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Category Archive: MCG Jazz

  1. MCG Jazz 32nd Annual Jazz Concert Season

    MCG Jazz 32 A Season For You

    MCG Jazz is pleased to announce our 32nd Annual Jazz Concert Series. The new season has been designed all for you. We have learned, through conversations, surveys and emails from you, the many artists whom you would like to see here on the MCG Jazz stage. The result is Season 32 For You.

    MCG Jazz will host almost 100 musicians for the 2018-2019 series, for you to enjoy. There are 21 headliners performing 13 concerts. More than half of these artists have never performed at MCG Jazz; for many this marks their Pittsburgh debut. The diversity of styles from straight-ahead jazz and fusion to rhythm and blues provides an opportunity for a unique experience at every show.

    Masterful vocalist Bobby McFerrin opens the season September 23, 2018 leading the way for veteran singers Kurt Elling and René Marie, as well as emerging 24-year-old vocal sensation Veronica Swift. We will celebrate the 100th birthday of the legendary Joe Williams with a world premiere program featuring award-winning actor/singer Keith David accompanied by a jazz orchestra to bring to life Williams’ personal stories and his days with the Count Basie Orchestra.

    We heat up winter and spring with Latin jazz. In February 2019, a pianist, percussionist, harpist, and harmonica player will present an eclectic evening of Latin jazz duos, and in April we have a triple-bill, Latin Jazz Festival for you featuring music from Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba with some of the top musicians performing in the world today. Contemporary jazz favorites including Take 6, Jeff Lorber, and Gerald Albright will be joined this season by artists who are sure to become new favorites, including Kirk Whalum, Booker T. Jones, Fred Hersch, and NEA Jazz Master Delfeayo Marsalis.

    Choose-your-own concert subscription packages of four or more concerts are available now. Please visit or call the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Box Office at 412-322-0800 for more information. Tickets can also be purchased with the MCG Jazz free mobile app available through Google Play and the Apple store.

  2. Remembering the Jazz Masters

    Jazz Masters MCG Jazz

    Jazz Masters exhibit in the North Lobby

    For the past 10 years, MCG Jazz has been honoring the jazz masters—who have performed in the MCG Jazz music hall—when they pass away through a photo exhibit installed in the green room. Entering the 31st anniversary season, MCG Jazz is embarking on a plan in 2018 to open limited access to its collection of over 100,000 photographic images.

    The first collection of artifacts picked from the photo archives is an exhibition of legendary jazz guitarists whom we have lost over the past two years, including: Toots Thielemans, Jim Hall, Oscar Castro-Neves, Larry Coryell, John Abercrombie, and Chuck Loeb.

    The photographs-transferred-to-fabric exhibit will be on display at Manchester Bidwell Corporation in the North Lobby Gallery from through the end of 2017. Stop by between 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday or plan some extra time before a concert to walk the display.

  3. Michael Feinstein to perform at MGC Jazz’s 30th Anniversary Series

    By Matt Micucci /
    Vocalist and pianist Michael Feinstein will be replacing Bobby McFerrin as headliner of the MCG Jazz’s 30th Anniversary Concert Series in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Feinstein and his trio will be performing four shows, two each night, on September 23rd and 24th.

    “I am thrilled to be with you to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of MCG Jazz.  I look forward to a special weekend in Pittsburgh,” said Feinstein.

    As previously announced, McFerrin was forced to postpone his tour due to health issues. A statement from McFerrin’s management reads: “Bobby McFerrin is taking a much-needed sabbatical for the remainder of 2016, undergoing a course of treatment for Lyme disease and resting his voice. He was truly looking forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of MCG Jazz and sends his congratulations to all involved in bringing so much music and joy to the Pittsburgh community.”


    The Series will run through April 21, 2017. For more information, go to

    See the original story here.

  4. ‘Genius’ Bill Strickland is more than just a kid from the neighborhood

    Bill Strickland describes himself as “a kid from the neighborhood who got involved in the arts.”

    While that is certainly true, he might also be selling himself a bit short — Strickland, who is the President and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant winner, founder of the Grammy-winning subscription jazz series MCG Jazz, and author of Make the Impossible Possible, a book about a kid from Pittsburgh’s ghetto whose crusade to inspire others to achieve the extraordinary would lead him to a board seat at the National Endowment for the Arts and a speaking gig at Harvard, among other things.

    It all started in the 1960s in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where Strickland grew up as a disengaged youth. Then he met high school art teacher Frank Ross. Ross showed Strickland the power of art, education and community, and instilled in him an interest in working with the kids through an after-school arts program.

    In 1968, Strickland launched his own small after-school ceramics program. That initiative is now called the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth & Arts program — it serves public school students via classes in ceramics, design, digital imaging, 3-D manufacturing and photography.

