Production Team Quietly Making Music History
(Photo L-R: Stéphane Grappelli, Ettore Stratta, Pat Philips. Courtesy Pat Philips)
The production team of Pat Philips and Ettore Stratta continue to blaze a new path in event conception and production. We have been together since 1988, for 25 years ! The partners have quietly marched to their own drum in their music careers separately, and as a combined force producing and creating numerous successful events.
The crown jewel of their current projects is their very successful Django Reinhardt Festival at Birdland going into its 14th year. It has become so successful each year in November that it now is semi-annual in June as well with tours to prestigious venues such as The Kennedy Center and The San Francisco Jazz Festival plus much more. See all info on their brand new Django Festival Allstars CD on this website. Will Friedwald of the Wall Street Journal wrote: "IT'S THE BEST JAZZ SHOW IN TOWN".
STRATTA PHILIPS PRODUCTIONS
Stratta Philips Productions was formed in 1988 with a directive to follow "their taste" in music, not trends or the record industry but their own passions - to be producers who work their projects from soup-to-nuts. Starting with an idea, this production team creates original concepts, brings in top quality artists (sometimes completely unknown), solicits sponsors, markets their concerts, works the rehearsals - runs the show backstage, they do it all. They have earned the respect of the music community, industry players, and a public following for their tireless efforts to deliver something original, highly artistic but also entertaining and deserving.
The history of their "Django" events begins with the duo's long-time collaboration with great jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli. In 1988, Philips and Stratta produced Grappelli's 80th birthday tribute at Carnegie Hall, where Yo-Yo Ma performed in the jazz world for the first time, playing custom written arrangements by Musical Director Roger Kellaway. The celebration included performances with The Juilliard String Quartet, Michel Legrand, Harold Nicholas, and Toots Thielemans. Grappelli became a source of inspiration to create a US platform for the music of his partner, Django Reinhardt. The pair went on to create the first-ever Django Reinhardt festival in the US which brought the finest gypsy jazz players from Europe.
Other historical events have included "From Harlem to Hollywood" at Carnegie Hall which paid tribute to tap legends The Nicholas Brothers. Hardly remembered at the time, Stratta and Philips, advised against doing the concert - forged ahead and had a sold-out house. With Lena Horne, Bill Cosby, Maurice Hines, Savion Glover and the dancers from the Broadway production of Bring in Da Noise, Bobby Short, Ben Vereen, and a big band - a la the Cotton Club days - it was a night to remember. There wasn't a dry eye in the hall as clips from the MGM musicals were cast on a huge screen. Bill Cosby, who hosted the event, called Philips the next morning to say it was a brilliant evening.
Brazilian music was not quite as popular as it is on the radar today, but Philips and Stratta decided it should be back in the early 90's and started producing many years of All Jobim and More, the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim at Carnegie Hall, the first featuring Jobim himself. Others to follow included Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, Ivan Lins, Joyce, Simone, Dori Caymmi Romero Lubambo, Paula Morelenbaum and more. In each concert, Stratta/Philips invented a unique situation such as having the classical Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Stratta, with Branford Marsalis and Eliane Elias performing with it...a first for the orchestra playing Brazilian music. Bernard Holland of the NY Times wrote "this concert gives me hope for the future of music."
Once again, daring the odds, they paid tribute to tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet at Carnegie Hall, one of the brightest nights of his life. The tribute, was well-deserved but risky at the time. Adding Ray Charles, a big fan of Jacquet's, came from a brainstorm session, as was titling the show "50 Years of Flying Home" - citing one of the most famous instrumental solos in jazz history when Jacquet as a youngster took this memorable solo in the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.
Bringing tango to Carnegie Hall in the 90's, a time when tango was considered old fashioned, was another Stratta/Philips vision, proven right. With the Pablo Ziegler Quintet's modern tango combined with guests Gary Burton, Joe Lovano, Paquito D'Rivera, top artists from Buenos Aires, and some dancers, the two productions "Tango Magic" and "Tango, Passion, and Swing" were big hits that led to a PBS Special and developed a community around tango music in the US.
Other events in the history of Stratta/Philips include The Magic of Toots, paying tribute to Toots Thielemans in a stunning production with Toots himself, Herbie Hancock, Ivan Lins, Eliane Elias and more. You could hear a pin drop at Carnegie Hall. Timely was their night honoring Oscar Peterson with an all-star line-up of Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride and more. The master passed three months later. Paquito D'Rivera's big night celebration also at the great hall was a Latin/Jazz feast - Bebo Valdez, Cachao, Candido, Michel Camilo and others combined with appearances of Yo-Yo Ma and Rosa Passos, an orchestra, and more. The pair produced the highly successful Regina Carter CD "Paganini: After a Dream" and the sold-out concert of this music. For five years, they produced "Absolut Concerto", a daring 'new music' project at Lincoln Center with major symphony orchestras and commissioned works by top classical composers such as John Adams.
