike out and discover the vast, mysterious land we inhabit and see it for ourselves.”

We will be posting more details on this whimsical new exhibition as soon as we can so check back soon!  Next up in exhibitions news, the coming Fall 2009 exhibition.  Stay Tuned!!

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June Membership News!

The Philadelphia Art Alliance is excited to add new benefits to membership featuring exciting opportunities and exclusive discounts within our building and at various partner businesses right here in town! Whether you are considering joining as a new member or you are one of our continued supporters we welcome you to take a glance at what PAA membership now offers you! New membership benefits include discounts at The Art Shop at Moore College of Art and Design, Utrecht Art Supply, and Cadence Restaurant at the the Kimmel Center.

And if we may suggest…

Utrecht Art Supply of Philadelphia is having a special event at the Broad Street store on Saturday June, 6th from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. This event will highlight affordable products that can be used to present your artwork! Products will be demonstrated and samples will be available while supplies last. This is an excellent information-packed networking event sure to help you make new contacts in the Philadelphia Arts Community. If you would like to attend, please RSVP by email to

Present your Work Event