Eddie Manion isn’t native to this area, but he’s a Pittsburgher now.
The New Jersey-born tenor and baritone saxophonist, now a resident of Seven Fields and who’s performed for decades with the like of the E Street Band, South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Robert Cray and Joe Grushecky, is performing Saturday at the recently-renovated Strand Theater in nearby Zelienople, where his stepdaughter lives.
The show, already sold out, also serves at a release party for a new CD, “Nightlife,” that was released on Nov. 17.
Where: Strand Theater, Zelienople.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: Sold out.
“There’s not that much going on here,” Mr. Manion says. “I’d like to see that theater get some more use.”
Much of the personnel on the new record reflects connections with musicians in his adopted hometown, with pianist Brett Williams performing throughout and Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra trombonist Jeff Bush, conguero George Jones and guitarists Danny Gochnour and Mark Strickland making appearances. Along with playing bass on two songs, “Hollis Greathouse did all the engineering, basic [tracking and] mixing.”
The choice of numbers on the CD, covers of mostly classic R&B songs and completely instrumental, was deliberate.
“People can recognize it from the beginning — that’s half the battle, to get people to like instrumental music,” he says. “When I grew up in the 60s they did records, and they did instrumental versions. This is really what I sound like.”
One of the tunes on the album is the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” for which he used a string quartet from the Pittsburgh Opera. That tune was by design as well.
“I was totally was upset at hearing [about] the deaths of nine innocent people in [the church in] South Carolina,” he says. “I was affected by it — I thought of using ‘Amazing Grace’ as an intro” to the Sam Cooke classic “A Change is Gonna Come.”
“What [church members] said and how they reacted to their family members being killed” truly touched him, he says. “I couldn’t have been that way.”
Like many musicians of that era, Mr. Manion, 63, was inspired by The Beatles’ 1962 performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He got his first sax at 10 and joined Columbia House, from which he “got 12 of the greatest albums that changed my life,” ranging from jazz, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. After high school and a stint at the Berklee School of Music, he performed in bar bands.
He put musical dreams aside, going into the Navy and into photography — the new CD also includes a photo gallery of shots he’s taken at places all over the world. He still does that when on tour.
Though he’s worked with Bruce Springsteen for four decades, usually as part of a horn section, don’t bother to look for him when the Boss plays the Consol Energy Center on Jan. 16.
“He’s not using a horn section,” Mr. Manion says. In fact, that day “I’m doing my own show at noon in Asbury Park.”
As for upcoming plans, “I’m going to Australia at the end of July — play other places for a couple of weeks, play jazz clubs, pick up a jazz trio every place I go.”
His impressions being in Pittsburgh? “The people here have a good attitude, and everyone helps each other,” he says. “No one’s out to get your gig.” But because he still goes up to New York from time to time to do studio work, “I think I know the Pennsylvania Turnpike really well.”
Rick Nowlin: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871.
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