An advanced SOLD OUT crowd turned out to pay honor to South Philadelphia's own Eddie Lang and to enjoy 5 hours of music performed by a list of bands and musicians.
The evening started with a welcome speech by Richard Barnes , coordinator of the event ( BlckbrdSocOrch@comcast.net ) and a brief history of Lang's life . This night the music was going to do the talking. Barnes opened the show with "April Kisses" and unknown to the audience , was wearing the Star Sapphire pinky ring worn by Lang that was given to him by Bing Crosby ( see photo above). Barnes also played "A Little Love, a Little Kiss". Joined by violinist Michael Salsburg ( playing the role of Joe Venuti) the duo sailed through "Wild Cat" and were the joined by Ed Wise ( bass) and John Southard ( piano) to perform "Black and Blue Bottom".
Next up was guitarist Pat Mercuri , playing the elegant "Prelude in C#m" ( Rachmoninoff).
This was follwed by a group of students from Wissahickon High School called 521 Swing. They performed 3 songs displaying great talent at a young age, and what children can do when they discover music at a young age.
It was then offically time to start the evening off. Barnes read the Proclamation issued by Mayor Michael Nutter's office declaring it officially "Eddie LAng Day in Philadelphia" and presented it to Lang's nephew Ed Massaro.
And then it happened.. Probably the first time in Philadelphia since the 1930s , "Jazz Age" music filled the street ! Members of Ferko String Band assembled around the main stage while the 11pc Blackbird Society Orchestra watched as they played "Happy Days are Here Again!", "Four Leaf Clover", "Somebody Stole My Gal"....finally they broke into "Idolizing" the 1928 Jean Goldkette classic that featured Lang & Venuti. When they ended their version BSO counted in without missing a beat and presented their 20s style authentic version of the song. On the last chorus Ferko joined back in and together they brought it to a climatic end !
Blackbird Society Orchestra then presented a 1 hour set of obscure tunes from the 1926-31 era of Jazz including "Get Out and Get Under the Moon", "Baby Oh Where Can You Be?", "She's a Great Great Girl", "Variety Stomp", "There Aint No Land Like Dixieland to Me ", "Burnin the Iceburg", "Im More Than Satisfied" and "Happy Feet".
Following BSO was legendary guitarist/singer Marty Grosz joined by guitarist Jim Gicking who performed a 40minute set of solos and duets. Grosz could do no wrong and received a lively ovation .
Up next was Cornbread Five , a smaller version of Philadelphia's Hoppin John Orchestra, led by Mike Hood . Hood also teaches at Wissahicken and directs 521 Swing. Their 40 min set included classic Jazz songs as well as an original written by Hood.
Rounding out the evening was Jef Lee Johnson joined by Jon Dichter. The duo performed a set of songs Lang recorded under the name of Blind WIllie Dunn with Lonnie Johnson. These songs were featured on the 2008 CD on the Range Records label.
Look for next years first "Eddie LAng Jazz Festival" to come to Philadelphia . For more info email me ( see top ) or visit the website as it's updated http://www.eddielangjazzfestival.com/
Thank you to everyone involved for making this such an amazing evening !