Monday, October 30, 2017

Jason Stein & Paul Giallorenzo Came to Town!

No sooner had I posted a review of Jason Stein's Lucille album (two blog entries ago) when I got a post from Mr. Bass Clarinet himself saying that he was coming to town with keyboardist Paul Giallorenzo. The fan boy in me bounced off the walls.(I think I was out at another show when I got the message, so that might have been part of it.) 

The two of them, along with drummer Frank Rosaly,  released an album last year under the name Hearts and Minds which I reviewed almost exactly a year ago. Rosaly has since moved to Amsterdam and Chad Taylor has been playing with them, but for Pittsburgh it would be just them. Fine with me. Giallorenzo came to town a few years ago, a show I unfortunately missed because my dad died the same day. So I was looking forward to seeing both of these guys.

Upon hearing about the show, I made a point of telling everyone and anyone who might be interested in seeing them. If Stein hadn't emailed me about it, I might have missed because I didn't see any flyers or hear about any promotion. (Even the guy who typically brings people like this town wasn't hip to it.) I mean - geez, Stein alone is a pretty high profile player as far as Chicago guys go. Plus there's his devotion to one instrument, the bass clarinet. Giallorenzo is no slack either, as a composer and performer. Between the two of them, that's some serious music. You'd think a little publicity would be in order. (That being said, there might have been flyers that I missed.)

There was much hang wringing at first on my end, because the annual Halloween Parade (in the Bloomfield, up and around the corner from the show) was happening the same night, Thursday, October 26. For the first time, my son's school was invited to march in it, so I needed to be able to do that and get to the show. The listing on the website of the Glitterbox Theater (the locale) stated things would run from 7:00 pm to 11:00 pm and didn't mention opening acts. A few exchanges from Stein later, it became clear that there would be at least one opener, so Halloween hijinks would not be missed.

The Glitterbox Theater is a beautiful space to which I have a distant connection. I used to live down the street from it and my landlord worked in a warehouse across the street. Glitterbox used to be the corporate offices of the warehouse and my beloved landlord said he worried that The Boss would see him talking to people at the door (me, delivering the rent check) and get mad. Well, he told me that half the time. Enough to make me feel funny about it. So it's nice to see that not only has the building transformed into a space that houses difference arts-related groups, but that it's put together really well, not in a ramshackle way.

When I got there, Brian Riordan and Matt Alemore, a trumpet-and-sampler duo - were in the midst of creating a soundscape that went from warm and calm to murky to noisy. While that was happening Stein and Giallorenzo were conked out on the couch in the back of the room. The music kind of fit with that, even if it did get a little loud. But when you play free improvisation like this, it's possible to zoom in on the tranquility of it.

Up next was the JonGen├ęt Ramsey Lewis Trio, a wild act featuring locals Greg Pierce, Ed Bucholtz and Jim Lingo. In the dark of the room, it was sometimes hard to see what was going on. Lingo was easy to miss, as he spent part of the set on the floor with his back to the audience, messing with knobs, I think. A pile of folding chairs added some percussion while his comrades both blew trumpets (maybe a pocket trumpet in one case) and created a general soundscape that ended peacefully.

It was hard to get a good picture in the dimly lit room, as these shots indicate, although a friend of mine sitting a row or two behind got a good shot of both Giallorenzo and Stein together. The Hearts and Minds album straddles set grooves with free sound, but the duo maintained the feeling of the evening by keeping things free and noisy. But, man, do those guys really know how to create a sound. All of Stein's chops were on display, getting wild noises out of his reed through a combination of breathing techniques and fingering that seemed to turn the instrument inside out. Giallorenzo leaned over his keyboard (which might have been a synth or a sampler, it was hard to tell), hands moving constantly and creating noisy or chopped-up lines.

The two of them always felt in sync with each other. Even when things got really free, you could feel a connection between the two of them. As it often happens to me (especially after corralling rambunctious kids in a parade), my eyelids got heavy a few times and when I slipped quickly into hallucination sleep, I started hearing lyrics from Stein's bass clarinet. I wish I could remember them now to mention some, but they floated away once my eyes opened. They were good, though.

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