    By 1972, Strickland had also taken over leadership of the Bidwell Training Center, a struggling job training center near the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. He rebuilt the organization into a “pretty good” job training and vocational center in partnership with various Pittsburgh area industry leaders.

    Once again, Strickland is being humble: This “pretty good” vocational center is a nationally accredited and state licensed adult career training institution, with programs that range from horticulture to medicine to the culinary arts.

    “We partner with industry leaders to develop curriculum specific to their industries,” explains Strickland. “We have these industry advisory boards that work directly with us. The programs we develop are industry compatible, so as to have a high degree of placement and retention.”

    Manchester Bidwell’s arts education opportunities for public school students are directly connected to this work.

    “Our goal is to improve the retention and graduation rates of public school students using arts as an intervention strategy,” says Strickland. “As kids get better in the arts, their retention improves. We graduated 99 percent of our kids last year. We average 90 percent, and a lot of these students go on to college. I think this is a very powerful way of adding value to what these kids need to have to be successful.”

    Once out of school, arts program alumni can continue on with Manchester Bidwell via vocational training (for ages 18 and up). By talking to industry leaders to determine their workforce and skills training needs, they have been able to make these programs incredibly effective.

    According to Strickland, between 75 and 85 percent of Manchester Bidwell’s vocational students go to work every year in the industries in which they were trained. These numbers are consistent across Manchester Bidwell’s eight affiliate sites.

    Those affiliates operate in cities across the United States and follow the same model as the one in Pittsburgh. Five more sites are in the works and should be online in the next 18 months. Strickland’s goal is to eventually have 100 centers throughout the country.

    While Strickland has reason to be proud of the programs he has built, he remains steadfastly humble. To him, the impactful work of Manchester Bidwell is a relatively simple matter.

    “I decided I wanted to get involved with the arts in the community and that’s how this started,” he says. “This has really been a 40-year story of one neighborhood.”

    See the original story here.

  5. My Art Story by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts

    In collaboration with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts looks at the arts and culture of Pennsylvania, with a special look at the many affiliates of Manchester Bidwell Corporation.


    See the video here!

  6. SFJAZZ Collective pays tribute to ‘King of Pop’

    You might not expect a jazz group to cover Michael Jackson, but in jazz the rules don’t always apply.

    In light of that, the SFJAZZ Collective is on tour featuring the music of the late “King of Pop” and stopping Friday at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Hall.

    SFJAZZ Collective

    Where: Jazz Concert Hall, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, North Side.

    When: 7 (sold out) and 9:30 p.m. Friday.

    Tickets: $52.50; 412-322-0800 or

    Bassist Matt Penman says Jackson’s music “is part of the same musical tree [of the jazz greats]— a continuum of African-American music. His sense of rhythm was incredible, the melody and groove are eternal. There is some funk present, which I’m happy about.”

    The repertoire includes “Smooth Criminal,” “Human Nature” and “Blame it on the Boogie,” among other tunes, because “a lot of people [involved in the arranging] went to the old stuff.”

    The San Francisco-based organization, co-founded in 2004 by Randall Kline and Joshua Redman, “started out as a composers’ collective, where everyone brings in original material,” according to bassist Matt Penman.

    Over the years, the collective — not really a band per se because of the consistent turnover — has performed music by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, among others. “Next year, Miles Davis,” Mr. Penman says. “[The personnel] keeps turning over, and the band has a big book of music.”

    Every fall the collective sponsors a residency and extended rehearsal period, from which the music emanates. Five years ago it moved into the SFJAZZ Center, “the only standalone building for jazz in the U.S.,” Mr. Penman notes.

    This year’s ensemble includes trumpeter Sean Jones, the Warren, Ohio, native and alumnus of and former professor at Duquesne University, whom Mr. Penman describes as “fabulous — someone who can lead [a section] and a great improviser as well.”

    Also appearing with this tour are alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, tenor saxophonist David Sánchez, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon and drummer Obed Calvaire.

    Because the collective always showcases original music from the participants, “We’ll be playing our recent music at the same time,” Mr. Penman says.

    See the original story here.

  7. Bill Strickland to speak at “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” a presentation by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

    The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a program of four panelists that will present “Israeli Arabs and Jews: A Shared Society,” on Sunday, April 3 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave. The panelists will present constructive approaches to help all members of Israeli society progress together. The presentation is free and open to the community.

    Panelists will include American and Israeli leaders with collective experience in education, government and the nonprofit sector: Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, Dalia Fadila, Michal Steinman and Pittsburgh native Bill Strickland.

    Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu is co-executive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, an Israel-based nonprofit that promotes coexistence and equality among Israel’s Jewish and Arab Palestinian citizens.

