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A night out

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  • A night out

    There is nothing like live music to ground the obsessive compulsive disorder for system critiquing & tweaking. The wife & I try our best to get out as often as possible to take advantage of the plethora of diverse and exquisite music and venues available in Pittsburgh.

    Yesterday evening we had the good fortune to be part of a very enjoyable performance at the Byham Theater. Situated in the downtown theater district this intimate theater house built in 1903 originally showcased vaudeville & in its long history has hosted stars such as Ethel Barrymore, Gertrude Lawrence, and Helen Hayes. After an impeccable renovation in 1995, it now presents a myriad of events ranging from lectures, film and dance to classical and other musical performances.

    Last night’s marquee was dedicated to Pink Martini. For those not familiar with the Oregon-based group, they have been described as being somewhere between a 1930’s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brazilian marching street band and performing Japanese film noir scores. They are as eclectic as your grandmother’s attic and every bit as much fun, as they explore & unearth musical treasures both past & present from around the world.

    The members in attendance on stage for last night’s show included a superb rhythm section consisting of acoustic double bass, guitar, two percussionists mastering everything from Indian & Cuban bongo to a standard drum kit, and another percussionist on maracas, triangle, guiro & other similar type instruments. Rounding out the rhythm section was a powerful brass accompaniment comprised of one standard trumpet player and one slide trombone player. Ironical for me was that not only did the slide trombone steal the show in terms of both technical musicianship and soul stirring performance, but the artist himself had earlier in his career spent years with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Also resident on stage were two chairs, one for violin and another for piano which seated the band’s artistic director Thomas Lauderdale. Lastly, centering the group was vocalist and song writer China Forbes.

    The group opened with a V stirring transcription of Ravel’s Bolero that got my attention of the brass section right away. Their power lit up the smallish hall with an energy that lasted the entire show. From there, they performed everything from a lullaby composed by Forbes for her two year old (her voice nearly angelic during its rendition) to a Turkish folk song sung with assistance from a Turkish audience member, to French, Italian, Latin and various fusion compositions along with a healthy dose of repertoire from their recorded works.

    It was a thoroughly enjoyable show if somewhat abbreviated in length. Yet, we may be a bit spoiled after seeing Paul McCartney earlier this year when he took the stage at 8:30 and with no breaks at all, bid good evening at 11:30. But that is another story.

    The acoustics were quite good overall. We were fortunate to be 3rd row just left of center. So despite the modest stack of PA speakers positioned far left & right, we got a good dose of pure acoustic from the musician’s instruments. Still, the artificial (& IMHO unnecessary for such a small venue with the excellent natural acoustics already engineered into the hall) amplification caused some phasing anomalies as the visual interactions of the musicians with their instruments did not always match what our ears were hearing.

    None the less, I give kudos to the audio engineers for maintaining their amps at a level that helped preserve a natural ambiance. We were a tad bit late returning from intermission (the bar was woefully understaffed) and had a chance to listen to one song at the back of the hall before resuming our ticketed seats. From this venue the sound was a bit more cohesive overall if a bit less intimate and dynamic.

    All in all, it was a wonderful show. No regrets, time & money well spent. Another cherished memory created. I love my home system, but nothing compares to the ‘live' performance. Get out there if you can and support your favorite musicians.

    BTW, all of Pink Martini's releases are available on well pressed vinyl.
    Last edited by wkhanna; 23 November 2010, 17:07 Tuesday.


    Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob
    ....just an "ON" switch, Please!


  • #2
    That sounds like it was an awesome evening! Nothing like being satisfied from a night out with loved ones and good entertainment.

    What an interesting mix of culture and sound. Wish I could have checked it out myself. It has been quite some time, since I've gone to a live performance.

    Thanks for sharing with us.
    "I have come here, to chew bubblegum and kickass. And I'm all out of bubblegum!!!"


    • #3
      Good stuff Bill. Sounds like you had a lovely evening.



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