The Rex Theater has been presenting a Legendary Album Series, and its most recent one was Stevie’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” on 12/22/18. When that release came out in ’76, there were 2 LPs plus a 45-sized disc that was unusual in that it also spun at 33 1/3 rpm.
This resulted in a songlist that utilized 4 vocalists, a brass section, keys and rhythm. Beautifully done. More pics, more essay and a 60 Seconds of Pittsburgh video montage later.
Happy Solstice! See you on 12/22 for the annual Christmas special! There’s always something new to play. The 2018 Les McCann is a keeper.
Teresa Hawthorne, The Flow Band, Twan Moore are around town on Friday. Tony Campbell, Lee Robinson, “Songs In The Key Of Life” installment of the Legendary Album Series at the Rex, Rick Matt, and Let’s Groove Tonight are on Saturday. Check out the Concert Calendar tab and/or listen to TSS for more info.
The Soul Show’s annual Christmas Edition is on 12/22, but…this year there will be two, because of my recent collaboration with WTJX-fm in the US Virgin Islands. The WTJX show goes by the same name, is also 3 hours, and is also on Saturdays. It’s recorded it in my basement studio (built by a TSS supporter). My approach to the playlist is a little less eclectic/daring, but things are evolving.
If you’d like to hear a blackish holiday mix before Saturday, here is the WTJX edition for your early and on-demand listening pleasure:
S.O.S. Band opened the much-awaited inaugural We Want The Funk Festival on 12/14/18. The August Wilson Center team went all out with the Afrocentric offerings for both adults and children all day Friday and Saturday.
Okay, on the music front, let me begin by saying that S.O.S., although solid, never felt to me on the same echelon as Cameo/Brick/Lakeside/O. Players/Con Funk Shun. Maybe it was that the mechanized 80s sound was in full swing when they hit it big. Given my slight predisposition, I was hoping to be swayed. Mary’s voice was strong and she was energetic for 75, but overall the band looked a little corny of step and a bit flat. Most significantly, though, the sound was not at AWC’s normal level of excellence. The bass cabinets at the stage corners sounded muddy, and I’m wondering if the band brought their own sound team and extra gear. It didn’t sound like the home team.
In balance, I bounced my thoughts off of another attendee whom I respect, and he thought everything was fine.
Beni Rossman plays Village Tavern every 3 months or so, and I spent Saturday evening enjoying local talent. This time the trio included Chris Potter, Beni’s bandmate in Starship Mantis, and Olga Watkins’ drummer Subha Das. At the end of the 60 Seconds of Pittsburgh video is a sweet rendition of Hathaway’s “This Christmas.”
Village Tavern is a family business owned by Ray Hanis, who spent many years as an actor in California. That’s him (front) with his son and brother. His second love is music, and the bands he brings in often invite him to sit in on percussion. I think he told me Denzel used to stop in while filming “Fences.”
As I walked into Backstage Bar yesterday evening, Kenny Blake was killin’ “Always There” by Ronnie Laws. As WESA host Bob Studebaker explains, it is tradition that Kenny play on the Tuesday leading up to Christmas. It was packed.
12/13/18 was the day that WYEP Production Manager Brian Siewiorek and I produced The Soul Show’s pieces for the annual “Departures” segments. We covered the early (Columbia) years of Aretha, legendary James Brown drummer Jabo Starks, PsychSoul-era lead vocalist Dennis Edwards of the Tempations, and Motown’s fabled guitarist “Wah Wah” Watson. Airings will begin soon on wyep.org
My other major production duty was to complete TheSoul Show’s 2018 Top Ten. As always, this was no small task. This may help with your stocking stuffing. Here they are in alphabetical order (Artist, Album) :
Sean Jones ties an AWC exhibit to a new composition tonight with “Flying Girls”: https://www.wesa.fm/post/installation-nigerian-artist-inspires-musical-composition?utm_source=inboxedition&utm_medium=email#stream/0
Kelsey Wooley Jumper is directing a production that premieres tonight and continues out into next week: http://folklab.ticketleap.com/other/
Another exciting segment of City of Asylum’s National Jazz Series, Thursday night: http://www.alphabetcity.org/events/kaleta-super-yamba-band/
We Want The Funk is on Friday and Saturday. The August Wilson Center just sent me a brand new S.O.S. track that we’ll check out on The Soul Show.
