September 19, 2008

Jazz is Hot Ticket at Craftsmen’s Guild, Around Town

By Bob Karlovits

Marty Ashby could not have picked a better year to expand the program at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild.

Amid clubs closing or cutting back drastically and concert promoters showing steady reluctance to bring in major jazz acts, his planning rides over the ridge like the U.S. Cavalry in full stride.

The Guild, on the North Side, has nearly doubled the number of acts it is bringing in this year, in a series that begins Friday with the Yellowjackets, who are doing some touring with ex-Miles Davis guitarist Mike Stern.

Ashby says there are less-established acts that need to be seen and, as a steady jazz presenter, he believes it is his job to do that.

As a result, some performers will be in for only one day, some for two and some for the four-day sessions that have been the Guild's trademark for more than 20 years.

This fall, for instance, bassist Christian McBride will lead his Ray Brown tribute band Dec. 4 through 7 and flugelhornist Chuck Mangione will play Oct. 2 through 5.

But pianist Michel Camilo will be there Oct. 11 and 12, while Stern and the 'Jackets will open one-day shows followed by Martin Taylor and Gerald Clayton on Oct. 17 and Toshiko Akiyoshi on Nov. 9.

Besides those shows, the Guild, UPMC and Pittsburgh 250, celebrating the city's birthday, are joining up to stage a gala Nov. 14 at Heinz Hall. It will feature pianist-composer Ivan Lins, singer Nancy Wilson and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra doing Brazilian material after a reception with food from that country.

For information on any of those shows, contact the Guild at 412- 322-0800.

Of course, no jazz version of "Autumn Leaves" would be fitting without the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar and Concert. That half-week of workshops, seminars and performances starts Oct. 29 at various sites on the Pitt campus in Oakland.

It wraps up Nov. 1 with a concert at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, featuring a lineup of stars, which will include pianist Patrice Rushen, drummer Ndugu Chancler and saxophonist Antonio Hart. It also will feature Leon Lee Dorsey, a bassist who studied at Pitt and has returned to the faculty.

While those are the major events coming up, some lower-keyed shows are worth keeping an eye on.

Singer Lilly Abreu, the marvelous soprano who teaches at Carnegie Mellon and Chatham universities and at the University of Pittsburgh, will perform Oct. 4 at the Frick Fine Arts Center in Oakland.

She will be joined by some of the area's strongest performers, such as bassist Dwayne Dolphin and saxophonist Eric DeFade.

To keep matters going, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust stages two acts, one at 5 p.m. and one at 8 p.m. every Tuesday at the Cabaret Theater and Backstage Bar on Penn Avenue, Downtown. These shows feature some of the top local performers and provide a steady look at the local scene.

Best of all, they are free.

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