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James Solomon On New Songs - Open Road

James Solomon 1

In celebration of poet Walt Whitman's 200th birthday, artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson presents New Songs Of The Open Road: a special project consisting of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia. As Whitman was an avid walker/hiker, Jackson and his team will facilitate four audience participation events that consist of singing walkers. These walks will take place in different locations and communities in Philadelphia including North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, Center City and Germantown. These walks are simultaneously influenced by Whitman's poem,"Songs of the Open Road" and inspired by civil rights movement freedom songs. Featuring choir members and additional vocalists, these walks encourage the public to join in walking and singing songs of affirmation.


Walt Whitman 1

Whitman at 200

Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday on Friday, May 31st, 2019 provides an important opportunity to reassess his estimable contributions to American life at a time when our country is so polarized. Organized by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center with major support from The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, this region-wide series of cultural events consists of four new artistic commissions plus a multitude of innovative exhibitions, performances, and programs initiated in conjunction with partner organizations across the Philadelphia and Camden, NJ region. While events take place all year, there is a focus on the two-week period, between May 24 and June 9, 2019, around Whitman's birthday.  


New Songs Of The Open Road is special project designed by artist/curator and director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson, as part of Whitman At 200 - the celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday hosted by University of Pennsylvania Libraries Kislak Center. Our project consists of a series of four “singing” walks which take place in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia.


Led by choirmaster, Waverly Alston and key songwriter vocalists, Taylor"TobyVEnT" Martin, James Solomon and V. Shayne Frederick, these walks involve choirs of walkers, which include the general public. These events are influenced by Whitman’s poem, “Song of the Open Road,” which contemplates the possibilities of American freedom and are inspired by the civil rights movement protest marchers who tested the realities of freedom by taking them to the streets. These events are FREE of charge and we openly encourage all and any to participate by walking and singing with us.


James Solomon 2


PJP spoke with songwriter and musician, James Solomon about Walt Whitman and The New Songs For The Open Road Project.


PJP: Can you briefly describe your musical background?


James Solomon: I've been writing songs since the mid-sixties. From pop tunes that charted in my teen years to songs for all occasions including plays, suites, and special commemorations. I continue to engage in what I love to do... write songs.


James Solomon 4PJP: Who is Walt Whitman and why is he still important now?


James Solomon: Walt Whitman is that artistic spirit that challenges conventional thinking. His work represents the rude awakening to life as it is in search of the good. The details of his life reveal the human frailties of those who pursue truth through artistic expression. Our works may transcend time and exists beyond our years, but no one is immune to everyday challenges of life.


PJP: What was your approach to creating for this project?


James Solomon: My approach was to help coordinate and contribute to the creation of easily identifiable melodies and words that allow march participants to internalize the message in each of the songs.


James Solomon 3PJP: Who is working with you on this project?


James Solomon: I'm working with singer/songwriter and bandleader, Toby Martin, choirmaster, singer and songwriter, Waverly Alston, along with Philadelphia Jazz Project director and the creator of this project, Homer Jackson. Toby and Waverly exhibit the leadership qualities that are perfect for organizing a community sing. The songs they composed are imaginative and very accessible. Homer of course, has orchestrated the entire event by assembling the contributors and providing them with the framework they needed to complete this project.


PJP: When participating in this project, what advice would you give the audience to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment?


James Solomon: These songs are designed for group participation, and upon hearing them we are sure you will be able to contribute to the walk by singing along with us. First find your walking voice; the register that allows you to comfortably sing while walking. Listen to each song carefully the first time. Once you take them in, just jump in and have fun with them.


New Songs Open Road


New Songs Of The Open Road - Schedule Of Events:


    1.    Saturday, May 18th - 3pm / Fairmount Park - North Philly

    Location: Mander Recreation Center & Around East Park Reservoir
    Start: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121
    Destination: Mander Recreation Center - 140 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19121    


    2.    Saturday, June 8th - 3pm / Germantown

    Location: Joseph E. Coleman Library to Cliveden
    Start: Joseph E. Coleman Library -  68 W Chelten Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
    Destination: Cliveden - 6401 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144    


   3.    Saturday, June 22nd - 4pm / South Philly

    Location: Marconi Plaza To Whitman Plaza
    Start: Marconi Plaza -  2800 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19145
    Destination: Whitman Plaza - 330 W Oregon Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148


    4.    Saturday, July 6th - 4pm / The Parkway

    Location: Parkway Central Library To Boat House Row
    Start: Parkway Central Library -  1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
    Destination: Boat House Row - 1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130


*Be prepared for a vigorous walk in warm to hot weather during the middle of the day. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Bring a hat to cover your head and if necessary, bring sunglasses as well. Be sure to drink water and we will have additional water on site.


For More Information: Whitman At 200


Remedy - James SolomonJames Solomon is a Philadelphia songwriter who began his career in the mid 1960’s working with singer Eddie Holman. In 2017, he collaborated with Alfie Pollitt and Walter Sorey to create the Juneteenth song, “No Longer Bound.” Solomon has contributed songs to several Philadelphia Jazz Project productions including The Philly Song Book, Love Notes, Feathers, Celebrating Ted Curson & Bill Barron and more recently The John Henry-Sounds Of Progress Suite. James Solomon worked for 20 years as a Claims Representative for the Social Security Administration. As a Claims Representative he took several disability claims daily and learned first hand through extensive interviews how wide spread and debilitating any number of illnesses can be. James Solomon is a co-producer of the Remedy Project Mixtapes.






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Major support for Whitman At 200 artistic commissions has been provided to University of Pennsylvania Libraries by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.

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Philadelphia Jazz Project is a sponsored project of the Culture Trust | Greater Philadelphia, with funding provided by The Philadelphia Foundation.