Jack Saint Clair Orchestra brings jazz to the Pastorius Park series July 28

by DB Fromm
Posted 7/25/21

The free summer concert series continues at Pastorius Park with the third show in the 2021 series. Jack Saint Clair Orchestra brings jazz Wednesday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.

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Jack Saint Clair Orchestra brings jazz to the Pastorius Park series July 28

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The free summer concert series continues at Pastorius Park with the third show in the 2021 series. Jack Saint Clair Orchestra brings jazz Wednesday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.

Saxophonist Jack Saint Clair shares a gracious Wissahickon schist twin on a quiet Chestnut Hill street with his wife Elizabeth, one-year-old Max, and his parents. I visited in anticipation of the July 28th Jack Saint Clair Orchestra show in Pastorius Park. It has a palpably creative ambience.

Jack’s mom maintains a backyard full of flowers. His dad keeps an “armada” of bikes in the basement. His wife, Elizabeth, is a ballet dancer and teacher. Even their placid and smiley baby, Max, already likes to “grab at the sax and the clarinet, and pound on the piano.”

Jack, 26, maintains a small writing and practice space in a corner of the basement. Separated from the bikes by drywall lined with grey soundproofing foam, it packs in a record player, chaise lounge, desk, keyboard and shelf full of vinyl. Loose composition pages on every surface evince the musical alchemy happening in his laboratory, or “dungeon,” as Elizabeth teasingly put it. “She knows when I’m working on something because I’m not upstairs.” 

It seemed perfect for an artist fortunate to have found his passion early, before the question of what to do with a life became heavy. Jack picked up the saxophone in third grade and his interest never stopped growing, so he was “really obsessed” heading into college. He has a B.A. in music from Temple with a concentration in saxophone performance.  

Pre-pandemic, Jack taught music and led a seventeen-piece band with a monthly spot at LaRose Jazz Club in Germantown. (LaRose, a labor of love for now-retired dentist Chenet LaRose, originally from Haiti, is a hidden gem for most of us but well-known in the jazz community.)

Max was born in July 2020. Jack savored the “magical experience” of caring for his newborn. “It was kind of good timing to have the baby” he said.

Over the past year-plus, he continued teaching via Zoom and embraced the chance to focus on writing, completing two commissioned works each for the Philly Pops and the Temple Jazz Band. The latter’s recording of his work, part of a tribute to Philadelphia, is scheduled for release in August.

For social distancing, he also scaled back the band to ten. They managed some practice at LaRose, and held three open air performances at P3PE, a rowing training center in East Falls owned by his friend Cassandra Cunningham. Housed in a picturesque red barn, they played with the doors open to an audience-filled parking lot. People brought chairs. Cassandra arranged food trucks.

“All things considered, and I don't mean this flippantly, I really had a great year,” said Jack. “I felt that when everything was stripped away, I was able to reassess what I really need or what I really want.” Cutting the band in half, “and still trying to do something that's creative and innovative, I've learned a lot from that kind of minimizing.”

He also came to appreciate his monthly spot at LaRose even more than before. “It's rare to have a creative opportunity where you can come in and do your own program every month, with a consistent spot, and it kind of builds a culture in itself, so I was really very fortunate to do that.”

Their concert at Pastorius will feature original works written during the shutdown and guest singer Miss Chelsea Reed. By Jack’s description, they balance intricacy with improvisation, much like all our lives over the past year. Besides fun, it should be cathartic.

The July 28 concert is sponsored by Chestnut Hill Hospital. Located in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia and a member of Tower Health, Chestnut Hill Hospital is a 148-bed, community-based, university-affiliated, teaching hospital committed to excellent patient-centered care. Chestnut Hill Hospital provides a full range of inpatient and outpatient, diagnostic and treatment services for people in northwest Philadelphia and eastern Montgomery County.

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