News & Reviews
Real improv at the Wilma

By A.D. Amorosi FOR THE INQUIRER

Life as we know it may have stopped during Winter Storm Jonas, but not for the Wilma Theater production of playwright Tom Stoppard’s new work, The Hard Problem, or for its most striking cast member, saxophonist Michael Pedicin.

The tall, bald, tan Pedicin marched down snowy Broad Street for weekend evening performances and Sunday’s matinee. As he’s done since Jan. 6, he appeared on stage, playing as scenes changed and characters considered their quandaries.

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“I’m one of those crazy people who enjoy snow in the city,” Pedicin said between performances. “It was wild getting there, but fun.”

That “wild getting there, but fun” axiom could describe his journey as one of Philly’s most prominent ax men: the son of jazz/ R&B sax great Mike Pedicin (“still sharp at 98”); a student of legendary local music teachers Buddy Savitt and Dennis Sandole; asession man for albums from Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records; and a sideman at Atlantic City gigs for Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

Pedicin the player has done it all. As a leader, he’s been making exquisitely soulful and subtly complex jazz albums since 1980, such as The Ballads and his most recent disc, Why Stop Now/Ubuntu.

Pedicin has a Ph.D. in psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, with a practice specializing in the creative mind and its practitioners. He’s also a professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies at New Jersey’s Richard Stockton College. He was wrapping up 2015’s semester in December when he caught wind of his next wild, fun excursion.

“I got a call from Daniel Perelstein, the Wilma’s resident composer and sound designer, about music for the show,” Pedicin said. “I assumed they wanted an orchestra, so I inquired as to how many pieces, when Danny says, ‘One. You.’ ”

Stoppard never wrote a saxophonist into his play, based on the “hard problem of consciousness” and its theories as formulated by Australian philosopher and psychologist David Chalmers. Yet Stoppard’s 22-year relationship with Philadelphia’s avant-garde Wilma and its prime motivator, Blanka Zizka, meant the playwright trusted his director.

In a chat with a reporter during rehearsals, Stoppard said: “When Blanka first told me about her idea for a saxophonist, I asked if she was sure, then simply trusted her instincts.”

Zizka claims that in the play, the main character, Hilary, struggles with the consequence of a decision she made as a 15-year-old. “I thought about this moment of decision as something I call ‘frozen time,’ something that Hilary carries with her, always,” the director said.

“I wanted to express her longing, hope, and fear in a play that speculates about origins of consciousness and is deeply saturated with ideas about biology, evolution, and neuroscience, [using] something that doesn’t represent science — by art.”

Zizka didn’t want recorded music for transitions between scenes; she wanted the music to become another character. “I wanted a live saxophone player who can improvise over a basic composed structure so that the performances can breathe and change every night,” she said.

She also wanted a reed sound but isn’t sure why. “It was intuition; probably something to do with breath, and that a saxophonist must give himself completely to the instrument.”

That would be Pedicin, who speaks of his improvisational largesse and its freeing sensibilities as one would a child or a lover.
He believes his life is improvisational (“which must be hell on my wife”) and even teaches a course called “Improvisation, Creativity and Consciousness.” “It is about freeing oneself of bias, of dogma, and to allow yourself to live in the moment,” he said.
Pedicin got The Hard Problem gig immediately, due to his abilities as a player, and, Zizka noted, “his interest in neuroscience.”

He started during rehearsals, even reading lines with the actors on stage. At first, he played from the corner of the stage apron, in the audience, and backstage. It was only by chance that he played on stage with the actors moving in and out of a scene, which made him part of the action. “Suddenly, I could relate to Hilary [Sarah Gliko] because I could look into her eyes and see what she is going through, as a character and as an actor,” Pedicin said.

Though improvising, Pedicin is not blowing manically or harmolodically, as would Anthony Braxton or Ornette Coleman. “I want to blow hot but always remember I’m working a scene,” Pedicin said of being respectfully corralled. His flow is liquid, smooth, and soulful within the confines of a scene’s feel and vibe.

