Philadelphia Clef Club hosts jazz concerts again after hiatus amid COVID-19 pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — At the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, the building was packed Saturday night, and for good reason.

“This is the first big show we’ve done in two years. We just opened. We’ve done smaller shows, but this is our main show,” artistic director Lovett Hines said.

Johnathan Blake and his band Pentad took to the stage for the grand reopening of Clef Club – the first major show since the pandemic began.

Leaders say these concerts and ticket sales play an important role in the operation of the organization.

“First, they hold the building in place,” Hines said. “Number two, they support the programming. And a lot of that programming is presentations like tonight. But also the educational program.”

For Blake and saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins it was a homecoming – they both got their start here as students.

“I just started at Clef Club when I was about eight years old in third grade playing saxophone,” said Wilkins of Upper Darby. “We’ve been missing the Key Club for two years due to the pandemic, and it’s a place that’s always been kind of a home base for a lot of musicians here.”

Spectators say they enjoy attending Clef Club because of the authentic vibe.

“It’s a cozy environment. A neighborhood environment, and I usually know most people who come in,” said Matt DeVan of South Philadelphia.

Nina Blum of Queen Village said, “I’ve been waiting and waiting. So yeah, I’m glad it’s starting again.”

“Philadelphia has an incredible heritage of great jazz artists,” said Mike Archey of West Philadelphia. “And they’re really struggling trying to hang on and keep it up, so if I can back them up. I’ll go down.”

A program of spring and summer concerts is planned at the Clef Club.

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Willie J. Johnson