Jason Kendall hits to all fields.
Grrrr. I'm so mad at myself. I swore that when I previewed tonight's show by local musician Jason Kendall, I wouldn't make the obvious play off the fact that for years the Pirates baseball team had a star catcher by the same name.
Oh well. Jason Kendall has had to come to terms with it, so the rest of us will have to as well.
"I've been performing since I was a kid, about 15," said the musical Mr. Kendall, a 40-year-old native of Fayette County who studied music on a jazz saxophone scholarship at West Virginia University.
"There was a time when I played in a little Dixieland band that walked around playing at Three Rivers Stadium. And the year that I did that was Jason Kendall the catcher's rookie year. It was kind of cool. I didn't know he would be a really great player, at that point. I even got a picture taken with him."
Armed with a master's degree in music education, the musical Mr. Kendall began a career teaching part-time at Penn State and Community College of Allegheny County. No problem there.
Still, when it came time to ply his trade as a performer, the name game sometimes became a problem. So, for a short time, he dropped his last name and used his middle name to create the stage name "Jason Lloyd."
"But then I decided, 'You know, I'm Jason Kendall. That's who I am,'" he said. "I figured, 'OK, it's pure coincidence that someone else has that name. But he's Jason Kendall the ballplayer and I'm Jason Kendall the musician.'"
It still has its repercussions.
"I played an acoustic show just last Friday at Soho on North Shore right by [PNC Park] and they had a sign outside saying 'Tonight Jason Kendall from 8 to 11.' And at the end of the night, the manager there said, 'You know, you wouldn't believe how many people called asking if Jason Kendall the baseball player would be here signing autographs.' So, yeah, I still get that every now and then. But I don't mind."
Besides, the baseball-playing Mr. Kendall hasn't done much lately. The musical Mr. Kendall, who is a both a singer and an instrumentalist, is on a hitting streak.
"I have a production company and I play in a variety of capacities," he said. "I have a jazz trio where I play saxophone. Then I have my acoustic [sets], which are either solo or a small duo. We play a mix of covers and originals. It's pretty spread out. Everything from standard songs -- Beatles, Rolling Stones, classic rock, modern music. An eclectic mix, I'd say.
"Then there's the Jason Kendall Band. It's a full four-piece electric band that plays pretty regularly. Dance music. It's mostly an R&B band.
"Oh, and I'm also involved in a contemporary group called 'Two Turntables and a Saxophone,' where I play with a DJ mixing. Which is kind of cool."
If you're scoring at home, that adds up to four different forms of music.
"Over the last, I'd say, two years our business has grown exponentially," Mr. Kendall said. "We probably play three to four times a week in one capacity or another."
Many of his club and casino shows tap the acoustic sound. The jazz band produced his Christmas album. And the electric band has become popular booking corporate events and occasional shows on the road.
Too much of one style can make him itch for another.
"Switching up, that's fun," Mr. Kendall said. "Sometimes music can be routine if you're doing the same thing all the time. Having different projects and different outlets keeps it fresh."
The audiences, he said, vary -- but not that much.
"The band attracts people who want to dance. The acoustic attracts people who are more into the singer-songwriter type of stuff. But depending on the venue, I'll see the same people."
Tonight, the musical Mr. Kendall will be at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, 107 Sixth Ave., Downtown, from 6 to 8 p.m., performing with local violinist Bob Banerjee. There is no cover charge.
"Who knows," Mr. Kendall said. "If my name brings somebody to the show that is expecting to see Jason Kendall the catcher, they might happen to like the music and suddenly there's a new fan in audience."
And he's happy to sign a baseball for you.
"Technically, it would be signed by Jason Kendall," he said.
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/