Ortner-Marcinizyn Duo bring gypsy jazz to Tender Bar + Kitchen


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If you feel like wandering tonight, you might like to follow the sound of gypsy jazz to Tender Bar + Kitchen in Lawrenceville.

It’s the Ortner-Marcinizyn Duo playing a mix of songs that will stir your blood like the swizzle stick stirs your cocktail.

“I think there is a growing appeal to this music,” said guitarist John Marcinizyn, who has been performing with Susanne Ortner-Roberts for almost a year. “Gypsy jazz is one of these styles that is kind of old, but it has a freshness about it as well. It’s very exciting. You’ll even hear it being used in movies as background.”

“Gypsy jazz is music that got its name from the great guitar rituals of Django Reinhardt,” said Ms. Ortner. “It really combines elements of gypsy music and jazz. It’s very much a string-based jazz approach.

“I’m a reed player. I play clarinet mostly but also soprano saxophone and tenor saxophone. We have a mix of a lot of different things. It’s all kind of jazz-based standards songs of the Great American Songbook.”

No vocals. But the music speaks to you.

“It’s very fast and furious,” Mr. Marcinizyn said. “An exciting, energetic type of music.”

Mr. Marcinizyn of Emsworth is a classical guitarist. He teaches at Carnegie Mellon and Seton Hill University in Greensburg, playing everything from solo guitar to blues, rock and jazz.

Ms. Ortner is from Germany, where she attended a conservatory and studied German literature and language. She also was part of a quartet playing klezmer music, the traditional music of the Eastern European Jews played at various celebrations.

“The clarinet is the dominant instrument in that, and that is what predominantly drew me to that music,” she said.

It’s also what drew her to the States. In 2005, she came to the University of Pittsburgh for a week to do a performance commemorating the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, the November 1938 attacks against Jews in Germany and Austria that are considered to be the start of the Holocaust. She returned in 2006 to participate in a year of outreach programs, and she decided to stay, making her home in the Mexican War Streets on the North Side.

Since then, she has taught German at Pitt and performed in occasional programs. The music department brings her in as a guest performer/​coach.

“And we perform every second Tuesday of the month at Tender and every second Saturday at the Backstage Bar, Downtown,” she said. “We also play for retirements and other events. For some concerts, we add an accordionist.”

The duo started playing together after Ms. Ortner attended a wedding where Mr. Marcinizyn was performing.

“He’s really good,” she said. “We came up with our own unique arrangements of some of these classic jazz tunes.

“We have a diverse audience. Initially, I think, it was a more older audience because they could really relate to these tunes because they grew up with them, especially the Great American Songbook tunes.

“But then gypsy jazz is kind of hot right now, so it feels like the audience is getting younger. I would say it’s a good mix because we do play so many different styles. Some pop tunes, some Leonard Cohen, some Beatles, bossa nova, tango.”

With no cover charge at Tender, the atmosphere becomes very flexible. People who want to hear the music sit near the front. Those who want to converse and use the sound as background music … well, they usually seat themselves further away.

“It’s really a wonderful place to play,” Ms. Ortner said. “It’s a beautiful, speakeasy setting. There are no televisions. You can play acoustic while people enjoy cocktails. It’s a really nice venue to hang out.”

The Ortner-Marcinizyn Duo starts at 8 p.m. at Tender Bar + Kitchen, 4300 Butler St.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.


First Published February 11, 2014 3:50 PM

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