Employees of Funk – 5.13.17 – East End Brewing, Pittsburgh, PA

On Saturday, Pittsburgh’s East End Brewing held held a cool “Crafts & Drafts” event that served as a release party for the new Illustration Ale at their brew pub in Larimer.  Six local artists/illustrators (including one of my all time favorites, Mike Budai) designed the art for the bottles for the limited edition brew.

In edition to craft vendors and food trucks, live music was provided by Pittsburgh’s Employees of Funk. This was my first time seeing or even hearing of these guys and I was pleasantly surprised.  I really dug their style which had more of a raw groove than most brass bands I’ve seen.  I also really liked the song selection which consisted of songs by The Meters, Michael Jackson, and Herbie Hancock in addition to some originals. I’ll be looking forward to seeing these guys again sometime soon.

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Throckmorton 4 – 2.23.16 – Thunderbird Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA

Dave Throckmorton – drums
Ben Opie – electronics/saxophone
John Shannon – guitar
Paul Thompson – bass

Drummer Dave Throckmorton dusted off his jazz/fusion/electronic/hip-hop/ambient/groove quartet for a performance at the Thunderbird Cafe last night. He mentioned that this project had been “on the back burner” for a while, but that he thought it was time to bring it down off the shelf.

To me, or anyone else familiar with Throck’s work over the years, this group is sort of a rebooted/reincarnated all-instrumental and less-hip-hop version of BEAM, which also featured Paul Thompson on bass and had a very similar vibe.  The last few appearances of this group, billed last night as the Throckmorton 4, featured former-Pittsburgher Chris Parker on guitar. Filling in for Parker last night (on a flying V guitar I might add!) was John Shannon.  The show consisted of two long sets of almost non-stop improvised genre-spanning music that always maintained a deep Throck/PT groove.

Being a huge fan of these guys, I always look forward to seeing any and every one of the various Opie/Thompson/Throck projects (Thoth Trio, Flexure, Opek, etc.).  I can’t really say that I have a favorite (although it might be Thoth), but I certainly wouldn’t mind if Throck decided to keep this one on the front burner for just a little while longer.

DTC Organ Trio – 8.30.15 – Highland Park, Pittsburgh, PA

Dan Wilson – guitar
Cliff Barnes – organ
Dave Throckmorton – drums

This past Sunday was the last in a short run of free jazz concerts that I’ve attended this summer and it was certainly not a bad one to end on.  The DTC Organ Trio (AKA Wilson/Barnes/Throckmorton) presented the loyal Reservoir of Jazz series audience with two sets of tasteful and soulful organ jazz.

This was just my second time seeing this group and I enjoyed it just as much this time as the last.  All three musicians are incredible.  Anyone familiar with this site knows that I’m a pretty big Throck fan.  In this trio, I think that he adds a certain raw spontaneity whereas other drummers might have a tendency to go too smooth on this material.  I also dug the arrangements especially a reggae-infused take on “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, which was actually written by Stevie Wonder as Barnes informed the audience, as well as their version of Duke Ellington‘s “Caravan” as shown in the shown video above.

People really do come out for these shows, as well they should.  I’m not always into the performers at these things, but the last three weeks at Highland Park have been incredible.  The crowd seemed to really enjoy this one, as is visible in the pic of some dancers near the front of the stage.

As the spokesman for the group, Cliff Barnes mentioned that the trio has recently recorded an album that should be released shortly.  So, be sure to support good local music and look for (and buy!) that one.