His physical presence is daunting — a bald man in black against an all-white stage set. Performing with an audience in front and behind the stage gives the illusion that Hilary is peering right through him; that he is a spirit guide. This etherealism has led audience members to theorize that Pedicin is either Hilary’s conscience or perhaps even God.

“When I cast Michael, I knew it had to be an older player, someone with a long life experience,” Zizka said. “I guess that’s why now so many audience members think of him as a presence of God.”

Pedicin thinks he could be The Hard Problem’s inner voice or guiding light. “God is good, too,” he said with a laugh.

The Hard Problem, Wilma Theater,
265 S. Broad St., through Feb. 6, showtimes vary; $45;
215-546-7824, wilmatheater.org.

 
Pedicin and his saxophone in new Tom Stoppard play

Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2016 9:00 am
VINCENT JACKSON Staff Writer, Press of Atlantic City


Michael Pedicin, an associate professor of music at Stockton University in Pomona, Galloway Township, will be on stage playing the tenor saxophone in a new Tom Stoppard play, “The Hard Problem,” through Feb. 6 at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia.
The play opens tonight, and opening night is sold out.

Pedicin will improvise with his saxophone for every scene and scene transition. He also will be on stage improvising for 15 minutes before the play’s first scene.

His role is to be the inner subconscious voice of the play’s protagonist, Hilary, a 22-year-old psychology student applying for a coveted position with the Krohl Institute for Brain Science.

“I improvise to her as she is going through her dilemmas,” said Pedicin, 68. “The director had a great idea to do this, and ... Tom Stoppard came to see it and told me that he loved this concept.”

The Wilma is introducing “The Hard Problem” to the U.S., following the play’s sold-out run at the National Theatre in London. It is Stoppard’s first new play since “Rock ’n’ Roll” in 2006.

Pedicin entered the Philadelphia jazz scene in the early 1960s after graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

During the 1970s, Pedicin was a fixture of Philadelphia International Records, contributing alto, tenor and soprano saxophone work on hundreds of sessions with the likes of the Spinners, the O’Jays, the late David Bowie and the MSFB Orchestra.

After touring with jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, Pedicin released his debut as a leader in 1980. He has released 12 CDs as a leader since then.

Since 2008, he has been at Stockton, where he is also the coordinator of jazz studies.

Contact: 609-272-7202

 
Shore Medical Center Presents Music is Healing,

Shore Medical Center Presents Music is Healing, 

with Free Live Music on Tuesdays & Thursdays

 

(SOMERS POINT, NJ – April 27, 2015) – There’s a saying that medicine heals the body, but music heals the soul. Now, Shore Medical Center combines the two in a weekly music program called “Music Is Healing.” Every Tuesday from 5pm to 7pm and Thursday from 1pm to 3pm, visitors, patients and members of the community are invited to enjoy a free performance by local musicians from the South Jersey Jazz Society, featuring internationally recognized jazz saxophonist Michael Pedicin. The program kicks off in the Ben and Flora Baker Surgical Pavilion Lobby on Tuesday, April 28 at 5:00 p.m. with Michael Pedicin on saxophone and Joe Mancini on piano.

Pedicin’s career spans more than four decades and includes stints with Dave Brubeck, David Bowie, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Pat Martino, Stanley, Clarke, and many others. He has toured throughout the world with these artists as well as with his own quintet.  Pedicin has performed as a saxophone soloist on countless recordings, and has 12 CDs of his own.  

In addition to his musical career, Pedicin also holds a Ph.D. in psychology and maintains a private practice in Linwood, Center for Creative Psychology. He also is an associate professor of music and coordinator of the Jazz Studies program at Stockton University. Beginning September 1 and throughout the 2015-2016 academic year, he will assume the title of “Artist in Residence” at Stockton.

