Local Scene: Grand Piano celebrates its new 'Leap Year'
June 12, 2014 12:00 AM
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
■ Courtney Love wouldn't consider Grand Piano a legit rock band, as it has both a saxophone AND a trumpet.
Grand Piano does rock, though, in its own horn-powered way, and it's unlikely it would be any other way with three of its principals -- guitarist Thomas Cipollone, guitarist-singer Zak Kane and drummer Nick DeAngelo -- all having played in the punk band Red Team Blue Team.
They formed Grand Piano in 2011 -- with bassist Wes Conroy, trumpeter Bob Kircher and saxophonist Ryan Booth -- as a rock band with an rootsy twang, touches of folk, jazz and blues, and a capacity to jam.
"We certainly aren't afraid to get loud or heavy," Mr. Cipolline says. "We also like getting technical with song structure, timing, rhythm, etc. This project is fun because we draw from all types of influences and use them as we see fit, whether we are playing a loud rock song, a jazz-influenced song or something else totally different."
"I think of our horn section as sometimes acting as a traditional horn section," Mr. Booth says, "and other times acting more like two extra guitar voices only with a different texture.
After a few EPs, including the mostly instrumental "Bug," Grand Piano has issued its first full-length with "Leap Year."
"Some of these songs were ones that we had been playing for a long time, and some of them were newer tunes," Mr. Cipollone says. "These ones just seemed to all fit together with the music and content. We play a good bit of instrumental tunes live, and we decided to put a few on the record. With an EP, you can do four or five songs, and it's not a huge commitment, but with this full length we had to do 11 songs we would love and not grow tired of throughout the whole process."
Mr. Kane, with a voice reminiscent of Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano, themes the record about travel and movement.
"The record ended up having a concept that we didn't really plan on, both lyrical and otherwise," Mr. Cipollone says. "It's kind of about going on the road -- which we have started doing a bunch of and plan on doing a lot more -- and just barely scraping by all along the way."
It comes out on Wild Kindness, a Youngstown label relocated to Pittsburgh, which has Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, Andre Costello and Holopaw, among others, on the roster.
"Grand Piano is one of the greatest live acts I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing, local or otherwise," says label founder Jeff Betten. "There's no star, they function as a unit and the music just hits you like a tank. I felt very lucky that they approached me with the opportunity to release their first full-length album. It was a no-brainer for me."
The release show is 9 p.m. Friday at the Rex Theater, South Side, with Roger Harvey and the Wild Life, Chet Vincent & The Big Bend, and Morgan Erina (of Broken Fences). Admission is $10; rex.greyareaprod.com.
Jaggerz walk 'The Walk'
■ Back in February, the Jaggerz released the new single "The Walk," a cover of a Mayer Hawthorne song that has gotten airplay on the BBC Soul Show.
Now, the classic Pittsburgh band known for the hit "The Rapper" follows it with the full 10-song album of the same title.
With production by Grammy winner Jay Dudt of Audible Images, the Jaggerz revisit songs from its own catalog, including "That's Why Baby I Love You" and "Together." Why update the songs?
Singer Jimmie Ross, one of two originals in the band, with Benny Faiello, said, "We get so many emails and requests, like, 'How come this song isn't on this CD?' So, we're trying to do the best-of and add a couple other tunes, like Billy Vera's 'At This Moment.' We like to give the people what they want."
The album is available on iTunes, CDBaby and the jaggerz.com. The CD release party is 7 p.m. Sunday at Jergel's Rhythm Grill in Marshall. Tickets are $13 advance; $15 day of show; jergels.com.
Murder for Girls EP
■ Murder for Girls, a lo-fi indie band with lots of guitar fuzz, releases an EP with a show at Gooski's on Saturday at 9 p.m. with Brazilian Wax and Crooked Cobras.
The band, made of former members of Blindsider and Bunny Five Coat, among others, is fronted by singer-guitarist Zorahna, and features guitarist Tammy Wallace, bassist Jonathan Bagamery and drummer Michele Dunlap. Information: 412-681-1658.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576; Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.
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