The Philadelphia Clef Club is one of America’s greatest centers for jazz. For more than 60 years, the Philadelphia Clef Club has played host to some of the top jazz musicians and served as place for young individuals to learn the fundamentals of the music.

The Philadelphia Clef Club’s James Dennis recently discussed the organization’s legacy and the importance of keeping jazz alive. –amir shaw

How did the Philadelphia Clef Club come into existence? 

It has a long history that goes back to the 1940s. There were two segregated unions in jazz. This was a social club for the black musicians. There is only one union now. A lot of famous musicians have played or visited the Philadelphia Clef Club. Guys such as John Coltrane and the Heath Brothers have been a part of this organization in some compacity.

Why is it important to keep the legacy of jazz alive?

It’s important to introduce jazz to a younger generation because it’s our culture and history. Jazz is an art form born and bred through the African American culture. It’s a true American art form. It’s important to preserve that. The biggest problem in jazz is that there are kids who study it in college and there aren’t many venues for them to play at. Back in the 1950s, musicians came of age by playing at clubs. We need more facilities that will allow jazz musicians to display there art.

How has the Philadelphia Clef Club helped the students who join?

It’s important for the Philadelphia Clef Club to be a place for kids. Jazz requires discipline, research and study. It will help shape your life to become a better person. That’s what I’m most proud of. The kids are humble and are curious about things in other areas such as politics and business. So it’s something that’s needed now and into the future.

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