One question that always arises is how intact is the current lineup of an old-school band like S.O.S., Brick or Con Funk Shun.
In the case of War, we know that original member Lonnie Jordan is all alone, supported by a cast of journeymen; fortunately, in that case, three of the others from the original seven (including Lee Oskar) are all together in the Lowrider Band. I hope AWC or the Trust might consider having them soon. Everyone’s getting older.
Back to “We Want The Funk”….i haven’t yet researched the S.O.S. or Brick lineup, but there is no question that Con Funk Shun is in amazing form, with their two co-leads on vocals, Pilate and Cooper, still in place, as well as hornman Fuller. The recent Hartwood show was tight and energetic. Their album of a few years ago (first in years) was very, very impressive, right down to a daring cover of Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” Their own new compositions showed the above-average lyricism and careful arrangements of old.
One of the elements of my multimedia cross-platform project for black music/arts is a shared, web-based calendar. Sub-calendars managed by artists, venues and other stakeholders automatically merge into a master calendar that I present weekly on The Soul Show. In parallel, the new soulshowmike.org website publishes the calendar within the site, as well as feeding it to FB, Twitter and a newsletter (via free subscription). Several artists now have sub-calendars that are synced to the master. More to come.
Funding for this project (blog+calendar+…) was provided by the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.
This week’s highlights include the “We Want The Funk” Festival and Sean Jones, both at AWC. First things first, though: if you missed the Betty Davis film’s world premiere in Pittsburgh earlier this year, then it is your must-see on 12/10 at City of Asylum. It is part of the acclaimed Sembène Film Festival. I just checked at 5am, and there are still free tickets available.
Betty’s impact on 70s funk, female independence in music making, and the advent of jazz fusion is huge. She is a de facto Pittsburgh Hall of Famer.
During a November trip to NOLA, I hooked up with Lou Hill of Water Seed to find out how the band was doing since their summer visits to Pittsburgh, beginning with the Three Rivers Arts Festival performance. They have been on an upward trajectory with the Billboard-charting album “Say Yeah.”
First we did a quick walkthrough of the fabled public radio station WWOZ, situated next to the French Market. I just wanted to touch the walls. Just like at WYEP during off hours, there was a volunteer host on the air and almost nobody else around. She ran down to let us in, then ran back up to the on-air studio. (The sound is muted since we didn’t have microphones set up for good audio. The clips are just to give you a sense of the places.)
(Did you ever notice that public radio is usually near the bottom of the FM dial? So, whenever you’re traveling around the country and need some good radio, start at 88MHz and work yourself up slowly until you hear sedate voices and/or great music.)
Lou and I have talked many times, including on WYEP interviews, so we ordered some smoothies in the Market and focused on what’s been happening of late. Here are some key takeaways:
Water Seed has sought a careful balance between progressive creativity and commercial viability. I wasn’t aware of this, but there was a release called “Fresh” several albums ago that was pulled because it floundered. Some thought it was ahead of its time. Lou and the band are ready to come back to this theme, though they recognize that a new album would have to carefully mix the vibe the current fan base knows with the vision of the future.
Many in the band are songwriters, something else I wasn’t aware of. Right now Lou is working through the drafts and fleshing them out.
The core lineup of Water Seed may see some change – more on that later.
After we parted, I walked over to Jackson Square to track down the artist brother of longtime Soul Show listener John Maurer from Altoona, PA. All I had to do was spot the family whiskers in the throngs. Jim Maurer paints animals.
Justin Strong Presents
I don’t get to Spirit often enough for Interval Jazz Night, which is the fourth Wednesday of every month. I wanted to see multi-instrumentalist Shanyse Strickland sit in with the house band. SS is originally from Ohio (Akron, I believe), so she was able to connect with Kent St. professor Chris Coles before hitting the stage. Strickland and I are planning a soulshowmike.org interview in the future. Stay tuned.
