Wynton playing for Velocity Broadcasting tonight

Tonight, jazz fans — at least a select few — will get to hear Marsalis when Pittsburgh-based Velocity Broadcasting airs a 90-minute concert and commentary session with Marsalis and his quintet live from WQED. The event also will feature a performance from Matt Savage, a 14-year-old pianist with autism, and Omega Love, a Pittsburgh-based group that released a self-titled album earlier this year.

The concert will be beamed into the Velocity boardroom suites at more than 50 Morton’s restaurants across the country, including the restaurant here at Sixth and Liberty avenues. For $250, ticket holders get to enjoy dinner and Marsalis’ performance in Morton’s HD 7.2 surround-sound digital theaters.

After the concert, guests can pick up a telephone and present their questions to WPXI news anchor Darieth Chisolm, who will relay them to Marsalis.

During a tour of the boardroom at Morton’s earlier this week, the tables were already set for tonight’s concert.

The room is structurally wired with “smart” technology to provide voice, video and high-speed data transmission. With the touch of a keypad, the front area of the room is transformed into a 108-inch high-definition screen. Mounted in the ceiling are nine JBL speakers and two subwoofers designed to provide an excellent listening experience from any seat or table in the room.

Philip Elias, founder and CEO of Velocity Broadcasting, said he started the company about a year and half ago because he wanted to provide a better communication medium to targeted individuals.

“We call it precision marketing,” said Elias. “If I have the opportunity to sit down and break bread with you and can’t sell you my product, there’s no amount of advertising that’s going to change your mind.”

Velocity Broadcasting is the private television broadcast division of Elias/Savion Advertising Inc.

Elias said he developed the concept more than five years ago, but at the time, he said, the idea was too forward thinking. But in February of 2005, he launched the idea, initially in house. Then he flew to Chicago and presented it to officials at Morton’s headquarters.

“Obviously, they liked the idea,” said Elias.

Elias said he and his team then began to build the infrastructure, which meant connecting all 64 of the Morton’s restaurants nationwide.

“We installed satellite dishes and receivers on the roofs of all the restaurants, and then we started to build the Velocity HD suites in all of the boardrooms in the restaurants.”

At that point, Elias said, they went on the air with their first broadcast. “This month alone we are doing four broadcasts.”

In terms of private performances, Elias said there are plans next year to broadcast seven, including one slated for January with Pittsburgh native George Benson and Al Jarreau.

But tonight’s performance will feature Marsalis, the Pulitzer Prize-winning trumpeter.

Phillip A. White, senior vice president and executive producer of Velocity Broadcasting, said Marsalis was the first person he approached after Elias explained with his plans.

“I was blown away after Elias explained his vision,” said White. “It was such a paradigm shift in entertainment and the way it’s delivered. So I called Wynton, and he invited us to New York.”

In February, Elias and White flew to New York and met with Marsalis.

“Wynton immediately got what we are doing and came on board,” said White. “Wynton is on the cutting edge. You only get one time to be the first. In his position, he could have easily said no because he can get a gig all day long. So for him it was not about the money. He felt Elias’ passion, and that is what brought him on board.”

Speaking at WQED studio yesterday afternoon, Marsalis said he became involved in the project after he had the opportunity to sit down with both Elias and White.

“A lot of times I do things based on my feelings,” said Marsalis. “I like to do things I feel good about. I like to work with people. I’m old-fashioned in that way. I don’t really care about the names of things as much as I do about people. They came to my house, and we talked, and I like it.

“What they are doing is an interesting concept. We have the opportunity to have people around the country hear the music in high-definition. It’s like being in a movie theater with enhanced sound in an intimate setting. I’m more into playing jazz in many different arenas. I’ve played on the subway, picnics, clubs, parades, the ballet and symphony orchestras. I like to play in all sorts of settings.”

Marsalis said he understands that watching him perform on a wide screen isn’t the same as live concert experience.

“Many times I notice people at concerts looking at screens rather than the stage,” he said. “Sometimes I have to slap myself because I find myself doing it. A lot of times you’ll go to a sporting event and you’ll look at the screen because the camera guides you. Sometimes you’ll get the ambience of an event, but you miss the nuance. In this way, no, it’s not like being there in the room with someone while they are playing. But no one can be in 50 different rooms at one time.

“I grew up in New Orleans, and my favorite musicians didn’t come too often. Freddie Hubbard came twice. Miles Davis came once. Something like this would have been interesting for me. This isn’t trying to present itself like a live performance. It has an integrity of its own, and the technology has created its own type of intimacy.”

