May 1, 2020 Jazz Bridge Newsletter   # 346           
Sixteen years ago, Jazz Bridge Project asked you to join us on a mission to assist Greater Philadelphia area jazz and blues artists in times of crisis. We weren't sure what that would look like, but it turns out, it looked a lot like Love. The love from this community showed up to meet the needs of our jazz and blues artists. That love and support has allowed us to continuously clear obstacles from a musician's path, giving them peace of mind and allowing them to re-focus their energy on their art, that we love so much.

For 16 years, Jazz Bridge has been dedicated to addressing many types of crises such as medical, dental, legal, and housing without delay, and no matter what the state of the economy, we created work opportunities for an equitable wage, through our Neighborhood Concerts series, in three locations, spanning from Philadelphia to New Jersey.
Now, we're living during the unprecedented year of COVID-19, and it's a game-changer. Our 24 Concert series was interrupted after 17 concerts, leaving a definitive hole in the itinerary and income of 28 musicians. But Love returned via timely Grant funding, and the response from our community, which donated to our Jazz Bridge Project COVID-19 Care Fund .

As a result, we were able to disperse Honorariums to musicians for cancelled gigs. These donations have helped musicians with critical needs flowing from the pandemic, from groceries to medications to bills for vital lifelines like phone and the internet. We’ve educated our musicians on everything from filing for unemployment to applying for additional grant support via our bi-monthly newsletter that our Donors receive, as well partnering with our sister nonprofits like Jazz Philadelphia who helped to spread the word. This is what community looks like, and it reminds us of the adage - When "I" is replaced by "We," we turn Illness to Wellness.

But, the challenges will become deeper, now that Funds for the Arts are being frozen. How you respond on GIVING TUESDAY , can make a dramatic difference. On May 5th, you get to decree and declare that the music and the artist matters. As an added incentive, I ask that you visit our YouTube channel and browse the treasure trove of recorded live performances and interviews with local musicians that you’ve missed and love so much, and we will continue to bring the music. Remember, Jazz Bridge isn’t just 'Harmonizing Art with Life' for the musicians, but for our entire community! 

Rhenda Fearrington, Board President

Tenor Saxophonist, Robert "Bootsie" Barnes
Tenor giant Bootsie Barnes has been the epitome of a “Hometown Hero” for most of his 82 years. He’s never left the city, instead becoming a cornerstone of the Philadelphia jazz scene, remaining constant even as styles and generations changed around him. With a husky, soulful sound honed in smoky organ clubs, corner bars, and the stage of the legendary Uptown Theatre, Barnes exudes the grit and attitude of Philly in every note he plays.

“It takes guys like me in every city to keep the music alive,” Barnes told me in 2008. To prove his point, he listed the names of heavyweight “local legends” from scenes around the country: most notably Von Freeman in Chicago, who passed a few years later. “All the guys that I’ve taught are carrying the music on.”

Barnes’ protégés are numerous; curmudgeonly as he could be, his brusqueness was always tempered by a salty but genuine warmth. The eclectic pianist Uri Caine spent his formative years touring the chitlin’ circuit with Barnes, and many bandstand students graduated into lifelong collaborators, including trumpeter John Swana and keyboardists Lucas Brown.

Barnes was an advocate for Jazz Bridge and on countless times, −was instrumental in getting the word out to musicians and club owners and an integral part of our fundraising efforts almost since the beginning 16 years ago. He loved performing for our Neighborhood Concerts and bringing “old” music with the Bootsie Barnes “twist,” to audiences every time he took to the bandstand.
Sadly, Bootsie passed away from complications from COVID-19 on April 22 while in the hospital at the age of 82. His legacy lives on in his interviews and the countless musicians he encountered in this 50 plus years in the business. Here is what Jazz Philadelphia recently wrote about him:

To learn more about Bootsie Barnes, visit his website at

Jazz Bridge YouTube

Jazz Bridge at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion

Harmonizing Art and Life
The Jazz Bridge Project
4220 Main Street
Philadelphia PA 19127
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