Many of the great players of the 20th century cut their teeth in Philly’s numerous gritty jazz clubs, many of which closed decades ago. One surviving venue that thrives today is the Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts. The club was founded in 1966 by black members of AF of M, the musicians union, who had been denied membership to the segregated Local #77. The local union became the longest surviving Black Musician’s Union in the U.S., with members including Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Grover Washington, Jr., and Dizzy Gillespie.
The Clef Club was conceived as the local social club for the union, but quickly gained a wild popularity with local jazz fans clamoring to see the big celebrities who often graced the place. The union even created a B membership for out-of-town musicians and the locals who simply loved jazz.
After moving locations and redefining its mission, the Clef Club has become an important center of education for jazz in the U.S., collecting a plethora of jazz relics and oral histories for the benefit of generations of jazz lovers. The Club still hosts a variety of concerts that highlight not only the great history of jazz in Philadelphia, but also the impact that jazz has had on a variety of other disciplines.
The Philadelphia Clef Club of the Performing Arts Information
- Public Transportation: Poor
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: Approximately 50 performances and programs per year
- Ticket Prices: $10–$50. Many shows feature discounts for children under 12
- Educational/Community Outreach: The Clef Club provides a number of educational opportunities for children and adults with summer camps and master classes throughout the year.