Roger Humphries & RH Factor – 10.6.17 – Sweetwater Center For The Arts

Roger Humphries – drums
Max Leake – piano
Ron Horton – trumpet
Lou Stellute – saxophones
Dwayne Dolphin – bass

A few weeks ago, I was invited by a good friend to join him for beers, burgers and jazz and it was a difficult combination to pass up.  We started things off with a few beers and some really good burgers out in Ambridge at the Bridgetown Taphouse.  The food was good and, having become accustomed to recent East End Pittsburgh pricing, the prices here were right!  The next stop was a short cruise down river to Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley for the jazz part.

For any jazz fan in Pittsburgh, not much else needs to be said about local jazz hero Roger Humphries and his all-star band, RH Factor.  If you are looking for that mid 1960’s / hard-bop / Blue Note / Jazz Messengers type of sound, these are the guys that will deliver every time.  On this particular night, they sounded REALLY good.  Not just their playing, but the actual sound in the room was incredible.  With the exception of a small amp for Dwayne Dolphin‘s electric bass, all of the instruments were acoustic with no amplification. There’s something about the concept of sound coming from just metal and wood that I absolutely love.  Of course I’m simplifying, but it’s rare and it’s amazing.

Through two engaging sets of music, some highlights for me were Lou Stellute‘s use of a soprano sax (which I had never seen him play before), as well as takes on “My Favorite Things”, one of my favorite Herbie Hancock tunes “Tell Me A Bedtime A Story“, and a version of Joe Henderson‘s “Mamacita” shown in the video above.  Also, I cannot forget the enthusiastic introductions by local artist/jazz singer/legend, Betty Douglas.

With all due respect to Sweetwater and the town (borough?) of Sewickley, it almost always seems like the people that come out to events here probably don’t make it out to see much live music.  Again, I mean no disrespect at all and I could be way off base.  The audience just always seems so incredibly appreciative and impressed by the music being presented and the audience on this night was no exception. To me, this certainly enhances the experience and makes for a more memorable night. Thank you to Alex, Shawn, and the Sweetwater staff for inviting me out.  As always, I had a blast and look forward to doing it again!


Cliff Barnes Trio – 8.27.17 – Highland Park Reservoir, Pittsburgh, PA

Cliff Barnes – organ
James Johnson III – drums
Brett Williams – keys

Every year throughout the month of August, the City of Pittsburgh’s Parks Department holds it’s Reservoir of Jazz series in Highland Park.  These are really nice community events and a great way to spend a Sunday evening in the summertime regardless of who is playing.  A couple of weeks ago, a few friends of mine decided to round up the kids and some lawn chairs and make our way over to see the Cliff Barnes Trio.

Out of all of the music scheduled this year, Cliff Barnes was truthfully the only artist I was really hoping to be able to see.  I’ve seen him play a few times in an organ trio with Dan Wilson and Dave Throckmorton and I really like his soulful approach.  I wasn’t sure who Cliff would bring to round out his trio but I knew the show would be good.  What was totally unexpected (and TOTALLY welcomed!!!) was a trio consisting of two keyboardists, one of which was Brett Williams!

This non-traditional lineup was not afraid to push boundaries and take things a bit out of the box, something that doesn’t always happen at these.  As I walked to the stage area from car, they played a different sort of take on Duke Ellington’s jazz staple “Caravan”.  Right then, I knew this wasn’t going to be a night of cookie cutter arrangements.  The musical highlight of the evening came for me shortly after with a Brett William‘s led version of Herbie Hancock‘s “Butterfly” from his 1974 record Thrust.  Brett is based in NYC now and is doing all kinds of things like playing with Louis Cato, sitting in with Stephen Colbert’s house band, touring the world with bassist Marcus Miller.  He plays with alot of confidence and he sounds great.  Another highlight was a ten minute version of D’Angelo’sSpanish Joint“.  These guys were obviously having a great time playing this material together and the vibe was certainly shared by the appreciative audience.

The 2017 Reservoir of Jazz series has now come and gone.  These events are really valuable and we’re lucky to have them.   I’m just hoping to have a few more groups like this one on next year’s schedule. And, honestly, I really want to win one of the 50/50’s next year as well!!!  Fingers crossed.

UPDATE (9.20.17):  James Johnson III posted a video of the whole first set HERE. Dig.


