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It's A 'Burgh Thing: Jazz In Pittsburgh

Aside from being America's current "Most Livable City," Pittsburgh is well-known as a home of great pro sports teams (with rabid black-and-gold-clad followings), steel (not much of that anymore) and many legends of jazz: Art Blakey, George Benson, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, Ahmad Jamal, Lena Horne, Roy Eldridge, Ray Brown, Stanley Turrentine and Maxine Sullivan, to name a few.

But we shine a light on Pittsburgh jazz in the present. There are many excellent working jazz musicians playing all around town; some well-established, some new to the scene and some who are internationally known. The following five artists represent a variety of styles. If you happen to drop by the 'Burgh, there's a pretty good chance that at least one of them will have a gig somewhere. This list just scratches the surface of the Pittsburgh jazz scene, so come visit to hear more.

It's a 'Burgh Thing: Jazz in Pittsburgh


"Eu Nao Tenho Onde Morar"

From 'Kenia Celebrates Dorival Caymmi'

Kenia, a native of Brazil, has been part of the Pittsburgh music scene for a long time. Always close to her Latin jazz roots, Kenia celebrates one of the most important Brazilian composers of all time, Dorival Caymmi, on her latest album. Songs also include "Doralice," "Vatapa" and "Você já foi à Bahia?" Her voice is powerful for up-tempo sambas and subtle for slower ballads, but all of her sunny music is perfect listening for a cold November day.

Kenia Celebrates Dorival Caymmi is available at CD Baby.

The Ortner-Roberts Duo


From 'A Trip to America: A Yiddish/Creole Fusion'

On A Trip to America, German clarinetist Susanne Ortner-Roberts and her husband, Pittsburgh-bred pianist Tom Roberts, explore new musical directions that mix stride piano, klezmer, Benny Goodman, calypso, New Orleans jazz and Roma music with bits of many other styles. The duo's crystal-clear sound is big enough that you might feel like there are more than two people playing.

For more information, visit the Ortner-Roberts Duo website.

Tony DePaolis

"The Contemporary Dynamic"

From 'The Contemporary Dynamic'

Bassist Tony DePaolis is a young, in-demand, Pittsburgh-based talent. He seems to play everywhere in Pittsburgh, and with everyone. His debut, The Contemporary Dynamic, includes many of the artists he's worked with over the past few years: a good balance of established Pittsburgh jazz musicians and up-and-comers making names for themselves. The hard-driving title track features trumpeter Sean Jones, alto saxophonist Chris Hemingway, tenor saxophonist Jacob Yoffe, pianist Michael Murray and drummer James P. Johnson III.  If you enjoyed the Kenia tune above and the Carolyn Perteete tune below, the two singers are also featured on the album. If you'd like to hear a little bit of many Pittsburgh-based jazz artists in one place, this is a good place to start.

The Contemporary Dynamic is available at CD Baby.

Sean Jones


From 'Kaleidoscope'

When trumpeter Sean Jones isn't touring the world, he's also an assistant professor at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University School of Music. Jones is also likely to be found playing in Pittsburgh jazz clubs, often just dropping in on jam sessions. The man might not sleep. "Esperanto," from 2007's Kaleidoscope, features another young Pittsburgh artist who should be better known, singer Carolyn Perteete. Her pure voice moves from understated grace to power with ease. The words to this Vince Mendoza composition were penned by the Grammy-winning jazz singer Kurt Elling, who's known for masterfully weaving through vocalese tunes. Perteete and Jones successfully make the song their own.

Tony Campbell

"Cause Mama Said"

From 'T.C.B. II'

Young saxophonist Tony Campbell is another Pittsburgh jazz musician who seemingly manages to pop up everywhere. He leads his own group and plays with many others, most recently at a weekly gig with veteran guitarist Eric Johnson. Campbell's sound is straight-ahead, but on T.C.B. II, he doesn't rely solely on jazz standards (though there are a few), which is great. He has a number of fine original tunes, including "'Cause Mama Said." Pittsburghers can look forward to hearing much more from Campbell, but here, a national audience can get a taste.

T.C.B. II is available at CD Baby.

Copyright 2010 90.5 WESA

Shaunna Morrison Machosky