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The best kept secret in music


"Cheltenham's 'Concerts in the Park' comes to a finale By: Arlene Edmonds, Correspondent 08/23/2006"

The grounds of Curtis Arboretum were filled with the sounds of live jazz of D-FOR featuring Gloria Allende. A diverse array of music lovers came from Cheltenham, Mount Airy, West Oak Lane, Abington, Glenside, and other local communities for the final Cheltenham Township 2006 "Concerts in the Park" series.

It was held at Church Road and Greenwood Avenue from 5 to 7 p.m. last Sunday evening.

On hand for the concert were Mickey Simon, president of the Cheltenham Board of Commissioners, and LaMott Commissioner Harvey Portner. Simon introduced the jazz band, noting that Sunday's concert was the fifth and final concert for this summer. He thanked the local department of recreation and the sponsors for making the concerts possible.

"I understand that at least one member of this group is Cheltenham grown," said Simon. "He joins other jazz musicians from Cheltenham who are also home grown like Randy and Michael Brecker, who attended Cheltenham High School. Rather than you listening to some of all that jazz, why don't I give you all of this jazz?"

D-FOR immediately captivated the Cheltenham crowd with two original and mellow selections from their latest CD, "Intersection." Band leader Darryl Johnson, a Cheltenham native, pointed out that the well received guest saxophonist was Ben Vinci. The group's mainstay horn player, Carl "Doc" Cox was performing with Kirk Franklin at Sunday's Unity Day downtown.

The group then went into their own "jazzed up" version of the Marvin Gaye classic, "What's Goin' On" featuring Dexter Moore on keyboards. Allende then joined the stage to perform a selection made famous by songstress Anita Baker.

One of the highlights of the first set was when Allende invited the audience to clap clave rhythms as she integrated salsa dancing into her Latin jazz interpretation of the George Gershwin classic, "Summertime." She received rousing applause from the local crowd.

The first set concluded with the classic, "Birdland" showing off the group's more traditional jazz prowess.

Johnson noted that the group's latest CD was on sale at the arboretum.

The crowd loved Sunday's performance. Just ask Mariene Davis of Cheltenham. She brought along her friend and grandchildren to listen to the jazz. In fact, Davis said she frequents all the jazz venues in the area. She was even wearing a "Chicken Bone Beach" T-shirt noting the Atlantic City jazz venue that became a historical landmark back in 1977.

"Jazz is so relaxing," said Davis. "I brought the kids out here so they can hear good music. So many young people are distant from jazz. I just love all the jazz artists. I was hoping they'd have Gerald Veasley here today, but D-FOR is fine. I support all the jazz artists."

Beverly Axe and Cele Lieberman of Elkins Park have attended all five "Concert in the Park" concerts. Axe felt that "the concerts were all wonderful" and "the price is right."

Lieberman, who also attended a jazz concert at the Morris Arboretum in Northwest Philadelphia, said she marveled in the wide range of talent. "It's just a very pleasant atmosphere to have concerts in lovely surroundings," she said.

For Bernard Osoo of Melrose Park Sunday's concert was a family affair. He brought along his children 10-year-old Chris, seven-year-old Crystal, and two-year-old Lisa. He heard about the concerts by way of a banner outside a local library.

"I just wanted to bring the children to see what's going on," said Osoo. "This is my first time ever being in here. I think it's nice that they have things like this in the community."

The Lewis family from Abington said they attended every concert over the last eight years. Ernest and Gloria Lewis both said that they make it a point of marking their calendars for the biweekly events. "Who would not love to hear good music in a lovely park?" asked Gloria Lewis.

Their daughter, Beth Ann Lewis, is their designated driver. "We always have a good time," said Beth Ann Lewis. "It's always good entertainment and there's nothing like live entertainment. I just wish they had more concerts. I would want a concert every week."

D-FOR has played or recorded with many big names in the music industry. The list includes Mount Airy natives Pieces of a Dream, Gerald Veasley and the Gabriel Hardeman Delegation as well as Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker, originally from Cheltenham. Others are Jill Scott, Yolanda Adams, Bebe Winans, Mary J. Blige, Kirk Franklin, Vivian Green, Hezekiah Walker, and Miles Jaye.

The group officially came together in 1995 when a group of seasoned musicians from the Cheltenham area decided to unite their talents. They have released three CD's. The most recent, "Intersection" was released last November. It combines swing, bop, and the smooth jazz grooves that D-FOR is noted for.

"We started the group 11 years ago when the original members were me, Darryl, along with Dexter, Don and Dennis," Johnson, the lead guitarist, told The Leader. "Dennis left the group and was replaced by our current drummer Chunky Ezekiel, even though he's not very chunky at all. So now we have Don Stevens on bass, Dexter Moore on keyboards, and Chunky on drums. Our guests today are Rick Morales on percussion and Gloria Allende, who's a great Latin jazz singer."

Johnson said that he grew up in Cheltenham. He attended the old Lynnewood Elementary School and Ogontz Junior High School, he said. Moore is also from the Northwest Philadelphia area. All the other current band members live in New Jersey, he said.

Allende is a singer, dancer and songwriter. She is known for her vocal prowess that blends jazz, R&B, and Latin music. She has been inspired musically by recording artists like Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder, Sade, Celia Cruz, and Ella Fitzgerald.

She is featured weekly at the Center City jazz club, Zanzibar Blue, owned by the Bynum brothers from Mount Airy.

Cheltenham Township's "Concerts in the Park" will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Other acts shown during the 2006 series have included acoustic soloist Jeffrey Gaines, blues masters Little Red Rooster Band, the bluegrass sounds of the Travis Wetzel Trio, and Animus and a belly dancer's world fusion music.

The major sponsor of the event was MossRehab Einstein at Elkins Park. Other sponsors were PECO and Comcast.

┬ęThe Leader 2009 - TheLeader.com


"The Gift" (EP, released in 2000); "Christmas From The Heart" (LP, released in 2002); "Intersection" (LP, released in 2005)

Currently, tracks from "Intersection" are on rotation at some radio stations throughout the conutry. Tracks that have garnered the most play are "Sunrise", "Until You Come Back to Me", and "Intersection".


Feeling a bit camera shy


As individuals, the members of D-FOR have played or recorded with a veritable who's who of the music industry. This list of artists includes Gerald Veasley, Jill Scott, Yolanda Adams, BeBe Winans, Mary J. Blige, Kirk Franklin, Vivian Green, Hezehiah Walker,Michael Brecker, Pieces of a Dream, Randy Brecker, The Gabriel Hardeman Delegation, Miles Jaye and a host of others. Like most musicians working in the same locale, their paths often crossed on concert stages or recording studios and in the informal but fierce jam sessions that are legendary in the Philadelphia area. No matter the genre of music, whether it was r&b or jazz, the musical and personal chemistry between them could not be denied. In 1995 this group of seasoned musicians got together to jam and toss around some musical ideas. Within a few months they realized that they had struck upon something special and began to develop a sound that was uniquely their own. "Intersection" is an appropriate title for D-FOR's third CD as various elements of jazz, r&b, funk, and gospel cross over each other to create this band's distinctive sound. D-FOR swings, bops, and grooves with the best! Check these guys out today!