Marsalis said he hopes the experience will bring more people to jazz.

“I guess that will depend on how well we play,” he said.

“I don’t put all of the responsibility of liking something on the audience. We have to play good, too, and that’s with art in general. Our responsibility is to try and play our music on the highest level we can and not try to judge or assess whether another person can understand what we are playing.

“Many times they understand what we are doing better than we do.”

by Nate Guidry
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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  1. Hi Jurzy,
    Interesting review. Thanks.

    I absolutely agree with you on the etiquette issue. It’s an important value on both, musicians and audience. Not only under an aesthetic point of view, but as a sign of respect for each other (showing the importance we give to it).

    Relating the benefits of screens on concerts, I don’t like very much because they distract (and of course are linked to very big venues with all inconveniences posted earlier)but they are aldo very useful for details, specially on pianist whose hands most of times are imposible to be seen while playing.

    OMG!I forgot it…basic (after your review)!…How were dinner “viandas” and wine?…and desserts?…..any delicatessen to be pointed out?.

    Take care.

    careba on Oct 10th, 2006 at 5:52pm

  2. Yes, I attended the event…part of my never-ending social roster.

    I thought people were too talkative. There was a lot of chatter as if we were in a sports bar watching a silent screen. The audience needed to be prepped as to dining/concert etiquette. Two viewing screens would have been helpful so everyone could have had viewing ease. The sound quality improved steadily from the opening act (which I did not think a good match for Wynton’s group) to Wynton’s performance. But even then, the audience was too loud and far too chatty.

    Musicians were their normal-talented-selves but the camera shots were often, very often, less than flattering. I did like seeing Ali Jackon’s drumming shoes, they were black bowling style shoes with orange laces–very stylish! I was tickled. My Dear Hero spoke passionately about something but due to the noise level in the room, I could not hear a word of his commentary. I appreciated seeing Dan Nimmer’s hand positions from an overhead shot. However, I also spent what seemed to be an eternity looking at the backside of the hostess from an awkward overhead shot.

    Had I stayed for the Q&A session with the artists after the performance, I might have gained insight as to how much the chatty audience gained form the experience of having participated in such a techno-intimate experience.

    I thought Wynton’s performance was timed well; he came on during the presentation of the main course. Mouths were busy chewing and so the chatter that had totally obliterated the opening acts (there were two performers) had subsided to a degree. But again, the audience needed to be prepped; even I was chattier than I should have been but I learned a great deal about Kenyan beef jerky.


    Jurzy Girl on Oct 10th, 2006 at 9:35am

  3. Hi J.,
    did you attended to the event?
    I’m curious about people’s reaction to the experience?
    And what about the musician’s reaction, how is it playing for this kind of concert?
    You said you are overbooked….I know, I know….. but, would you be kind and, please, post a little bit furhter info with your enlighting opinions about the event?.
    Thks and take care.

    careba on Oct 10th, 2006 at 5:37am

  4. Wynton played along with Carlos Henriquez, Walter Blanding, Ali Jackson, Dan Nimmer and Jennifer Sannon sang. He played something from The Magic Hour (“Big Fat Hen”?), some new material (including a lovely ballad about getting back to Romance), as well as standards like “Comes Love” and another whose title I cannot recall.

    Innovative concept and an interesting experience. I think with some fine-tuning the idea will catch on and offer a technologically sophisticated way to enjoy a concert experience. I am glad Wynton is forward thinking enough to have embraced this idea and offer his support. Just another way he opens doors.


    Jurzy Girl on Oct 8th, 2006 at 1:49pm

  5. Similar experience to “videoconference” (I mention ‘cause the feedback is closer) but with higger and better technology and prestations??.
    Who are in the Quintet for this ocassion?..and what program???.

    careba on Oct 7th, 2006 at 9:23pm

  6. Similar concept to closed circuit sports; kind of surprising this has not been done before. Thanks, L!

    gloria on Oct 7th, 2006 at 8:46pm

  7. Gloria the concert was only for people at Morton’s Restaurants across the country

    Luigi Beverelli on Oct 7th, 2006 at 8:30pm

  8. Hi! Couldn’t find at WQED on 10/07. Will this performance be broadcast at another time? Interesting concept, probably one that will become commonplace before too long!

    gloria on Oct 7th, 2006 at 8:20pm