On March 24, Omnivore Records is going to release one of my Desert Island records, complete with material thought to be missing. The record: Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer's 1961 album Two of A Kind, recorded with Pittsburgh native Billy May's Orchestra. Seeing the album released in its complete form was the goal of Darin's longtime manager Steve Blauner, who was working with Omnivore Records on the project until he died in 2015 at age 81.
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.
While it's not 100% certain, it appears Joe Negri may have played his last gig at the Omni William Penn. Last spring, the hotel had ended his residency, and that of piano master Frank Cunimondo. Both played (separately) in the lobby. An outcry, much of it on Facebook, led them to offer Negri three additional shows in the Terrace Room in June, July and August. Whether it was astute to book him there in summer, when the crowds would likely be better in fall and winter remains open to question.
Joe Negri's second show in his jazz series at the Omni William Penn's Terrace Room is set for July 23 from 6 to 8 PM. Call 412-553-5235.
This week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast features my review of John Pizzarelli's digital release Mercer Street: John Pizzarelli Salutes Johnny Mercer, recorded live at Birdland in July of 2014. Pizzarelli has done Mercer tunes in his shows and on his albums for many years. In 1997 he was in the cast of Dream, a Broadway Revue built around Mercer tunes. He met his wife Jessica Molaskey during that experience. Pizzarelli has another album coming this fall on his regular label, Telarc Records.