    Dalia Fadila, Ph.D., was the first female dean of an Islamic college in Israel. She is the current president of Al-Qasemi Engineering and Science College and past provost of Al-Qasemi Teacher Training College. Both colleges are near Haifa, Israel. Fadila is the founder of Q Schools, private schools for teaching English and personal empowerment. Q Schools offer special outreach to women as future educators, entrepreneurs and leaders. She is a fellow at the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and participates in other national and international forums dealing with education and Israel’s Arab minority.

    Michal Steinman is the executive director of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues (IATF) in New York. The task force is a coalition of American Jewish organizations dedicated to learning about and raising awareness of Israel’s Arab citizens.

    Steinman joined the IATF after directing the Bedouin Sheep Growers Project, which involved working with senior government officials to create incentives for Bedouin farmers to organize.

    William “Bill” Strickland, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation. While attending college, in 1968, Strickland founded Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) to bring arts education and mentorship to inner-city youth in his neighborhood, Pittsburgh’s North Side. He later established Bidwell Training Center, which offers nationally accredited programs ranging from horticulture to medical technology; MCG Jazz, a venue for music performance and teaching; and the Drew Mathieson Center for Horticultural and Agricultural Technology. Strickland applied a vision of mentorship, education, and beauty to create educational environments similar to MCG outside Pittsburgh, through the National Center for Arts & Technology. Currently, center-affiliated programs operate in eight cities. In 2010, he was appointed to President Barack Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions.

    Attendees are encouraged to continue the discussion during a dessert reception following the program. Dietary laws will be observed. Registration is requested; visit the online registration form at Contact Eric Probola at 412-992-5247 or for more information or to submit questions to panelists in advance.

    Read more: The Jewish Chronicle – Metro Briefs March 17

  8. Jazz preview: Masterworks Orchestra pays tribute to Leonard Bernstein at MCG

    Leonard Bernstein wasn’t known for composing jazz, but that hasn’t stopped the Smithsonian, through its Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, from paying tribute to him, which it will do for two concerts Friday and Saturday at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Concert Hall.

    Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra Celebrating Leonard Bernstein

    Where: Jazz Concert Hall, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, North Side.

    When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

    Tickets: $49.50 (Saturday sold out), 412-322-0800,

    Charlie Young, the orchestra’s musical director for the past three years, notes that it was created by an act of Congress in 1999, with the purpose of “bringing written music to life.” “There’s a locomotive in the museum,” Mr. Young says, offering an example, so “some music might be arranged” with a train theme.

    The project kicked off in advance of Mr. Bernstein’s centennial, which will be in two years. After looking into the archives and consulting with composer, Brazilian native and Franklin Park resident Flavio Chamis, who had been an assistant conductor to Mr. Bernstein, Mr. Young came up with a dozen songs that the orchestra might perform.

    Because big-band charts didn’t exist for that instrumentation, he enlisted Mike Tomaro, Jay Asbhy, Scott Silbert, Stephen Williams and Darryl Brenzel to write them. In addition to Mr. Tomaro’s and Mr. Ashby’s local connections, Mr. Silbert plays lead tenor saxophone and clarinet with the orchestra and Mr. Williams serves as its lead alto saxophonist.

    Because of the classical origins of some of the pieces, “I wanted to have a wide array of color, and the arrangers were able to grasp that,” Mr. Young says, noting the five reed players occasionally double on flutes, clarinets and bass clarinet, and the brass players use appropriate mutes.

    “This music is strong enough to be performed in numerous places,” Mr. Young says.

    Among the dozen selections are “The Great Lover Displays Himself,” “Lonely Town” and “Times Square Ballet” from “On the Town”; “Symphonic Suite” from “On the Waterfront”; and “Mediation No. 1” from the Mass for Cello and Orchestra. That arrangement, Mr. Young notes, includes guitar and vibes — “more spirited” than the original.


    See the original story here.

  9. Hot Sardines channel ‘vintage pop’

    By Bob Karlovits / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    Elizabeth Bougerol says the Hot Sardines are in business basically to have a good time.

    “Our ambition was just to play music that was fun,” says the lead singer of the band that specializes in a melting pot of music from the first half of the 20th century.

    The eight-piece group will make its first appearance in Pittsburgh on March 11 at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild on the North Side.

    The band started as a duo of Bougerol and pianist Evan “Bibs” Palazzo, who met in a jam session in 2007 in Manhattan. They discovered they each liked that early material and “started doing it as a hobby,” with Bougerol adding some rhythm lines on washboard.

    “And then we thought, ‘Well, maybe we ought to do some gigs,’ ” says the singer, who goes by Miz Elizabeth.

    Tap dancer Edwin “Fast Eddy” Francisco saw them when they were practicing one day and added another level to their act.

