Clip: Jazz Be Jazz Festival
Jazz Be Jazz
Put Your Foot in the Water
writer: JUSTIN HOPPER
When local artist and musician Christiane D. heard about plans for a new
North Side amphitheater -- and the potential for a large-scale, nationally
drawing rock festival to be held at it -- she cringed.
"I read about that new venue going up on the North Side," says Christiane,
"and that they were talking about having a rock festival. We don't need a
rock festival -- that's not going to put us on the map. We have to show
that we're part of the world."
Christiane D. is one of many people and groups around the city who believe
that one way to help correct Pittsburgh's undeservedly low status on the
national music-scene radar is to put together an annual music festival in
the city. But while opinions differ vastly on what could happen -- a South
by Southwest-style conference? A weekend-long concert? An underground
festival like All Tomorrow's Parties? -- Christiane decided to take the
first step and organize a series of exploratory events, dubbed "Mini M's,"
to test the waters.
"I've taken two trips to the Philly Fringe Festival," says Christiane.
"I've been to North by Northeast in Toronto. I've discussed a festival at a
couple meetings with [Music Awareness Pittsburgh]. I just want to do it
now, because I'm impatient. And the only way to do it now is on a small
Last year, Christiane helped organize the Funky Monkey, a weekend-long
festival at the Quiet Storm Coffeehouse featuring local bands that all came
under a very broad interpretation of "funk." This weekend, the second Mini
M takes a similar approach to jazz.
While Pittsburgh's contemporary jazz scene is often fragmented between the
avant-garde and the more traditional, this weekend's Jazz Be Jazz festival
will bring together a variety of definitions of jazz. More traditional jazz
musicians such as singer (and highly regarded visual artist) Betty Douglas
and Brazilian Pittsburgh Opera singer Lilly Abreu, who will be performing
bossa nova, will share a bill with avant-jazz groups such as Matula
Oblongata, a trio that performs original work as well as music by the likes
of John Lurie. Meanwhile, the event's opening party will showcase another
modern take on jazz with deejays spinning modern dance-floor jazz, acid
jazz and classic jazz-funk at Club Havana in Shadyside.
To Christiane D. and her coworkers on the Mini M project -- volunteers such
as Matt Calvetti and Bruce Harris of local funk group Ouve and Ashwin Tumne
of promotions team Element Five -- it's that variety that will measure the
Mini M's success.
"We specifically made this, not necessarily underground," says Calvetti,
"but people outside the upper echelon -- those Al Dowes, Etta Coxes. [The
Mini-M performers] are great musicians, but who you might not see out all
To Christiane D., the other vital goal of the Mini M's is to highlight
local music in the same kind of spotlight that a festival would give to
"I feel like we need to build up Pittsburgh's self-esteem by showing what
we already have," says Christiane, "instead of suckering up to the things
from outside -- as if the talent here isn't as good. It's great to shower
outsiders with respect, but what about the talent that's here? And then you
branch out from that. But if we don't start here, we're going to bypass the
artists that are here."
The Jazz Be Jazz opening party, with deejays Edgar Umm, Soy Sos and Jwan
Allen, takes place at 10 p.m. Thu., May 1, at Club Havana, Shadyside.
Jazz Be Jazz, featuring Eugene Stoval, DeepField South, Carolyn Pertete,
Phat Man Dee, Colter Harper, Intuitive Research Project, (Friday); and
Betty Douglas, Lilly Abreu, Jazz Inc., Lee Robinson and Unspunt Orkestra,
and Matula Oblongata, (Saturday), takes place at 8 p.m. Fri., May 2, and
Sat., May 3, at the Quiet Storm Coffeehouse, Friendship. 412-661-9355.