MCG Jazz Hits a High Note

This month’s lineup at North Side institution MCG Jazz includes a performance by a reunited act that played the White House in 1962.





 

MCG Jazz has been at the forefront of the Pittsburgh jazz scene for more than 25 years. As a city with a rich musical history, we’ve seen jazz greats such as trumpeter and native son Sean Jones rise through the ranks and make frequent appearances at the North Side institution. Established in 1987 by Grammy Award-winner Marty Ashby and artist Bill Strickland, MCG Jazz is a program of the Manchester Craftmen’s Guild, founded by Manchester-born Strickland; the guild’s jazz arm aims to “preserve, present and promote jazz” through live recordings, concerts (by local and visiting musical artists) and educational programming.

This month is a prime example of how high the bar has been set for performances. With three important shows anchoring the month, MCG Jazz continues to make an indelible mark upon the region by instilling the spirit of jazz within the community.

Tickets for these shows generally sell out quickly, so read on for overviews of the three acts and claim your seats right away.

First up is the Paul Winter Sextet, whose two-day appearance at MCG (Nov. 8-9) will take place days before the 50th anniversary of its White House performance. After graduating from Northwestern University, Winter formed the sextet in Chicago, eventually winning the 1961 Intercollegiate Jazz Festival. Signed to Columbia Records by producer John Hammond, the sextet recorded three albums and later spent six months on the road, playing in 23 Latin American countries on a sponsorship from the U.S. State Department.

The tour was so successful that former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy invited the Paul Winter Sextet to perform at the White House; this honor, as the first jazz band to play at the White House, would come to symbolize the optimism of the era. The sextet toured and recorded extensively throughout 1963, eventually disbanding after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The members soon joined other outfits: Drummer Jamey Haddad moved on to Count Basie’s band; bassist Cecil McBee continued with Pittsburgh native pianist Ahmad Jamal; Marvin Stamm matriculated to medical school; and baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson began teaching at Michigan State University. Paul Winter moved to Brazil, where he continued his interest in the study of world music.

 




 

A recent 50th-anniversary recording, , contains this historic concert along with 12 previously unreleased tracks, a set of which will be performed during the current tour. Acoustic Alchemy will be making its first-ever MCG Jazz appearance Nov. 14. The group recently released Roseland, an album that was four years in the making. Since its formation almost 25 years ago, the band’s main objective has been to push the boundaries of instrumental music by embracing numerous musical genres. Originally, guitarists Nick Webb and Simon James recorded, financed and produced an album entitled Acoustic Alchemy. After James left to study flamenco guitar in Spain, Webb connected with Greg Carmichael, a rock guitarist whose skills complemented the group. The act then formally assumed the name Acoustic Alchemy. The group found success when Virgin Airlines took an early interest in its music; many of the first recordings were used as in-flight music for transatlantic trips. Acoustic Alchemy signed with MCA and released its proper debut, 1987’s Red Dust & Spanish Lace. The players cranked out several more releases, including Neutral Elements, Blue Chip and the Grammy-nominated Reference Point. Positive Thinking, placed on the market in late 1998, was the group’s last CD featuring the work of Webb, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died that winter. The band again changed direction as Miles Gilderdale, who had been playing electric guitar, took Webb’s place at acoustic guitar.

 



 

Lastly, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman will come here Nov. 23 for the first time in 18 years. The son of esteemed sax player Dewey Redman, he has achieved critical acclaim in his own right. Although Joshua hadn’t initially intended to become a working musician, the Harvard grad moved to Brooklyn after deferring his admission to Yale Law School. Within five months of his move to the Big Apple, he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Since then, Redman has toured and recorded with many great performers, including Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Elvin Jones and Clark Terry. Playing with noted luminaries enabled Redman to polish his technique and define his sound, creating a unique blend that translated to the highest level of self-expression. A two-time Grammy nominee, Redman has also found success as a top honors recipient by both critics and fans in DownBeat, Jazz Times, The Village Voice and Rolling Stone.


Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Verses Koufax and the Babe - Clemente Wins in a Rout

Verses Koufax and the Babe - Clemente Wins in a Rout

It was no contest among voters asked to choose which portrait among the three baseball greats should hang in the Smithsonian.
See Now: Trailer for Will Smith's "Concussion" Drama

See Now: Trailer for Will Smith's "Concussion" Drama

Shot and set in Pittsburgh, the film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who first discovered CTE in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster in 2002.
Watch: New Trailer for Christmas Comedy Shot in Pittsburgh

Watch: New Trailer for Christmas Comedy Shot in Pittsburgh

Winter weather presented a number of challenges for the big-name cast led by Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Olivia Wilde.
Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Pittsburgh gridlock not only frays nerves — it dings the wallet.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
 A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

Pitt Girl explains her change of heart on what should be done with the large, decaying billboard on Mount Washington.
Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Locally and nationally, college and university students are flocking to programs they perceive to be pathways to jobs while they forego studies of languages, history, art and philosophy. But at what cost?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module