Pedicin says, “As we all know, music can play a very important role in our emotional health as well as our daily well-being.  It has been well documented that, not only is music a very integral part of our daily routines and lives, it can play an import role in maintaining and restoring one’s good health when needed. I’m looking forward to helping Shore’s visitors and patients experience the joy and potential-for-healing that music can provide.”

For more information on “Music is Healing” contact Brian Cahill, Shore’s director of marketing and public relations, at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 609-653-3527.

ABOUT SHORE MEDICAL CENTER
At Shore Medical Center, located in Somers Point, NJ, kindness complements an extraordinary level of clinical sophistication. People are the foundation of this modern medical center where advanced technology harmonizes with compassionate care. Shore Medical Center attracts the area’s best physicians, nurses and clinicians, and is the first and only hospital in New Jersey and one of 62 healthcare organizations worldwide to earn Designation as a Planetree Patient-Centered Care Hospital®.  Shore Medical Center is home to six Centers of Excellence for Cancer, Cardiovascular, Neurosciences, Spine and Orthopedic, Emergency and Maternity and Pediatric care. Shore's affiliations include Penn Medicine, Onsite Neonatal Partners, Advanced ICU Care and Advanced Radiology Solutions. Shore's affiliations include Penn Medicine, Onsite Neonatal Partners, Advanced ICU Care and Advanced Radiology Solutions.  In addition, Shore is a member of the Jefferson Neuroscience Network and has physicians on staff from the Rothman Institute. In 2011, Shore opened its Pediatric Care Center, the first of its kind in New Jersey, and its state-of-the-art Surgical Pavilion and Campus Expansion. The Shore Medical Center Foundation (www.GivetoShore.org ) creates and implements dynamic philanthropic programs that support the mission of Shore Medical Center.

 
Saxophonist Pedicin to be Honored

I am so proud to be receving this award!

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Michael Pedicin to Receive 2014 Somers Point Jazz Society Jazz Master Award

From ACWeekly.com's blog:

SOMERS POINT, N.J. — The Somers Point Jazz Society will be recognizing Michael Pedicin as the 2014 George Mesterhazy Jazz Master Award recipient on April 17.

Pedicin is world-renowned tenor saxophone player who has played with Dave Brubeck, Maynard Ferguson, Stanley Clarke, Pat Martino, Terence Blanchard and many others. Pedicin was the former head of jazz studies at Temple University and he currently leads the newly formed jazz education program at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

Read the rest...

 
The Improviser as Musical Philosopher

Michael's article "The Improviser as Musical Philosopher", appeared in the WOODSHED PRO SESSION feature of Downbeat's March issue.

Taken form the article on page 110 of the March 2014 issue:

Downbeat March 2014 "AS IMPROVISERS AND CREATIVE MUSICIANS, we must realize that each of us comes from a different “place.” This important realization is a musical and creative paradigm to embrace.

The paradigm of cultural, ethnic, social, emotional and educational diversity contributes to our ability to take each of these attributes and/or characteristics, and allows this combination to manifest in our soloing. This manifestation is one of connectedness that benefits from the roles, contributions and direction of others.

If we step aside from music for a moment, we can parallel all of life in this way. We are all connected. There is a philosophy of “Ubuntu” here: No one thrives alone. We are all interconnected. Embracing this philosophy intellectually and spiritually will give each of us, as creators of spontaneously composed solos, the supreme ability to permit symbiosis to occur in our music."

For the entire article, go to Downbeat.com

 

Upcoming Dates

4/16/17 - Michael Pedicin Quintet, SMALL'S in NYC; 4-7 www.smallslive.com

4/22/17 - Michael Pedicin Quintet, Exit Zero Jazz festival in Cape May, NJ www.exit0jazzfest.com

5/12/17 - Michael Pedicin Quintet, TRUMPET'S (www.trumpetsjazz.com) in Montclair, NJ

5/13/17 - Michael Pedicin Quintet, Chris' Jazz Cafe, Philly www.chrisjazzcafe.com