Jazz Crawl and Fort Apache Band

The first day of the 2012 Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Festival has come to an end, and we are off and running into day two! Despite the rain at the beginning of the crawl, there was a pretty good turnout yesterday. I tried to get to as many different venues as I could, but there were just too many to get to all of them! This variety is certainly not a bad thing at all because there was something for everyone from blues, jazz standards, cool jazz, smooth jazz, R&B, soul jazz, funk, fusion…you name it. My belief was that if I try to experience everything, I wouldn’t really get to enjoy anything. I’ll be brief about my highlights from yesterday, so I can get back down to the Cultural District for the 2nd round!

One of my favorite performances from yesterday, and certainly the most unique, was a collaboration between the spoken word of poet Vanessa German and the trumpet artistry of Sean Jones at Awesome Books on Liberty Avenue. German performed her wonderful piece “If My Hands Were Anything Other Than Hands” and her passionately delivered words were answered by the equally passionate song flowing from Jones’ horn. The two played off of each other beautifully, as one might imagine from two artists that put so much of their heart and soul into their art. I spoke with Sean briefly after the performance as he was hustling to yet another venue. He told me that Vanessa was one of his favorite artists to work with, and how he wished that performance never had to end. I felt the same way.

I can’t end without mentioning the tremendous show by the Fort Apache Band. Jerry Gonzalez and his group certainly did not disappoint this jazz lover. The place was packed, and even as I took my seat in the Cabaret Theater I had no idea what to expect, but I was on the edge of my seat the entire show. We should feel special that after spending time in Spain, this performance in Pittsburgh is only the second appearance Gonzalez and his band has made since returning to the US. Oh, did I mention that the first one was at the Blue Note?

The version of the band last night featured Jerry Gonzalez, of course, on trumpet, fluegelhorn, and congas, saxophonist Joe Ford, pianist Larry Willis, Luques Curtis filling in for Andy Gonzalez on bass, and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. From the very first tune they played, Wayne Shorter’s “United”, I knew I was in for a treat. I was immediately floored by the percolating rhythm section, especially the interaction between “Tain” and the congas of Gonzalez. The band really gave a unique Latin flair to the composition, and I soon realized this would be a recurring theme of the show. From Shorter, to Coltrane, to Monk, the Fort Apache Band truly made each tune sound personal and unique. Gonzalez remarked how it had been a long time since he’d played in Pittsburgh, and how he’d love to come back. I assure you that Pittsburgh would love to have him back.

More to come later. Hope to see you at the stage shows today!