From a city of rich musical heritage comes a new direction on old traditions.
IBC Finalists The Downtown Shimmy.
Philadelphia's The Downtown Shimmy blends the many shades of blues from past to present into a unique hue. Whether reaching back to its roots or branching into its offshoots, their music draws upon styles spanning the decades.
Inspiration may come from a Woody Guthrie traditional, Ray Charles standard, Sam Cook classic, or a Bell Biv Devoe hit. There's blues in all of them, which The Downtown Shimmy crafts into their own original compositions and fresh arrangements. Charged with dynamics, textures, and melodic excitement, their energy has become renowned on the national dance scene where this in-demand band always draws a crowd. Even wallflowers can't help tapping their feet, because when the music grooves, there's no sitting still.
Josh Fialkoff has been blending his smoky voice and soulful instrumentals for audiences since 2006. His music features a refreshing take on both traditional blues and swing as well as modern songs, and his arrangements blend these influences in a way that is neither stale nor abstract.
As a pianist and vocalist Josh has found inspiration in some of music history’s heroes including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Gene Harris. Like them, Josh seeks to create musical experiences that incorporate his audience, and that get people to move. Perhaps it’s precisely this focus that has brought such success for Josh and his ensembles who regularly play for swing and blues dances in the United States and beyond. Dancers at bluesSHOUT, Montreal Dance Fest, Bagel and Blues, DCLX at Glen Echo, Mobtown Ballroom, Montreal Bagel and Blues, BABBLE, and more have swooned and swayed to his unique musical mixture of the modern and the traditional. Once you hear Josh play, you'll revel in his refreshingly genuine sound too.
Frank Velardo takes to the guitar with commanding intensity. Since he picked it up at the age of 12, he has been composing, improvising, and performing a broad range of styles, although blues and jazz fire his passions. They were lit by idols such as Eric Clapton and Jimmy Hendrix who inspired Frank's development in improvisation. This eventually lead to a formal study of jazz, theory, rhythm, harmony, world, and avant-garde music at Temple University where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in Jazz Performance. In October 2012, he released his first collection of original music showcasing his innovative songwriting and instrumental prowess. Along with leading his own projects under the anagrammatic stage name Ardvark Felon, Frank Velardo plays with various bands around Philadelphia and also teaches guitar to students throughout the city. He remains a student himself of the musical giants that came before him, while at the same time jumping from their shoulders to forge into uncharted territories.
Alex Maio has been on the Philadelphia music scene since 2006 and has performed, recorded, and toured with a variety of bands ranging in diversity from hiphop to jazz. In the studio he has performed on numerous recordings as well as sampling work for sound libraries and music software. In 2009 Alex performed with legendary pianist Tom Lawton for a suite commissioned by the American Composers Forum. The group performed concerts at several colleges and were featured on WRTI's "The Bridge" as well as the Jazz Bridge Series in Philadelphia (2013). Alex has been performing and recording with Frank Velardo since the two met at Temple University in 2008. In 2012 he joined up with pianist/singer Josh Fialkoff and bassist Matt Keppler and has done extensive festival performances and touring on the East Coast and Canada ever since.
Born in Monmouth County, NJ, Matt Keppler was brought up in a relatively non-musical household. At the age of 13, he decided to take up the guitar and was instantly hooked on music, going on to play and write with several different bands. In High School, Matt learned how to play the upright bass and eventually left the guitar behind in order to pursue a Jazz Upright Bass Performance Degree at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. There he did session recordings in different genres, as well jazz and musical theater gigs. Unfortunately Purchase proved to be the wrong fit, leading to his transfer to University of the Arts where he received a Bachelor’s in Instrumental Performance. Matt is currently a bassist present in the Philly music scene and also performs with various rock, blues, gospel, and folk acts around town.
For over 20 years Ansel Barnum has sucked at the harmonica--and blown too. Over that time he's undertaken this common instrument with uncommon finesse, breaking with the conventions that typically constrain it to show how underestimated the little mouth organ is. A student of master and innovator Howard Levy, Ansel pushes the limits of the reeds using chromatic techniques that unlock access to all the notes in the diatonic harmonica. His vivid tone gives a mature voice to this child's toy which he's taken across diverse musical borders, from folk to funk, Celtic to classical, blues to baroque, and traditions in between. This versatility has made him a popular sideman to an array of bands who ask him both to the stage and on recordings for session work.
Since moving to Philly in 2012, Ansel has quickly made a name for himself in the music scene. In less than a year he was invited to perform at such distinguished music festivals as Philly Folk Fest, where he showcased and lead harmonica workshops; Musikfest, where he performed for a third year its renowned stage; and Spring Gulch Folk Festival, which chose him as the year's emerging artist. Ansel had the rare honor of winning acclaimed folk venue Godfrey Daniels' annual Best of Open Mic contest twice, first in 2008 then again in 2013. Last year the "dean of American folk DJs" and "grandfather of Philadelphia Folk Music" Gene Shay invited Ansel on his legendary radio show, declaring: "A fresh, new, folk talent just blew into town. And he's still blowin' great new harmonica at some of the hottest gigs in Philly. Ansel Barnum is the talented mouth harp man and he's a great, crowd please--from recording studios to Festival stages."
See you then!