Terell Stafford Quintet At South Jazz Club!

Jazz Buddies,

On Friday night, I made my maiden voyage to South Jazz Club in north Philadelphia to catch the outstanding Terell Stafford Quintet, featuring Tim Warfied (ts/as), Bruce Barth (p), David Wong (b), and Johnathan Blake (d).

Terell, one of the premier trumpeters on the Jazz scene these days, currently holds the prestigious position of Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University only a few blocks north on Broad Street.

I first saw Terrell’s name on several albums in the early-1990s as part of the Bobby Watson & Horizon quintet, featuring drummer Victor Lewis.  And in later years, I saw him ‘live’ several times as part of The Clayton Brothers quintet, featuring bassist John Clayton and alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton. 

Terell, a Miami, Florida native, has been on the faculty at Temple University for 20 years, as well as his two highly-accomplished bandmates, pianist Bruce Barth (26 years, Piano/Composition) and multi-reedist Tim Warfield (Coordinator of the Jazz Masters of Music, Graduate Program).  Terell’s musical associations with bassist David Wong and drummer Johnathan Blake date back to when both were high school students in NYC and Philadelphia, respectively.

And for his effort, the very busy Philly native Jonathan had just flown in from a Kenny Barron Trio performance the night before on the University of Denver campus (and to visit with his mom), only to rejoin the trio on Monday for gigs at Kuumbwa (Santa Cruz) and Jazz Alley (Seattle).

Terell and his high-octane quintet kicked off the 70-minute set with the wonderful up-tempo Victor Lewis 1992 composition, Between Two Worlds, during which Terell, Tim, and Bruce each played extended hair-raising solos that highly energized the sell-out audience.  Had the set ended then and there, many of us would have felt that we got our money’s worth!

Afterward, Terell announced that his newest CD of the same title, which is due out in April, included this tune.

Before the group played the next composition, the popular hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Terell reflected on the tremendous death toll that the pandemic took on the Jazz world, as well as the passing in August (2022) of his great friend, organist extraordinaire Joey DeFrancesco.  In fact, Terell noted this the last time he performed at South Jazz Club was with DeFrancesco.

Terell (on flugelhorn) and Bruce then began playing the beautiful hymn as a duo.  After a few choruses, David and Johnathan (on brushes) then chimed in for the remainder of the tune, with Bruce contributing a wonderful Sunday morning Baptist church-inspired solo.  Amen!!!

Before the next tune, Ruth’s Blues, written by Terell for his mother, who also plays the trumpet, Terell shared that the motivation begin this composition was his mom constantly reminding him that he’d already written a nice tune dedicated to his dad (but not one for her yet)… :v)

Dave began this slow blues with a back woods, Juke joint, gutbucket extended bass solo, followed by beautiful solos by Tim, Terell, and Bruce.  In fact, Terell invoked Louis Armstrong with shrill sounds at the end of his notes.  Beautiful tune!!  Mom should be happy…

Before the next tune, McCoy Tyner’s wonderful ballad You Taught My Heart To Sing, (from his 1987 album “It’s About Time” feat. Jackie McLean), Terell mentioned that even though he joined the McCoy Tyner Latin All-Stars in the late 1990s, because Tyner usually played this tune in trio format, he never had a chance to play it with the great piano legend.

Terell and Bruce then began playing the beautiful tune as a duo.  After a few choruses, David and Johnathan (on brushes) then chimed in for the remainder of the tune, with David and Bruce contributing very nice solos.

Tim, playing soprano saxophone, rejoined the group for the final selection, Terell’s Me A Mia, dedicated to his young daughter.  After each of the band member played beautifully during their solos, Johnathan closed the set as only he can… with a rousing drum solo, displaying speed, power, agility, and complex rhythms.  One can’t help to shake one’s head afterward.  After seeing him with different groups led by Tom Harrell, Pharoah Sanders, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Kenny Barron over the years, I’ve often called Johnathan “The fastest gun in the east!!!”

1st Set List

  • Between Two Worlds (Victor Lewis)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Chisholm, William Runyan)
  • Ruth’s Blues (Terell Stafford)
  • You Taught My Heart To Sing (McCoy Tyner)
  • Me A Mia (Terell Stafford)

Overall, a great night of Jazz in the Super Bowl-bound City of Brotherly Love!!!  Take care!