ALTON MERRELL AND CAROLYN PERTEETE
by Kevin Amos
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Jazz enthusiasts of Pittsburgh had the opportunity to shovel out their driveways and sidewalks and make it to Franco Harris Stage in the August Wilson Center For African American Culture for all-star performances of the songs of George and Ira Gershwin.
A Gershwinter Night was a special holiday treat to culminate a great year of music in our Jazz corner of the world. The sold out performance featured: Carolyn Perteete on vocals, Sean Jones on trumpet, Roger Humphries on drums, Alton Merrell on piano, Dwayne Dolphin on bass, and special guest Eli Degibri on saxophone.
Degibri has established himself as one of the top musicians in the Jazz world. He has been a member of Herbie Hancock sextet and Al Foster’s band during his career. Currently he is artistic director for the Red Sea Jazz Festival. As Degibri reflected to the audience he commented that this was his first time in Pittsburgh and that he was honored to share the stage with so many great musicians.
When talking about the Great American Songbook names like the Gershwin’s, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington come to mind. The vocalists who sing the songs from these composers and others include Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstein, Johnny Mathis, Dinah Washington, and many others. To master this song repertoire is a must for every Jazz musician worldwide. This night, the quintet with vocalist covered the songbook with ease to the delight of the 426 patrons in attendance.
All so very popular, the repertoire included “Our Love is Here To Stay,” “A Foggy Day” which included an outstanding drum solo from Humphries, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “The Man I Love” featuring Perteete, “Embraceable You,” and two tunes from Porgy and Bess. The entire music set included 12 tunes.
George Gershwin’s most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess written in 1935. Gershwin called it a “folk opera,” and it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the 20th century. It was a long cry from the song “Swanee” written for Al Jolson years before that which caused a lot of friction among many.
The concert is part of the Great Collaborations Program in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. It is a seven-month series of cultural programs encompassing three performances, a major art exhibit and a series of town hall meetings which goes on through March 2013.
Great Collaborations explores past relationships, with the hope of creating dialogue that leads to cooperation in the future. Throughout the 20th century, African-Americans and Jews have shared in the struggle against violence, bigotry and the fight for civil and human rights. This group effort has forever changed the world’s political and cultural landscapes.
(To learn more about the August Wilson Center and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh visit:
To learn more about Sean Jones and Eli Degibri go to: