Rambling Round Pittsburgh

The jazz legacy of Pittsburgh confounds easy generalization. There’s no shorthand summary for a city that produced the buoyant pianist Earl (Fatha) Hines as well as the steamrolling drummer Art Blakey and the urbane composer Billy Strayhorn. So Jazz at Lincoln Center wisely makes no claim to comprehensiveness in its Pittsburgh Festival, which takes up two of the three performance spaces at Frederick P. Rose Hall.

In fact, “Pittsburgh: From the Heart of Steeltown” — the festival’s main event, featuring the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in the Rose Theater — offers an almost breezily impressionistic homage. Thursday night’s concert included four Strayhorn compositions, along with pieces by Mary Lou Williams, Erroll Garner and Ray Brown. But it also rambled through less expected terrain: the opener was “Salt Peanuts,” the bebop ditty made famous by Dizzy Gillespie but partly credited to the drummer Kenny Clarke, a Steel City native.

O.K., that’s a stretch. As explained onstage by Wynton Marsalis, though, it made a kind of loopy sense. Mr. Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, was an affable and informative M.C. He also played plenty of trumpet, sounding limber and in command. On “Weather Bird,” the immortal duet by Louis Armstrong and Hines, he crafted a sparkling and affectionate Armstrong ode, moving gradually away from imitation. (The pianist Dan Nimmer filled the role of Hines, and it’s no slight to say he was outmatched.)

A pair of accomplished Pittsburgh expatriates, the vibraphonist Steve Nelson and the drummer Jeff (Tain) Watts, served as intermittent guests. Mr. Nelson played the role of a featured soloist; Mr. Watts seemed more like a tough assistant coach. “The Impaler,” a Watts original that transports an Afro-Cuban clave into 7/8 meter, had the band careering outside its comfort zone; only Mr. Marsalis, soloing from within the trumpet section, seemed fully at ease.

The other half of the Pittsburgh Festival involves a tribute to the tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine in the Allen Room, which requires a separate ticket. The featured ensemble, a quintet anchored by the Pittsburgh-based organist Gene Ludwig, might flourish in a casual setting; on Thursday, impressively framed by the backdrop of Columbus Circle, it seemed a tad underdone.

“Pittsburgh: From the Heart of Steeltown” repeats tonight at 8 at the Rose Theater, and “Music of the Masters: Stanley Turrentine” repeats tonight at 7:30 in the Allen Room, Frederick P. Rose Hall, 60th Street and Broadway; (212) 751-6500.

by Nate Chinen
Source: New York Times

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  1. Thank’s againHi Nice Design! The type is also very neat

    mindy on May 11th, 2010 at 10:05am

  2. I think critics should all be punched in the nose! They are idiots, mostly, and I have heard they are actually all frustrated musicians! I am beginning to believe that stereotype!

    Ok. I am calm now (mostly). The write ups leave so much to be desired. I did not see a write up on the Allen Room performance and wanted one bc I love Turrentine. Would have loved to see/hear the blues at the end of the show. In Rose Theatre, Wynton really outdid himself on a few solos with the plunger. I was impressed. Greatly impressed. Nearly jumped from my seat. Didn’t want to frighten anyone…at my age, people get really concerned if I move suddenly or too fast.

    Anyway, critics? They should all be punched in the nose!


    Jurzy Girl on Feb 20th, 2006 at 10:44pm

  3. LCJO steel jazz concert was great; wonder if NYT critic stayed to listen?! It featured works of diverse jazz musicians from the city; not a ‘school’ per se, but many greats, including Mary Lou Williams and Billy Strayhorn were highlighted… interesting to see how groups of talented people tend to appear from the same environs (even when there’s not one distinctly recognizable ‘sound’)… Phil Schaap gave an excellent explanation prior to the performance. Turrentine performance was energetic and well-paced. The blues at the conclusion was elegantly played and enthusiastically received. Have to wonder about these critics. What did you think J et. al. ? glo.

    glo on Feb 20th, 2006 at 7:30pm

  4. Dang….it would’ve been nice to see “The Impaler” I’ve always loved that tune.

    Jason Jungbluth on Feb 18th, 2006 at 1:50pm

  5. Ok. So, this review was ok. Just OK. I am still fussy with Nate Chinen over the strings review and I am NOT calmed any over this Steel Town review…Steel City? Que cosa? Anyway, I will see and hear for myself tonight. Hope others of you will attend as well. Wish I could attend the Allen Room…LOVE Staneley Turrentine, especially w/Shirley Scott. Oh well. “Some other time…” ha! I love Betty Carter too! Ai. I am talking to myself again…Frederique will tease me.


    Jurzy Girl on Feb 18th, 2006 at 8:07am