It’s easy to see that Philadelphia native Jerry Blavat loves bringing his favorite music back to town, and in turn the city of Philadelphia loves to welcome back one of its own. Blavat’s Salute to Street Corner Harmony (Watch the preview video) on Sunday at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall showcased some of the greatest acts he once featured as an area disc jockey in the 50s and 60s.
The impressive roll call of the evening included The Skyliners, The Chantels, The Marcels, The Dubs, Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five, The Demensions, The Solitaires, Billy and the Essentials, and Frankie and the Fashions. All dressed to the nines and charmingly synchronized, each group brought back memories of drive-in movies and high-school dances with their tight four- or five-part harmonies and iconic style.
A frequent guest of the Kimmel Center, Blavat’s joy and contagious smile would seem to give the feeling that it’s still his first time. He shuffled lightly back and forth as he introduced each group, recalled one story after another from decades ago, and completed so many wardrobe changes, I lost count. His encyclopedic knowledge of and deep appreciation for doo-wop music and its musicians complements his rapport with the many groups, as they would chat between their short sets.
The style of the show is casual and at times unpredictable, but the music itself is still precious to all involved. Each act, some with original members still intact all these years later, give each “shoop” and “doo-wop” the attention they deserve, with a rambunctious and stellar orchestra to accompany them.
Highlights of the night included a tight set from The Dubs with songs such as “Don’t Ask Me to Be Lonely” and “Could This Be Magic,” and The Chantels served as a treat both as the only all-female group to perform, and for their signature smooth, complex hymn-influenced harmonies. The biggest pleasure, however, was a performance from The Marcels of their signature “Blue Moon,” a tune that was not only one of the most popular songs of its time, but that also clearly defined and influenced an entire era of music.
No matter which of the greats was taking the stage, there was a never-ending flow of gratitude, simply overjoyed to be sharing the music of their youth. Feeding off of the evening’s electricity, Blavat himself once again thanked the audience and promised, “We may make you feel young again, but you make us feel even younger.” Salute to Street Corner Harmony brought back the raw magic of simply blending a few voices together under a streetlamp in the neighborhood, but with all the grace and glamour of the good old days.
Running Time: Three hours, with one intermission.
Jerry Blavat: Salute to Street Corner Harmony played one night only, on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall – 300 South Broad Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For future events, go to their calendar of events