Two weekends ago, I visited Heinz Hall to do a promotional photo shoot with vocalist Tania Grubbs, her PSO bassist husband Jeff, and 4 other bassists from PSO. Tania and I spoke afterward about the March 19 collaboration with Chamber Music Pittsburgh entitled “BASSCHAMBER: Deep Bass with a Bit of Treble.” Enjoy, and hear about the Joe Negri Auditorium on Mount Washington! (note to Chamber Music Pittsburgh: Tania and Mike apologize for “reworking” CMP’s name throughout the interview; we’ll get it right next time!)
The Bad Plus performed at the August Wilson Cultural Center in late January. Orrin Evans is the new keyboardist with the edgy acoustic trio, and he’ll be in town again for Pittsburgh Int’l Jazz Festival.
Phil Kirkland’s “Over & Under the Influence” releases on 2/14. He and I will introduce two tracks to the Pgh airwaves on The Soul Show on February 9th: WYEP 91.3fm, streaming worldwide at wyep.org, Saturday 2-5pm Eastern time.
I crossed paths with Jasmine when she opened for Deborah Bond and Zo! at the former 720 in Lawrenceville. She was a solo act: a guitar, a barstool, and a semi-singing/semi-rap approach to her self-written compositions. Jasmine played guard at Robert Morris University. A sidelining injury led her to this singer-songwriter outlet. She found her way to TX a little while back, and I wasn’t sure if performing was still on her mind. It was great news to hear from her recently, and to find out that she was recording again. The latest single debuted last weekend on Three Rivers at Three, the 3:00p-3:20p segment on The Soul Show focused on Pittsburgh talent. Good to have you back, JT!
2019 is the first year in which both editions of The Soul Show exist for BHM: the 20-something TSS of Pittsburgh, and the fledgling TSS(ii) broadcasting from the hills of St. Thomas to St. Croix, St. John, the BVI and eastern Puerto Rico. That means that Black History themes can be layered each weekend, so we did “The 1st Nine Years of Soul Train” and “The Early EWF Years” back to back on 2/2/19. TSS(ii) now streams at WTJX.org, TuneIn and Next on Saturday evenings at 8pm Atlantic/7pm Eastern, and its archives live here at soulshowmike.org.
Welcome to Black History Month 2019! In this first weekend on TSS Pittsburgh, we celebrate the life of James Ingram, discovered by Quincy Jones and whose voice beautifully melded silk with grit. Also, here’s a reprise of a Soul Train special presentation, in which we sequentially represented each of Don Cornelius’ first nine years. I sat down with Jamaican transplant Lloyd “Cookie” Willacy to discuss his intersections with Marley, and we reviewed “Kaya” and “Rastaman Vibration” in advance of an upcoming Legendary Album Series presentation at the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh. See the soulshowmike.org Concert Calendar for details.
…and in this Virgin Islands episode of TSS, we played a couple of tracks to honor James Ingram, the producer/songwriter who voice was discovered by Quincy Jones. Also, the trajectory of Earth, Wind & Fire’s first and middle releases is covered over the nine segments of the show. Enjoy!
Terri Bell, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust VP, gave us a night to remember at Greer Cabaret Theater. Packed house, Roger Humphries and maybe all of his friends, food/refreshments and a beautiful commemorative mug to take home.
Phil Kirkland’s “Over & Under the Influence”
I’ve been following Phil Kirkland’s work over the past 6 months leading up to the release of his new album, whose first single debuts on or about Valentine’s Day. Phil recorded at Heid, then mastered at Daniel May’s studio in McCandless. We spent some time together on January 15th, and here is some of the footage + interview. More to come, including the upcoming first listen on The Soul Show and longer excerpts from our dialogue.
Lettuce at the Rex, 1/18/19
This is a follow-up to my last blog about Nigel Hall and Lettuce – just some footage from the event. High-energy show as always.
Shanyse Strickland, Carnegie Museum of Art 1/20/19
Shanyse Strickland was introduced to me by the Director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh. She is a multi-instrumentalist and graduate assistant at Duquesne University. We did a photo and video shoot as she performed solo French horn and flute at CMOA. What a beautiful space filled with beautiful sounds. Shanyse and I are planning a full interview in the near future.
Howie Alexander & Co. at Backstage Bar, January 22
Howie Alexander’s trio gave us a time warp with late-January holiday music at the end of the reel below:
The soulshowmike.org Concert Calendar is being set up for direct artist/venue input. Sembéne Film Festival is loading their 30+ showings right now, including the ones next week. Lee Robinson& ISKA is also part of the beta testing. Rick Matt has spun off from from Steeltown Horns with his own quartet, and Steeltown has now added “with Friends” to their lineup. Both play tonight – click below for details.
Since July 2018, Grey Area Productions has been presenting the Legendary Album Series at the Rex. GAP conceived it as an innovative way to connect Pittsburgh artists with collaborative projects. This time it was Devan Rue, Beni Rossman, Lyndsey Smith, Roger Romero and a host of others presenting Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life.”
“Songs” is a double-plus album with well over 20 tracks, and all were presented. You’ll see in the video that artists had to peek at their tablets occasionally for the expansive lyrics 🙂 It was a fine effort by such an ensemble cast. The crowd was clearly impressed and immersed.
The sixth installment of LAS will be Bob Marley’s “Rastaman Vibration” and “Kaya.” Check the calendar on soulshowmike.org for details.
Tana Reunion, 12/26/18
For many of you, the Tuesday jam at Tana Ethiopian Restaurant in East Liberty was a music staple for a five- or six-year stretch. For the first time since it ended two years ago, many of the alumni gathered for a reunion at The Genuine Pub. John Hall, Mark Lucas, Chuck Anderson, Max Leake and Brian Bullard kicked it off, and other folks stepped in throughout the evening . That’s Staciawa Abbott providing vocals in the short vid.
Holiday Season in St. Croix
Here is a quick view of the January 5th Festival Parade in Frederiksted, St. Croix, where I spent part of my childhood. The men on stilts are our fabled Moko Jumbies. Enjoy!
I’m just getting back from St. Croix, and the Pittsburgh calendar is now updated with a lot of January and February offerings: Stanley Jordan (highly recommended), Joy Ike (1/11/19!), Be Bop in Mt. Lebanon with Tom Wendt, Clint Hoover, a lecture by Trayvon Martin’s mother, Jeff Goldblum, a new Legendary Album Series installment (Marley’s “Rastaman Vibration” and “Kaya”), and more. Click on the Concert Calendar menu for details.
Next up: Video highlights from late December’s Stevie Wonder L.A.S. and from the St. Croix Festival Parade on 1/5/18.
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) :