A typically vacant grass area near Penn will soon be throbbing with eclectic sounds of jazz, funk and Balkan brass.
Every summer the University City District, the Rotunda and Penn host the 40th Street Summer Series, a lineup of free monthly concerts from June to September. Complimentary Rita’s Water Ice will be served during performances and free antique photos will be taken for concertgoers by mobile photobooth Tsirkus Fotografika.
Each concert is scheduled for the fourth Saturday in June to September starting at 6 p.m. Internationally-renowned ensembles including Slavic Soul Party, The Sun Ra Arkestra, Adventuredrum and the Warriors of the Wonderful Sound will take the stage on the green field at 40th and Walnut streets.
The mission of the series is “to bring the educational, institutional world east of 40th Street and the neighborhood and community world west of 40th Street together,” said UCD Communications Manager Mark Christman. “We want to keep elevating 40th Street and make the case that it truly is a great Philly destination.”
On June 23, the first featured ensemble will be Slavic Soul Party, “a big band that does a lot of Balkan, Eastern European party music,” Christman said. Originally from New York, Slavic Soul Party has performed throughout North America, Europe, and Africa.
The Sun Ra Arkestra, a 60-year-old jazz band, will return for the third time at the series on July 28. Inspired by the work of Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson, the Arkestra creates avant-garde collective improvisation, or free jazz.
Adventuredrum is a side project of Christopher Sean Powell, the drummer from the rock band Man Man. Primarily based in Philadelphia, Adventuredrum is a new dance band that brings together local musicians to mix new, exotic sounds with traditional drumming.
In celebration of jazz musician John Coltrane’s birthday, Warriors of the Wonderful Sound will feature saxophone musicians Dave Liebman and Odean Pope in performing Coltrane’s famous “A Love Supreme” on September 22.
Rising Engineering junior Mark Eisen, who had not heard of the series before, expressed interest in attending. “Sun Ra Arkestra has really interesting music,” he said. “It’s kind of groundbreaking with jazz.”
He added, “It’s a free show, so I’m less picky with what I’m seeing and I’m much more willing to experiment with different types of music.”
Rising College junior Alexis Thompson said that she is not planning on attending the concert series. “I think some people would enjoy it but it’s not the kind of music I’d like to hear at a concert,” she said.
Christman said that he hopes to see more diversity at this year’s summer series. “I want this to be the most popular outdoor concert series in Philadelphia,” he said. “I want to see folks come together … and experience other aspects of what University City has to offer.”