Concerts at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall generally are about the music not the look.
That changes this weekend, as MCG Jazz offers two shows Saturday doubling as history lessons and leaning heavy on visuals: "Hill District BEAT," featuring work by the late legendary photographer Charles "Teenie" Harris; and "Jazz & Fashion," including actors and dancers. To be sure, there's music -- this is a concert, after all -- but more as an incidental.
Inspired by an exhibition of Harris' photos at the Carnegie, "MGG was commissioned [in 1995] to produce a music score for the exhibition and that ended up becoming a CD called 'Hill District BEAT,' " says Marty Ashby, producer of the MCG concert series. "With that music there's a collection [that comes] from the Crossroads stack of images; those images are on the CD. It's actually a CD enhanced."
That music was composed by Mike Tomaro, now director of jazz studies at Duquesne University; Mr. Ashby's brother Jay; and the late saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, who grew up in Pittsburgh's Hill District. Concertgoers are in for a treat because "it will be the first time this music will be heard live."
Meanwhile, the "Jazz & Fashion" segment was "something that Renee [Govanucci, MCG Jazz's associate producer] and I came up with about a year ago," Mr. Ashby says. They consulted with Tom Julian, a native Pittsburgher and Robert Morris University alumnus who now resides in New York, for the show's structure.
Beginning in the 1930s, jazz musicians "definitely set the stage for elegance," Mr. Ashby says, "because jazz was the dance music," as well as the popular music, of that day; indeed, composer and bandleader Edward Kennedy Ellington received the nickname "Duke" precisely because of his sartorial style.
The show allows the actors and dancers to depict the styles -- "Pinstripe suits in the '30s charcoal, black suits in the '40s," Mr. Ashby says -- and closes with a world premiere composition from Mr. Tomaro.
All told, both shows are using 15 musicians, among them both Ashby brothers, pianist David Budway, bassist Paul Thompson, drummer Tom Wendt and Cleveland-based trumpeter Jack Schantz.
Rick Nowlin: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871.