BASSCHAMBER, March 2019
We interviewed Tania Grubbs about the upcoming BASSCHAMBER event a couple of months ago. It lived up to expectation: five PSO bassists, an electric bassist with Mahavishnu Orchestra lineage, Tania as vocalist, James Johnson III and Hugo Cruz in rhythm support. This was a collaboration with Chamber Music Pittsburgh, part of whose mission is to present new and interesting creations beyond their normal confines. The setlist swept through Seals & Crofts to Zep to Aretha. BASSCHAMBER was performed at the Joe Negri Auditorium, an intact portion of the now-converted school he attended on Mt. Washington.
Van Hunt at Creative Alliance, Baltimore
The first time I saw Van Hunt was at Thunderbird Café (Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pgh) show a long time ago. After the high energy of Vintage Trouble‘s opener that night, VH was a little quiet for the crowd. When his last album came out a year or two ago, I was totally impressed, and I wanted to see him again. Baltimore was the closest place I could find.
Creative Alliance is a former movie theater converted to a multipurpose arts space. The first thing I noticed on the website was that I could have stayed for three consecutive nights of exceptional music: Hunt, then Ghost-Note, then Bombino. Impressive.
Van came with himself, guitars and a drum machine. I’m not a fan of drum machines, but this was the best execution I’ve ever seen. He is a consummate entertainer, his voice and guitar and lyrics exquisite. Everyone in the full house knew every word. He invited his son, 16yo Drake, to share vocals on a song, then brought out some amazing young local cat named José to share guitar duties. Toward the end of the night, the drum machine was off and it went to the next level.
Interview, Sembène Film Festival’s Sabira Bushra
In the 2/7/19 edition of this soulBlog, I talked about the local gem that is Sembène Film Festival, which has now expanded to 30 presentations in one season, and has migrated a significant number of them to Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods. After recently attending the viewing of South Africa’s “Nothing But The Truth” at the Community Engagement Center, I interviewed Sabira Bushra of SFF about the organization’s mission and offerings. She is particularly excited about the April 29th showing of “True Conviction,” with a talk by one of the film’s real-life figures. Have a listen here:
Songs Of Our Native Daughters
Rhiannon Giddens, a founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has impacted American music with her banjo mastery, her beautiful voice and, most importantly, her educative mission. This morning I posted a flashback photo to FB from her “Protest” performance with Leyla McCalla and Bhi Bhiman (Club Café, Feb. 2016).
Giddens and McCalla collaborated once again on a 2019 release entitled “Songs of Our Native Daughters.” The first song I heard was a cover of Bob Marley’s “Catch A Fire” – Wrett Weatherspoon was playing it on WYEP’s Big Town Blues as I was packing up to leave the on-air studio, and I stopped dead in my tracks. That piece alone made it a candidate for 2019’s Top Ten Albums. Listen out for that and more on The Soul Show.