Tomas Fujiwara + Thoth Trio + Thumbscrew = AMAZING Weekend!!!

This past weekend in Pittsburgh was some sort of anomaly or like a glitch in the matrix.  Not only do incredible jazz shows rarely happen around here these days, they almost never take place within one 48 hour period. But this was the case here beginning with a Mary Holvorson solo set on Friday and culminating in a killer Sunday night finale by Halvorson’s trio, Thumbscrew.

Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum had brought in a bunch of incredible musicians and poets over the last few weeks to celebrate the opening of their new Alphabet City mixed use venue in the North Side. Unfortunately, the building is not yet finished.  But, fortunately for all of us music lovers, the shows weren’t cancelled but were just moved to their outdoor Alphabet City Tent.  Knowing that there was no way I’d be able to attend everything happening this weekend, I chose to skip the Mary Halvorson solo set (as well as Rakim at VIA Fest).  I’m sure it was amazing but solo sets are not really my favorite type of shows and I knew I’d get to see her play on the next two evenings.

Saturday night’s show was by drummer Tomas Fujiwara and his project called The Hook Up.  The Hook Up consists of Tomas along with Michael Formanek on bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar (all of which are also in Thumbscrew) along with saxophonist Brian Settles and special guest Dave Ballou on trumpet.  This show was nothing short of amazing.  I really enjoyed the variety of moods and energies throughout the set.  At one point early in the set they broke it down to just drums and sax.  It was so intimate and beautiful that a nearby cricket’s chirping became part of the piece.  For me it was truly one of those, “THIS is why is love live music!” moments.  After the show, a friend I was with said something about this being one of the best performances of any kind that he had ever seen.  Pretty bold statement but certainly hard to argue with.

The next day, after watching the first half of the Steelers’ game, I took a ride out to Dormont in the South Hills.  I lived near there several years ago but hardly ever go back these days.  So, just the drive out there was kind of a surreal experience. It takes a good reason for me to make the journey through the Liberty Tubes and on this day, the reason was to see my favorite band in Pittsburgh, Thoth Trio, play at the Hollywood Theater.  This event had the trio playing a live soundtrack to some of Buster Keaton‘s silent films.  To be honest, I would have gone out there for Thoth alone.  Due to the Thunderbird being remodeled, they’ve hardly played out at all lately. But I was blown away by how entertaining this show was overall.  My initial focus, possibly because of the great acoustics in the room, was almost entirely on the band to the point where I found myself closing my eyes and just listening…only to realize that a movie was being shown on the screen.  Then there were moments when I kind of got lost in the film.  It was truly the kind of blissful, escapist experience that I look for in a show.  The kind of thing where you can get completely removed from reality for an hour or so.

Somehow, after all of this, there was still another show to go to.  Thumbscrew (Halvorson, Formanek, Fujiwara) were closing City of Asylum’s month of jazz and poetry with a set at 7:00.  As I’ve written about here before, the trio took part in a residency last year where they stayed in Pittsburgh for two weeks writing, performing, and recording music. So it was very cool to get to see them revisit the exact place where their most recent album, Convallaria (Cuneiform Records 2016), was written and to perform several of those tunes again. I knew what to expect from this one and they certainly delivered. I’d really like to thank the people from City of Asylum, all of the musicians I just mentioned, and the people that book the Hollywood Theater in Dormont for a wonderful and unforgettable weekend.

 

 

 

Record Scores – 8.10.13

I finally got my hands on a copy of the Blow Up Soundtrack by Herbie Hancock.  This record has been a favorite of mine for years but I’ve never had it on vinyl.  It also features a song by The Yardbirds, “Stroll On”, which was a rewrite of “Train Kept A Rollin”.  The lineup for the Herbie stuff is incredible:

Herbie Hancock – piano, melodica
Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
Joe Newman – trumpet
Phil Woods – alto sax
Joe Henderson – tenor sax
Jimmy Smith – organ (possibly Paul Griffin: organ)
Jim Hall – guitar
Ron Carter – bass
Jack DeJohnette – drums

These are some of the other highlights.  I haven’t listened to the Chet Baker LP on CTI yet but my expectations are LOW, even with Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette.  But for a buck, I had to pick it up.

This is the scene from the 1966 film Blow Up that features the Yardbirds song.  This scene (and entire film) are so weird and great.  I love how everybody in the audience is just standing there staring at the band like it is some interpretive dance performance or something.  I dare you not to want to dance to this song!

Permanent Vacation Dance Scene – “Up There In Orbit” by Earl Bostic

The dance scene in On The Road made me think about this dance scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation from 1980. When I saw this movie years ago, I was not yet familiar with Earl Bostic and his song “Up There In Orbit”, but I really dug it.  Since then, I’ve picked up a few of his records and have become a big fan.  His records sort of vary in quality depending on the year or the record label, but the good ones are really good!  I don’t remember much else about this film, but this scene really stuck with me.

On The Road (2012)

Image

The film adaptation of Kerouac‘s On The Road was released last year.  It’s currently showing at the Regent Square Theater in Pittsburgh and I went today to check it out.

Films that are based on popular books, especially films that are released a long time after the book was published, are sometimes difficult to enjoy just for what they are.  Everybody has their own vision of the story from their own mental perspective.  So, it makes sense that this film has received mixed reviews.  I felt that the film makers definitely assumed that the audience for this movie has already read On The Road and are fans of it.  It would be difficult to enjoy this movie without having read the book and knowing a little about the Beat Generation.

With that being said, I liked this film.  It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I’m glad I went.  It was a little slow at times, but it did stay pretty true to the book.

Here’s a party scene with Kristen Stewart as Mary Lou (LuAnne Henderson) and Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) dancing to “Salt Peanuts” on New Year’s Eve.  I love “Salt Peanuts” (and Bebop in general) because of it’s energy and this version is especially fast.