Monday, October 30 at 7:30, Duquesne University Jazz Studies will present "Swingin'," a program of classic swing performed by the school's jazz ensemble led by Mike Tomaro with soloists Paul Cosentino on clarinet and guitarist and faculty member. Joe Negri. The concert takes place at Power Center on Forbes Avenue in the Dougherty Ballroom, across from the parking garage. Tickets are $ 10.
In the first major musical death of 2017, Buddy Greco, the famed singer-pianist, a member of the Rat Pack and friend of Marilyn Monroe, died yesterday at 90 in Las Vegas, ending a career that began in his native Philly, and continued well into the 21st century. Greco, while long associated with Vegas, actually has roots a lot closer to here.
AP-- July 5, 1960. Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Urbie Green & the King.
Amid the incessant election coverage, the recent death of King Bhumibol of Thailand (the real King of Siam) at 88 was noted, with extensive discussions of his influence as a unifying factor in a country with ample tensions and factionalization.
Late last month, PG columnist Brian O' Neill wrote about helping to pack the vintage photo files still residing in the old PG building on the Boulevard of the Allies. One of the questions he asked as he worked through the alphabetized file was "Ziggy Elman – who's he?" Saturday evening, Brian visited to WESA's Rhythm, Sweet and Hot, the long-running Big Band show hosted by Mike Plaskett and Dale Abraham, both deeply versed in both the hot swing and sweet bands from the 20's into the 50's. The hosts educated Brian on the artistry of Ziggy Elman.
If you missed RS&H and wonder who Brian was referring to, here goes. Ziggy Elman (1911-1968) was one of the most fiery, blistering trumpeters of the Swing Era, who brilliantly incorporated his Jewish heritage into his music.
Buddy Greco is one of my favorite jazz singers, in part because his musicality (he's a gifted jazz pianist) gives him a dimension few of the Rat Pack style singers could match. The Philly native was the pianist in Benny Goodman's short-lived 1949 bebop orchestra. He made incredible records for a variety of labels and became a Vegas mainstay before relocating to England. He turns 90 this year.
When bebop became the revolutionary new form of jazz in the mid to late 1940's, some musicians from the Swing Era refused to acknowledge it. Benny Goodman tried the style and dropped it. Buddy DeFranco, who died Christmas Eve at age 91, didn't have that problem. He became the first swing-era clarinetist to fully embrace bop.
George Benson's autobiography is out. I reviewed it for the PG this past Sunday. But a Pittsburgh Jazz Legends posting is long overdue, and George seems the logical choice. So here's 58 years of George, beginning with his first recordings when he was still a kid on the Hill to a show in Paris in June.
Today's "The Digs" includes photos of the 1947 Pittsburgh stop of the Freedom Train. The backstory is available there, but there was a musical dimension to this effort as well.
I was going to write about the death of another 50's rock pioneer, but held off to talk about Porky Chedwick. But it's worth noting another Pennsylvania-born pillar of early rock, guitarist Frank "Franny" Beecher, died February 24 in his hometown of Norristown, PA at age 92. Known for his fiery lead work with Bill Haley and the Comets, Beecher was still playing until 2010.
I could recite the facts of Beecher's life, but let him tell it himself in this terrific and very concise two part video interview:
Pittsburgh jazz legend George Benson in 1975 would be making his move into the mainstream with his 1976 hit "Breezin'," when he took time for a special project. On September 10, 1975 he was in Chicago to participate in the taping of a two-part PBS tribute to retiring Columbia Records executive and producer John Hammond.