Sean Jones – trumpet
Lou Stellute – saxophone
Cliff Barnes – piano
Tony DePaolis – bass
Roger Humphries – drums
Sean Jones was this week’s performer at the “Stars At Riverview” free jazz series held on Saturday nights throughout the summer at Riverview Park. There have been a few acts that I wanted to see and missed earlier this summer, but luckily I was able to make it out last night to see Jones and a cast of Pittsburgh jazz all-stars.
Jones has just released a new record entitled, im.pro.vise: Never Before Seen, with his quartet on Mack Avenue Records. I’ve heard snippets from a few of the tracks, mostly originals, and I’d like to give it a listen. I figured that last night’s show could have gone 1 of 2 ways. Sean was either going to be playing mostly original material from the new album with his quartet or he would be playing a set full of safe standards with local Pittsburgh musicians to cater to the kind of audience that goes to these free summer shows. Well I was slightly, but only slightly, disappointed to find out that the latter scenario was the case here.
The weather last night was not good, so as I drove through the rain to Observatory Hill I sort of thought this show would be cancelled. Fortunately, as my car approached the stage area, I saw the band under a big blue tent in front of a sea of umbrellas and rain jackets. Apparently, Jones, who has lived, worked, and played in Pittsburgh for the last 10 years, has taken a job at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and is leaving town. Not only is he leaving town, he is leaving today, the day after this Riverview show. So, this show was a last hurrah of sorts and the people who came out to see it were not going to be chased away easily. I had arrived late and wasn’t aware of his relocation until he talked about it between songs near the end of the show. At that point, I had to cut him a little slack for what was seemingly a set full of standards that these guys could play in their sleep. However, since I missed almost all of the first set, I can only assume that this is true. I also had questioned his decision to take a break half way through his slotted hour and a half performance to sell CD’s and sign autographs while there was a lawn full of people sitting in the rain awaiting the band to return to the stage. But if I were about to drive 9 or 10 hours to start a new life in a new city, I would probably not be playing a show on the previous night at all! And who can blame the guy for wanting to sell a few CD’s which, judging by the amount of people lined up to buy a signed copy, he definitely sold a nice stack of them.
So, even though I wanted to hear some stripped down, raw, original jazz, I wasn’t completely disappointed by the 2 and half songs that I saw Jones and his quintet perform. Roger Humphries is a local jazz legend and one of the best drummers in town. Lou Stellute crushed like his always does. And Cliff Barnes and Tony DePaolis are both pretty incredible musicians that I have seen before, but not nearly enough.
The video above was the first song they played after the set break and CD signing, etc. It’s a take on a song made popular by Duke Ellington and many others, “Caravan”. The rain actually did stop during this tune and it turned out to be a pretty nice evening.