Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pittsburgh Jazz - yes, it's here

The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival happened this past weekend. (I wrote about here if you're interested.) It looked really good, with three stages set up in or around Penn Avenue downtown, and a Jazz Crawl on Friday night. Next year, I need to take the whole weekend off of work. That, and family obligations, doomed my time there and I was only able to see one set. Maybe I'm overthinking my presence with something like this, but considering I write for a national jazz magazine, I feel like I should be there when my hometown - one that normally gets passed by the majority of touring jazz acts - finally gets the likes of Gregory Porter, Allison Miller, Pat Martino and Eddie Palmieri here on the same weekend.

I did get to see Rudresh Mahanthappa on Saturday afternoon, though. That was pretty spectacular, with him blowing the hell out of those twisted numbers. His group is amazingly tight. Dave Fiuczynski on guitar, Dan Weiss on drums and Rich Brown (filling in for Francois Moutin) on bass. It sounded pretty rock from where I was standing, to the side of the stage. If I had been front-and-center, it might have had a better balance. It was pretty low-end, but nevertheless it was still enjoyable. Dave might drive me crazy in a different context, but in addition to showing off his chops, he seemed like he was eager to thrown in some noisy riffs too which made sure there was a lot of life it in, not just technical stuff.

Speaking of Pittsburgh missing out on stuff, I ended up talking to a guy who seemed to be all down on our town, and brushed off any positive things I had to say about it:

Pittsburgh never gets good acts.
But Ernest Dawkins, a great Chicago sax player, in coming to the Thunderbird this month.
Yeah, but the Thunderbird's a shithole.
Um - what?!
Anthony Braxton played at the Craftmen's Guild but tickets were really expensive.
But it's Anthony Braxton! How often does he come here? (Further, I checked the archives, and tickets were $20 for a septet that included Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone. Ever check the typical ticket prices at MCG?)
Upon mentioning pianist Misha Mengelberg, I told him that he too came to Pittsburgh FOR A FREE SHOW with the ICP Orchestra less than 10 years ago. And ICP was just here again, without Mengelberg. But by that point, he seemed to be tuning out what I was saying.

I'll end this post on a positive note: Last night at the Space Exchange series at the Thunderbird Cafe (you know, that alleged shithole), bassist Paul Thompson led a group through two amazing sets of music from James Bond films. Ben Opie (saxophones), Ian Gordon (trumpet), Chris Parker (guitar) and Tom Wendt (drums) joined Thompson in arrangements that largely came from Paul's ear, which he used to transcribe them.

Paul - you need to bring this band back again!

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