Over the past several months MCG Jazz has been in the process of upgrading the audio and video capabilities. The facility is now equipped with four HD cameras – robotically controlled. The pro tools system was also upgraded to the current software and hardware version . Additionally the studios now have the ability to webcast live from the concerts. The first live stream will take place on May 18, 2012 featuring the magnificent Dutch musicians Amina Figarova and Tineke Postma. Visit www.mcgjazz.org to sign in for the stream.
Check out this example of the new MCG Jazz HD video.
I got a call last summer from a good friend in Phoenix that was responsible for many of the K-Tel recordings from the 70s and 80s, asking if MCG Jazz would be interested in producing a project that included the top 50 jazz tracks of all time. After weeks of discussion, I could nail it down to my personal list of over 200 tracks. . . . and eventually we narrowed the list to 52 tracks over four CDs.
The recording sessions took place over a six week period and features over 30 of the finest musicians from the Pittsburgh region. The tracks were grouped into for packages; Chillin’, Swingin’, Groovin’ and Boppin’. The recordings are scheduled for release this summer.
After working with the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History to recreate Duke Ellington’s only musical Beggar’s Holiday in the fall of 2009, I became keenly aware of the vast abundance of priceless music in the museum’s collection. After a series of meetings with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Executive Director, Ken Kimery, we decided to mount a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald utilizing many of the original arrangements Ella recorded from master arrangers such as Billy May and Oliver Nelson.
With the help of the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation, the program first appeared on the MCG Jazz 2009-2010 concert season. Subsequently, the project has toured to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ, and Blues Alley, Washington, DC. This summer, “A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald featuring the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra with vocalist Kim Nazarian” will be presented at the Animal Crackers Jazz Series at the Racine Zoo in Racine, WI on July 11, 2012, and as part of the Allegheny County Parks Summer Concert Series at South Park Amphitheater, Pittsburgh, PA on July 13. For tickets to the Animal Crackers series please click here. South Park is a free event, for more information, click here.
For the past several years I have been transcribing the guitar trio arrangements from the Poll Winners recordings from the late 1950’s that featured Barney Kessel, Ray Brown and Shelly Mann. From 1958 – 1962, all three of these jazz legends won the DownBeat reader Poll for top musician in there category. As a result they made five records under the “Poll Winners” title. Click here to check out the original records.
I selected 11 tracks from these five recordings and recorded the arrangements with Tom Wendt on drums and Jeff Grubbs on Bass. In addition to the CD of the music, the arrangements will be made available as well. The release date is scheduled for October 30, 2012. Sample of the record coming soon!
This announcement is from the Jazz Forward Coalition, a new group of industry leaders. Please check out the newsletter, forward the link to your friends and share our excitement about our new global and unified voice for jazz.
Click here to view the premiere edition of the JFC “Business of Jazz” newsletter.
Jazz is as vital as ever, with vibrant local scenes, active educators and thousands of jazz recordings released each year. However, the jazz community lacks a central organization to coordinate and maximize its vast resources, and must take a mainstream new media approach through social and professional networking. The Jazz Forward Coalition (JFC) was formed by a consortium of industry leaders who seek to raise jazz’s profile by enhancing its vitality and cultural relevance. The organization’s leadership group includes: Peter Gordon (Thirsty Ear Recordings), Michael Ricci (All About Jazz), Marty Ashby (MCG Jazz), Don Lucoff (DL Media) and Jeff Myers (THIS IS RED Agency).
JFC plans to utilize existing and emerging technologies in order to sustain growth and expose jazz to an under-served community. The goals of the organization include creating a central hub for the jazz industry, a global brand for jazz, and a leadership voice for the jazz community. They plan to reach these goals through grants, fundraising efforts, music industry partnerships and with an online presence.
The work of the JFC will be focused on four levels: connectivity via a business-to-business website; a global voice that speaks both within the community and outside; a knowledge base library of tools bringing marketplace solutions to its membership base; and strategic partnerships to help with mainstream market penetration and economic viability.
JFC will create an interactive website that will allow jazz professionals to network, publish and exchange information and access marketplace tools.An online newsletter, “Business of Jazz,” has already been developed to keep jazz professionals up-to-date on industry news and trends.
Click here to view the premiere edition of the JFC “Business of Jazz” newsletter.
Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy CD Release Party ~ Thursday, July 29, 2010 ~ 8:00 – 9:30pm
Stick around after for the Roger Humphries Jazz Jam Session
CJ’s Restaurant and Lounge
2901-2911 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Citiparks Bach, Beethoven and Brunch ~ Sunday, July 18 ~ 10:30 am – noon
Pittsburgh Guitars presented by MCG Jazz
Fifth and Shady Avenues, Point Breeze/Squirrel Hill
Monroeville Jazz Festival~ Saturday, July 17, 2010 ~ 3:00 – 9:00pm
Boyce Park Wave Pool North Parking Area
Free with a non-perishable food donation for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Line-up: (all local musicians)
Center of Life Youth Jazz Band
Etta Cox – Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald
Mike Tomaro – Tribute to Benny Goodman (I’m playing in this band)
Eric Mintel Quartet with Donna Bailey – Tribute to Dave Brubeck
For over 15 years Paul Gertner and I have been combining Jazz and Magic in performances and corporate presentations. The latest iteration of the presentation took place at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA, June 14-20, 2010.
Over the years we have explored many connections between Jazz and Magic. In jazz we learn standards like “Take the A Train” and in magic we learn the classics such as the “cups and balls routine.” The great magicians are master improvisers just like the master jazz musicians, and both art forms focus greatly on interaction with their audiences. Also, magicians build there routines based on the tremendous legacy of previous magicians just as we do in jazz. Most importantly, both Jazz and Magic have a deep respect for the masters that have paved the way for what we do now.
See a version of JazzMagic we did for a recent TEDx Conference in Pittsburgh:
After a recent workshop on Barney Kessel I gave at Duquesne University several of the students asked me about the art of taking short/concise solos. Barney Kessel, Johnny Smith, and Herb Ellis to name a few were all masters at taking only a chorus or two – yet they made very powerful musical statements. The students asked me to post some examples of short solos in a live context. Here are four of mine:
As Charles “Teenie” Harris’ photography poetically illustrate, Pittsburgh has been home to a long line of great jazz artists. Masters such as Roy Eldridge, Billy Eckstein, Art Blakey, Mary Lou Williams, George Benson and others were not only great performers but leaders, educators, composers and arrangers. Their influence is heard throughout the world and their legacy lives on through the tenacity and commitment of organizations like MCG Jazz and itsPittsburgh Jazz Legacy Project.
Pittsburgh has been at the epicenter of jazz since the 1930s when all the great big bands of the era would stop in the city, for as long as a month, to perform on their way from New York City to Chicago. The significant number of Jazz Legends who got their start in Pittsburgh is due, in part, to this exposure. Over the past century, cultural diversity coupled with robust philanthropic support for the Arts in the Pittsburgh region has laid the foundation for jazz to flourish and has produced many of the greatest Jazz Masters the world has ever known.
With support from BNY Mellon, MCG Jazz is excited to announce the release of a new CD by the 21st Century Swing Band entitled,Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy. The 21st Century Swing Band features nine of Pittsburgh’s finest musicians with special guests Roger Humphries, John Wilson, Maureen Budway and Joe Negri. Each of the 15 songs is dedicated to a specific Pittsburgher whether it is Stanley Turrentine, Henry Mancini, Dakota Staton or Ray Brown.
In 1979, I started a band while as an undergraduate at Ithaca College calledAURORA. The band had trumpet, saxophone, trombone, guitar, bass, piano and drums. It was such and exciting period for jazz as the mixing with rock, Latin and R&B gave jazz musicians the opportunity to play in places that were new for jazz musicians. The band played instrumental jazz with a Tower of Power or Chicago type approach which appealed to the college crowd. We would play in dance clubs and perform the Average White Band tune– “Pick Up the Pieces” for 20 minutes with long solos and a hip groove. Then we would play something from Jeff Lorber, Chick Corea, The Brecker Brothers, The Crusaders and maybe Freddie Hubbard’s “Super Blue” to let the kids cool off. The cats in the band were transcribing tunes off the records at a breakneck pace and we were having a ball playing this music while learning new harmonies and grooves at the same time.
Now, 30 years later, I put together an updated version of the band here in Pittsburgh with my brother Jay (who was in the original band) and Mike Tomaro the fantastic arranger and reed player here in town. All three of us cut our teeth on this music and we have had a tremendous time going down memory lane in the process of picking out the tunes. The other three musicians James Johnson III, Alton Merreland Jeremy MacDonald were not even born when we were playing this music in 1979! While we have only had one gig so far, the experience of recreating this music and playing it with a new generation of musicians has been very gratifying – hopefully more to come. Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on great tunes from the 1975-85 era. Our next scheduled gig is August 22nd as part of the Reservoir of Jazz Series at Highland Park at 5PM.