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Satellites #5 - Gretchen Elise

Satellites Gretchen EliseSatellites #5

March 28th, 2018 / 8pm

Satellites Are Spinning: A Sizzling, Sonic Celebration of Sun Ra

Johnny Brenda’s
1201 Frankford Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19125

For Tickets: CLICK HERE


Continuing the exploration started by our Sun Ra Mixtape Series celebrating the influence of the Philadelphia, visionary musician, philosopher, composer and band leader, Sun Ra, Philadelphia Jazz Project present, Satellites Are Spinning: A Sizzling, Sonic Celebration of Sun Ra. This concert series features 8 performances at some of the region's most important venues including; The Barnes Foundation, Ardmore Music Hall, Johnny Brenda's, The Planetarium of The Franklin Institute and World Cafe Live. Hosted by WRTI radio deejay, J. Michael Harrison.


Gretchen Elise is a West Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter whose jazz-flavored, audience participation performances are unforgettable. Her two original CDs, "Time & Space" (2010) and "Are You Ready" (2004) combine a global flavor with shades of Philly jazz & soul. An arts education advocate and a mom of two, Gretchen has performed in Philadelphia, Boston and Berlin, at World Cafe Live, The Irvine Auditorium, The Legendary Dobbs, The Mandell Theater, The Free Library of Philadelphia, The Level Room, as part of Cedar Park Jazz Live and Jazz at Julian Abele Park, Ryles, The Western Front, Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center, Boston Center for the Arts, Gethsehmanikirche and Harlem Jazz Club.


Gretchen Elise 2

PJP spoke with singer/songwriter, Gretchen Elise who re-arranged and composed new lyrics to a classic song for Satellites Concert #5 of the Satellites Are Spinning Concert Series.

PJP: Can you briefly describe your musical direction?


Gretchen Elise: I’m a multi-arts person, and my training in movement (dance, gymnastics) and love of groove comes through in my music & my live performance. Musically, I use a jazz approach and my writing and performing draws on many styles - folk, Latin, blues, funk, soul, Caribbean, hip hop. Hard to classify on iTunes. Some people call it jazz. Basically, it’s good music.


PJP: What and whom are pivotal musical influences on your creative approach?


Gretchen Elise: I’d say vocalist Mili Bermejo taught me theory, vocal chops, and modeled how to combine and ground my music with community activism and a full life. Cole Porter. The Beatles. Third World. Horace Silver. Stevie Wonder. Jobim. MPB (Brazilian pop). Abbey Lincoln. Jill Scott. Erykah Badu-I strive for her simplicity in lyrics! Björk. My DivaNation colleagues taught me a lot. Aaron Graves. My band. I am always learning. Always at the beginning.


Gretchen Elise 4PJP: Tell us about your work on the concert Satellites series. What are you preparing for Satellite’s #5 at Johnny Brenda’s?


Gretchen Elise:  I am adapting, in the words of PJP director, Homer Jackson’s words “translating” or re-interpreting a contemporary classic. The tune is "You Got Me" recorded by The Roots, featuring the voice of Erykah Badu. I'm translating it in a way that is inspired by Sun Ra. I first saw Sun Ra when I was 18. I think it took me 20 years to start to understand what he was getting at. I tried to bust the, "You Got Me" lyrics out of the Hip-hop genre. Then, I tried to bust it out of being simply a story about love between individuals and approach something bigger.


PJP: Why is this composition/song so important? What attracts you to it?


Gretchen Elise: It is a classic that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. But the challenge intrigued me. In fact, Jill Scott co-wrote the lyrics. Erykah Badu put a different spin on it. I used to choreograph dance and I loved the dynamic, you envision something, someone else takes it to yet another level. It was like this with writing lyrics for, "Involuntary Bliss" (Tara Middleton sang it - See Below). Jakeya Sanders will take our new, "You Got Me" to that level. Composing is like this as well. Of course, I had to suggest new elements to the arrangement too. Kim Pedro’s navigating the process. He is an amazing, consensus building leader.   


PJP: When listening to your music what advice would you give the audience to assist with greater understanding and enjoyment? 


Gretchen Elise 3Gretchen Elise:  Just have fun. Move your body. With this tune, go learn from Sun Ra and the lyrics will make sense. Or conversely, maybe this will give someone access to the little bit I know. Do your research! But have fun.


PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, Why this music?


Gretchen Elise: It is endlessly creative. The possibilities are endless and infinite.



Keep up with Gretchen Elise's creative activity via YOUTUBE or FACEBOOK.


Satellites #5

March 28th, 2018 / 8pm

Satellites Are Spinning: A Sizzling, Sonic Celebration of Sun Ra
Johnny Brenda’s
1201 Frankford Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19125

For Tickets: CLICK HERE



Check out Gretchen Elise's lyrics to Alphonso Johnson's "Involuntary Bliss."



Gretchen Elise in performance during the Summer of 2011.


Special Thanks: The Sun Ra Estate, Irwin Chusid, Michael Anderson, J. Michael Harrison, Kim Pedro Rodriguez, DMHotep, Antoine Haywood, Gralin Hughes, James Solomon, Nija Walker, Bobby Zankel, Jay Levin, Agent Zero, Eric Bogacz, Alex Santilli, Gary Dann, Anthony Tidd, Dmani Lopez, Dan Blacksberg, V. Shayne Frederick, Asha Jackson, Julia Lopez, Melissa Talley Palmer, Gail Fountaine, Stephanie Seiple and Rich Nichols.


For more information about Sun Ra:

Sun Ra Estate Website
Sun Ra Arkestra Website
Sun Ra Facebook
Mission Creep Sun Ra Resources
Pitchfork's Essential Sun Ra Music
The Sun Ra Music Archive
Perfect Sound Forever Sun Ra Article
University of Chicago Sun Ra Exhibit

Stay tuned for details about this series!!!


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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.