Pianist Orrin Evans Organizes Tribute and Benefit Concert for Philly Jazz Bassist Charles Fambrough

Tar Baby (L-R): Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits, Orrin Evans and Stacy Dillard
Charles Fambrough
Charles Fambrough

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On Sunday, December 6, 2009, friends and associates of Philadelphia bassist Charles Fambrough will gather together at the Clef Club in that city to play his music and pay tribute to his legacy. Fambrough, who performed with Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis among others, has been suffering from kidney failure and is received dialysis. The concert will also serve as a benefit to assist Fambrough’s family with the escalating medical bills. Among the artists scheduled to appear are John Blake, Jr., Joe Ford, Orrin Evans, Mike Boone, Justin Faulkner, Jason Shatil, Dwayne Burno, Denise King, Duane Eubanks and others.

The concert is the first in a series called The Philadelphia Artist Deserving of Wider Recognition Concert Series and was organized by pianist Evans, a Philadelphia native who has been saluting deserving and often unheralded artists from the area with extensive posts on his Facebook page. Evans said that the decision to do this concert came about because he wanted to strengthen the connection between Philly jazz’s past and present. “I wanted to do something special to salute Philly jazz musicians,” said Evans. “I love the Eubanks and McBride families but sometimes it seems that they’re the only ones who get celebrated around here. We haven’t always honored our own. I figured the time was right to start with Broski [Fambrough’s nickname] who has been important to a lot of us younger musicians.”

When he first met Fambrough, Evans was working as the music consultant for a club in Philadelphia called Blue Moon Café, doing booking and sound. “It was also the first time I met Ralph Peterson, Uri Caine and Steve Wilson. They were supposed to play with the bassist Kevin Bruce Harris, but Charles subbed for him. I couldn’t believe that all of a sudden I was responsible for the sound for these great musicians. I was really blown away.” Since that time, the two played together at numerous shows around Philadelphia, as well as with Sean Jones and developed a close personal and musical bond.

Fambrough is perhaps best known for being the bassist in the same Art Blakey band that featured the Marsalis brothers. He went on to play extensively with both Wynton and Branford. Fambrough was also a member of the McCoy Tyner group that featured fellow Philadelphians John Blake on violin and Joe Ford on saxophone. Both Blake and Ford will be performing at the benefit on Sunday at the Clef Club. Evans said that the first part of the concert will feature a house band of Blake, Ford, Shatil (and Evans) on piano, Mike Boone on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums. That group will be performing Fambrough’s compositions. The rest of the concert will be a celebration of the music that the various players shared over the years.

Evans has plans to continue these concerts to recognize many past Philadelphia local musicians who may not have gotten their due. “Part of the reason for this is to give props to these guys and expose them to a wider audience, but I also want to expose them to younger musicians who may not have gotten the chance to see them. I was lucky enough to see or know people like Shirley Scott, Arthur Harper and Billy James. I want younger musicians to know about people like Bootsie Barnes or Edgar Bateman. This is a great way to do that.”

The benefit concert takes place from 3 pm to 6 pm on Sunday. The Clef Club is located at the corner of Broad and Fitzwater Streets, at the southern tip of the downtown arts district in Philadelphia, Pa. The phone number is (215) 893-9912. The ticket price is $15 and all proceeds go to Fambrough’s family.

For those who are outside the Philadelphia area or unable to attend Sunday’s benefit, donations to assist with Fambrough’s medical bills can be sent to:

88 Keys Production

ATT. Fambrough

PO Box 6510

Phila Pa 19138.

Checks should be made payable to “Dolores Fambrough,” the bassist’s spouse.