Philips & Stratta produced opera star Sumi Jo , at Carnegie Hall in a performance Broadway songs with Orchestra. Stratta's recording of Sumo Jo of Bway music went "gold" and was her most successful record to date and one of her only recordings outside classical and Korean folk music
Pat Philips began her career starting the first-ever jazz series at the 92nd street Y, titled "Jazz Alive at the Y" in 1981, featuring an all-star cast including Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Honi Coles and the Copacetics, James Moody, Sir Roland Hanna, and the NY Jazz Quartet with Grady Tate. In the early 80's she developed the first jazz series at the Seaport on the Old Pier (before renovation) and also "Salsa at the Seaport" which included a 5-year run with Tito Puente and many other top Latin bands. These seaport series brought attention to the area, which subsequently became a hot spot for music and tourism.
Philips has presented Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau, Ray Charles, Branford Marsalis, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Milt Jackson, Michael Brecker, Stefon Harris, John Pizzarelli, Hank Jones, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, The Count Basie Orchestra, Branford Marsalis, Dave Brubeck, Russell Malone, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paul Simon, James Brown, and hundreds more. She created a summer jazz series on the Dewitt Clinton Ship with a long list of top artists from Betty Carter to Take 6 to Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Slide Hampton and more. Philips also managed the career of multi-talented grammy winning oscar nominated pianist/arranger/composer Roger Kellaway which led the Philips/Stratta team into cross-over projects with the NY Philharmonic and the NY Pops. She and her partner produced The Songwriter's Hall of Fame show for 10 years which included top stars from the pop, rock, and jazz worlds such as Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, Aliza Minnelli, Phil Spector, Keith Richards, Tony Bennett... As they paid tribute to America's greatest songwriters such as Jule Stein, Cy Coleman, Sammy Kahn and the list goes on.
(Photo: Pat Philips, Producer with Regina Carter, gypsy Dorado Schmitt and his son Samson Schmitt backstage at Rose Hall after the Spirit of Django concert 2008. Courtesy Pat Philips.)
Stratta, known as the 'Crossover Whiz' created "Switched on Bach" at Columbia when he headed the International Department and went on to have a brilliant independent recording career using his vast musical knowledge as Pianist, Conductor, and Producer. He created "Symphonic Tango", "Symphonic Bossa Nova", and "Symphonic Boleros" for Teldec in the 90's working with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London and the London Symphony Orchestra in the ensembles' first ventures into music outside of the Classical world. He included guests Al Jarreau, Hubert Laws, Tom Scott, and brought to light the talent of opera stars Jose Cura, Placido Domingo with orchestra of non-classical music.
Stratta has also produced recordings with Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett (The Art of Excellence), Lena Horne, Julio Iglieses, Linda Eder, Cleo Laine, Eddie Daniels, Maureen McGovern, Yo-Yo Ma & Roger Kellaway, conducted for George Duke, to name a few. He also had his own orchestra the fantasy stings.
(Photo: Ettore Stratta, Producer/Conductor with Yo-Yo Ma and Pianist/Mus.Dir. Roger Kellaway rehearsing for Stephane Grappelli's 80th Birthday at Carnegie Hall. Courtesy Pat Philips)
The Django Reinhardt NY Festival began in 2000 shortly after the passing of Django's musical partner Stephane Grappelli with whom he made musical history. Stratta and Philips produced all of Grappelli's major tributes at Carnegie Hall, his 80th Birthday, 81st, 83rd, 85th and then his memorial concert all sponsored by Absolut Vodka with whom they had a long and rewarding association. Ahmet Ertegun attended the first Festival in 2000 and said " I haven't seen anything like this, in years" and he went on to put out a recording of that first year's performance on Atlantic Records, now an historic recording. The festival in it's 14th year has a new CD The Django Festival Allstars starring DORADO SCHMITT, SAMSON SCHMITT, LUDOVIC BEIER, PIERRE BLANCHARD, XAVIER NIKQ, DOUDOU CUILLERIER, FRANCKO MEHRSTEIN, BRIAN TORFF.plus Dorado's two young sons AMATI and BRONSON SCHMITT.
Others who have performed at the Festival and the successful Spirit of Django concerts at Alice Tully Hall and Rose Hall @ Jazz at Lincoln Center are ANGELO DEBARRE, TCHAVOLO SCHMITT, ANDREAS OBERG, STOCHELO ROSENBERG, THE FERRE BROS, PETER BEETS, JIMMY ROSENBERG, BIRELI LAGRENE, BABIK REINHARDT...and so many other great players.
Next year will celebrate the 15th year !
Other upcoming projects for Stratta Philips Productions include: Tango Conexion with The Pablo Ziegler Quartet with Special Guests Stefon Harris on vibes and Jisoo Ok on Cello at Birdland July 30 - Aug. 3rd. The Django Festival returns Nov. 5-10 . BossaBrazil festival goes into it's ninth year having had great artists such as Leny Andrade, Marcos Valle, Dori Caymmi, Emilio Santiagio, Joyce and more. Stratta Philips is working on a possible Carnegie Hall production to be annouced.