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.

Herbie Hancock Tribute by Mark de Clive-Lowe

Musician/composer/beat maker Mark de Clive-Lowe recently performed a live Herbie Hancock tribute set at the Lock & Key Bar in LA.  The 90 minute set spans Herbie’s entire career and is now available to stream on Mixcloud.  This has been the soundtrack to my day so far.  Here’s the setlist…

Oliloqui Valley
Watermelon Man
Trust Me
Steppin In It
Sun Touch
You’ll Know When You Get There
Death Wish (Main Title)
Stars In Your Eyes
Fat Albert Rotunda
Ready Or Not
Knee Deep
Hang Up Your Hang Ups
Wiggle Waggle
I Have a Dream
Kuru/Speak Like A Child
Jack Rabbit
Maiden Voyage
Survival of the Fittest
St Louis Blues

The New Mastersounds / Cory Henry Trio – 10.8.14 – Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

British funk quartet The New Mastersounds made their first trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night for a show at The Rex Theater in the South Side.  The Cory Henry Trio opened up.  Despite seeing most of their peers in the jazz/funk/jam scene over the years (i.e. Soulive, Greyboy Allstars, Medeski Martin & Wood, Charlie Hunter, Galactic, etc.), The New Mastersounds have somehow eluded me…until now.

The New Mastersounds came onto to US live funk scene around 2004.  By this time, my days of going to as many shows and festivals as possible were pretty much behind me.  After that, I became more selective and also traveled less.  So with this being their first Pittsburgh show ever, I just haven’t had a good opportunity before now.  Their music is a riff driven, high energy, mostly instrumental funk more along the lines of The Meters or Booker T & the MG’s than the 1960’s Soul-Jazz of Lou Donaldson or Jimmy McGriff.  They have several albums, most of which I have heard and I was excited for this show.


As they made their way on stage, one of the band members commented that they were surprised by the size of the crowd inside The Rex and that even though it was their first trip to Pittsburgh, “It won’t be their last”.  The energy was high right from the start.  Most of the songs were fairly short with very little “jamming” or even many solos in the traditional sense.  I normally expect bands like this to stretch out at least a few things here and there, but that wasn’t really the case here.  The songs were tight, focused, and funky and kept the crowd moving.  I love being at live shows where a large portion of the audience is dancing. It’s comforting and feels like home.  The band seemed to be having a good time as well.  When guitarist Eddie Roberts broke his second string (out of 3!) of the night he said, “You’re an excitable crowd! Or maybe I’M the one that’s excitable.”


Pianist Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy) opened the show with a trio that consisted of Jay White on bass and David Wood on drums.  Henry’s an extremely talented young piano player who is not afraid to keep things loose and playful.  Their hour long set included takes on Prince’s “1999”, Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and a great reggae-ish version of Herbie Hancock‘s “Cantaloupe Island”.  Enjoy.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (2014)

The official release date for You’re Dead, the new album by LA-based producer Flying Lotus is tomorrow, 10/7.  To say that I’ve been looking forward to hearing this record is quite an understatement.  So, imagine my level of excitement when I randomly found a copy of You’re Dead on vinyl at a local record store on Saturday (3 days before the official release).  I’m not sure if the street date was broken, which means it’s fair game for everyone to start selling it early, or if they had it out by mistake.  Either way, I was afraid to ask the girl at the register thinking she would realize the mistake and grab it out of my hands!

Having only listened to the first LP of the 2LP set so far, I can’t comment too much beyond saying that it’s pretty incredible.  The video above is one of the few tracks that features bassist Thundercat and HERBIE HANCOCK!  Ever since the release of FlyLo’s Cosmogramma LP, I kind of saw his music as an example of what the current state of jazz SHOULD sound like. Long before the Herbie collaboration, I said that if Miles were alive, I think he’d be very into Flying Lotus.  From what I’ve heard so far, I think this new record sort of confirms that. I can’t wait to sit down with this one over the next week or so.

Interval Trio – 8.25.14 – Eclipse Lounge, Pittsburgh, PA

Interval Trio

Howie Alexander – keys
John Hall – bass
Jevon Rushton – drums

Pianist Howie Alexander‘s weekly jazz session, Interval Monday, has recently resurfaced at the Eclipse Lounge on Butler Street in Lawrenceville.  The ongoing series originated in 2007 at the former Ava Lounge location in East Liberty and, at that time, featured Alexander accompanied by bassist Paul Thompson and James Johnson III on drums.  The format of the evening is a first set by the Interval Trio and a second set that is open to guest musicians and vocalists.