Justin Strong has been directing energies to a management role at Spirit after the closure of his AVA/Shadow enterprise. Significantly, the tag “Justin Strong Presents’” is showing up in his promotions and posts. When we talked last week, I told him that this was a really important step in leveraging his brand. He agreed, and he mentioned that he has brought in additional team to help him with social media, graphics, etc. Also, Justin is working on plans for another big NYE affair. Here was last year’s NYE with Lyndsey and Water Seed:
The Midnight Hour
I have been following Adrian Younge for the past 7 years, starting with his cinematic “Something About April” CD. We finally hooked up for a summer dinner discussion at The Watergate in DC, with the plan to reconnect for a phone interview. Excerpts of the interview were presented over the past three weeks on The Soul Show (WYEP). Here is the interview in its entirety:
Younge’s latest project is The Midnight Hour with Ali Shaheed Muhammad. It was quite a surprise to hear that their first tour was passing through Pittsburgh. Loren Oden, who supplied guest vocals on the album, came along with a full contingent of brass and strings to support the rhythm section. Younge and Muhammad swapped keyboard/bass roles late in the show. It was a full house, and it was one of the best shows of 2018. I happened to sit near someone who was at the early-2018 Matador! Soul Sounds show at the Rex, and back then she and I predicted that it would end up being one of the best of the year. That still holds true, and this TMH show is right up there with it.
…and here is a little taste of that Matador! Soul Sounds show at the Rex:
Lighthouse Arts has been a jazz informational series hosted at The Heid House in Aspinwall. Tom Wendt and his associate spun vinyl and showed clips as part of the November 11th installment entitled “Swing to Bop.” Next time, Mensah Wali of Kente Arts Alliance will lecture on Rahsaan Roland Kirk on December 9th; check the Concert Calendar at soulshowmike.org for details.
In sync with Mensah’s talk, note that on the previous day there will be Kente’s presentation of the James Carter Quintet, with a “Tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk.” This is an opportune time to do your big homework on RRK.
Guardians of Sound
In addition to providing safe haven for displaced and exiled writers, City of Asylum is a best-kept secret for great musical performances and features. On November 15th, Guardians of Sound presented the Acoustic Hip Hop Ensemble. This was such a treat. A prominenr guest vocalist commented that in all of his years, he had never before worked with a live orchestra. Hiphop economics don’t always accommodate a big group of musicians, but there can be magic when it happens.
Light Up Night 2018: Clara Kent and Tony Campbell
Several months ago, I decided to introduce a local-artist feature to The Soul Show on WYEP 91.3fm. It’s called “Three Rivers at Three,” and it has spotlighted acts like Lyndsey Smith, Kinetic and Funky Fly Project. One of the positive outcomes of this project is that I have become more active in seeking out talent to feed the feature. When I asked a young mover/shaker to recommend some of her peers for 3R@3, she said “Clara Kent” without hesitation.
I reached out to CK, and she is in the process of bundling tracks for my use on the show. In the meantime, I finally had a chance to see her live at Light Up Night 2018. Wonderful presence and energy with her Tribe Eternal! The piece presented here is short because of that Allegheny River misty cold.
Tony Campbell was the next, and warmer, stop. I didn’t capture it on vid, but he played a beautiful piece from Grover Washington’s “Winelight” that I hadn’t heard in ages.
I missed Elias Khouri earlier in the evening, but he’ll be back for New Year’s Eve downtown.
A few more things:
Frankie Beverly & Maze were just announced – see the Concert Calendar at soulshowmike.org
The Betty Davis film returns for the Sembene Film Festival at City of Asylum. Sign up for your free ticket right away!
Pitt ethnomusicologist Danielle Maggio informs me that Betty Davis is writing music again. This is great news.
August Wilson Center’s “Jazz at the Café” series just announced Butcher Brown for early 2019:
See you soon. Next up: Lou Hill of Water Seed (in New Orleans), Adrian Younge & The Midnight Hour