Guild to showcase male jazz vocalist Milton Suggs

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"The answer is: He's the winner of the Gentlemen Sing contest sponsored by MCG Jazz and will perform with fellow vocalists Allan Harris and Ernie Andrews Friday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Concert Hall."

(Ding) "Who is Milton Suggs?"

"Correct!"

The Gentlemen Sing: Three Generations of Song With Allan Harris, Ernie Andrews and special guest Milton Suggs
Where: Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Concert Hall, North Side.
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Tickets: $45; www.mcgjazz.org or 412-322-0800.

If you've ever noticed that the majority of jazz singers out there are women, so did Marty Ashby, executive producer of MCG Jazz. That was the point of the contest, Mr. Ashby says.

"It was our idea, specifically I was noticing that there aren't that many male jazz vocalists these days," Mr. Ashby says. "It was really a way to honor this young man but be able to learn from the master on the bandstand -- [it's] unlikely that he would get to sing with Mr. Andrews any other way."

Mr. Suggs, a Chicago native now based in New York, is a pianist who studied music at Columbia College, where he began singing in earnest, and DePaul University. After earning his graduate degree from DePaul in 2008, he began singing at such places as the now-defunct Velvet Lounge in Chicago.

"That's where I first really started getting my chops together," he says.

For the MCG Jazz's contest, Mr. Suggs recorded a video and put it on YouTube.

"One of the songs we had to do was 'It Could Happen to You' and then a blues," he says. "They called me a month and a half later for the sing-off."

He was one of three finalists in the December competition and didn't know whether he'd have a chance to win.

"It was something that I entered and waited until the cards unfolded."

Whether his victory brings him a potential record deal doesn't matter.

"I'm trying to develop [myself as an artist]," he says. "It would have to be a very good deal."

He already has released three CDs independently, and they are available on his website.

Mr. Ashby was pleased with the competition, saying any one of the three singers could have won.

"It was an exciting process," Mr. Ashby says. "I'm happy to say that the future looks bright" for male jazz vocalists.


Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.

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