Unfortunately, I had not made it out to one of these in quite some time, a few years actually. To be honest, my absence was largely due to the smoother R&B/Soul direction that these nights sometimes took as a result of guest vocalists and I’m also not always the biggest fan of piano trios.  But, when the opportunity presented itself to go the Eclipse last night, I jumped on it and I was glad that I did.


Most of the shows I attend in Pittsburgh feature several familiar faces (Opie, Throckmorton, Thompson, Stellute, Williams, etc.), so it’s refreshing to see some of these guys that I don’t see very frequently or have never seen (in this case, John Hall).  I’ve seen Howie and drummer Jevon Rushton on several occasions but it’s been years.  All three of these guys are solid musicians and sounded amazing but the highlight for me was Rushton, who absolutely killed it all night on half a drum kit (kick, snare, hi-hat, & a couple of cymbals) with more enthusiasm and emotion than I’ve seen in quite some time.  The guy looked like he was having a blast.  The set did feature hints of the smoother and more soulful side of the jazz world as mentioned above. But, overall, I’d say there was more than enough genuine impulsive raw energy to hold my interest and to make me want to come back soon.

The video above was their take on Herbie Hancock‘s “Watermelon Man” from the first set.  I dug the loose, spontaneous vibe here and the variation of rhythms.  The trio’s interplay was fantastic as was the feeling that even the musicians didn’t really know where they were going to end up.  Enjoy.

RECAP – Record Fest – 5.24.14 – Belvedere’s


Several of my nights last week were spent getting records ready for the 11th Pittsburgh Record Fest in Lawrenceville.  I looked at so many records that, by Saturday, I was actually a bit tired of looking a records and this kind of worked in my favor. I normally try really hard to use restraint at these things and avoid buying too many things in order to come away with a pocket full of cash at the end of the night.

On Saturday morning, I set up a little pre-show trade with a fellow vendor who is into alot of the same kind of music (jazz, soul, funk, etc.).  That trade worked out really well for both of us.  I came away with 4 really nice jazz records, a couple of which I had never seen, Roy HaynesOut Of The Afternoon (feat. Roland Kirk) & Sonny Stitt‘s Black Vibrations).  So, being that this trade had occurred and I had already acquired 4 really nice records that day, I really didn’t care if I got anything at the fest.  I just really wanted to drink a few beers and GET RID of stuff.

From a sales stand point, I did really well, definitely my most successful record fest yet.  My sales, as well as those of several other vendors in the room, were boosted by 2 guys from Australia who were seriously loading up.  I saw them wheeling out about 8 U-Haul boxes of recent acquisitions about half way through the night.  One of the guys told me that he sells records at shows and festivals back in Australia and ships stuff back there from the US by the pallet.  I also sold a few things to and chatted with LA-based DJ/producer DJ House Shoes, who was in town to spin records at the Round Corner Cantina that night.

Along with a great T-shirt from Pgh based artist/print maker Mike Budai, I did come away with a couple of records from the fest including Sextant by Herbie Hancock and a really nice copy of Common‘s Resurrection.


Record Scores – 1.5.14


Eddie Henderson
1976 – Blue Note

This is some great mid-70’s jazz funk in the same vein as Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters or Man Child.  Before finding this, I had only ever heard the track “Kudu” on a Blue Break Beats compilation.  I sometimes shy away from mid to late 70’s records but this one is fantastic.  Here’s the last track on the record entitled “Dark Shadow”.  Enjoy!


Ongaku by elusive


It’s already been a few weeks since my last post.  There just hasn’t been much in the way of jazz shows that I’d be interested in and I really haven’t picked up a whole lot of cool records either (although I did trade a few things for a very clean reissue of Herbie’s Takin’ Off at Record Fest!).

One thing that I did stumble upon just yesterday is this beat tape by LA based producer, Elusive, entitled Ongaku.  I really dig this loose, sample based, jazzy style of beat making.  I only wish that some of the tracks were a bit longer and more fleshed out.  I’m unfamiliar with Elusive’s work, but now I’ll have to be sure to hear more of it.