    By 2010, Bougerol says, they started adding horns to the group as they fleshed out their sound with music from Fats Waller to Thelonious Monk.

    “There is a lot to go on,” she says of their material, which she reluctantly calls “vintage pop.”

    Miz Elizabeth explains she is a little worried about the term “vintage” because it would appear to date their act, but she says she doesn’t know of any description that is “so concise.”

    Besides the three original members, the Hot Sardines feature Jason Prover on trumpet, Mike Sailors on cornet and trombone, Nick Myers on clarinet and saxophone, Evan Crane on upright bass and sousaphone and Alex Raderman on percussion.

    “There was no master plan for putting together a band,” she says. “We just added musicians as we tried to reach other sounds.”

    As they assembled the group, they decided they needed a name, too. Bougerol and Palazzo wanted the adjective “hot” in there, a term that was common in the days of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.

    Then, the singer was inspired by the togetherness of a can of sardines in a grocery store. A moniker was born.

    The group put out three self-produced albums, and then did another for the Decca/Universal Music Classics label in 2014. She says the band hopes to have its second with Decca out in June.

    Like other groups that focus on a time frame, the Hot Sardines always are looking for little-known songs so they can add a fresh touch to this older material, she says.

    “I don’t know if you can call it research as much as obsessive listening,” she says with a laugh.

    Busy MCG weekend

    Bassist Martin Wind and guitarist Philip Catherine will create an international evening of jazz March 13 at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild on the North Side.

    Wind was born in Germany but came to study at New York University in 1996. Catherine is a native Belgian who hasn’t been in the United States for 15 years.

    He also is the performer who the bassist says turned him on to jazz when he heard an album by Catherine and bassist Niels-Henning Oersted Pedersen.

    They will present an evening of duo jazz rooted in the swing tradition.

    Music begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $20 and $10 for students.

    Details: 412-322-0800 or

    See the original story here.

  10. Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild brings ‘true string of pearls’ for 30th anniversary

    By Bob Karlovits / Pittsburgh Tribune Review

    The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s 30th season as a concert venue will present shows that celebrate Pittsburgh’s jazz legacy as well as the North Side site’s history.

    Marty Ashby, executive producer of MCGJazz, says the series will bring back many popular artists from past seasons and present concerts focused on some of the area’s legends.

    “The 30th anniversary is the pearl anniversary, and we think we have a true string of pearls, with no one being the same as another,” he says.

    The season, which opens Sept. 23 with vocalist Bobby McFerrin, will feature some of the performers who have made the guild a home over the years.

    For instance, pianist Monty Alexander will play in his trio with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Alexander played in a trio in 1988 with bassist and Pittsburgh native Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis.

    The series also will feature such frequent visitors as Take 6, the Bob Mintzer Big Band, the Diva all-female big band, pianist Bob James, and the New York Voices.

    It will have Pittsburgh-aimed concerts such as drummer Lewis Nash leading a concert in tribute to drummers Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey. That show also will feature Roger Humphries.

    Bassist Rufus Reid will pay tribute to Ray Brown in a show with the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

    The season:

    Sept. 23 and 24: Vocalist Bobby McFerrin

    Oct. 7: Keyboardist Lao Tizer with guitarist Chiele Minucci, violinist Karen Briggs and saxophonist Eric Marienthal

    Oct. 22: The Summit: Manhattan Transfer and Take 6

    Oct. 29: Freddy Cole 85th Birthday Bash with singer Nnenna Freelon and saxophonist Joel Frahm

    Nov. 19: Ramsey Lewis and Ann Hampton Callaway

    Dec. 3: Monty Alexander Trio including John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton

    Dec. 16: Guitarist John Pizzarelli and singer Jessica Molaskey holiday concert

    Feb. 4: 30th anniversary Under 30 Celebration put together by trumpeter Etienne Charles

    Feb. 10 and 11: Ray Brown Tribute with Rufus Reid, the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra and a bass choir

    Feb. 25: Lewis Nash in Clarke-Blakey tribute

    March 10 and 11, 2017: Diva with Ken Peplowski, Maurice Hines, Bobby Cranshaw and more

    March 17: Joey Alexander Trio

    March 31 and April 1: Bob Mintzer Big Band and the New York Voices

    April 8: Bob James and Howard Paul with Benedetto Guitar’s “Future Stars”

    April 21: 30th Anniversary All-Star Smooth Jazz Celebration with guitarists Peter While and Chuck Loeb, keyboardist Gregg Karukas and saxophonist Vincent Ingala

    Single tickets, from $49.50 to $65, will go on sale Sept. 1. Packages are on sale now.

    Details: 412-322-0800 or

    See the original story here.