Saturday, January 24, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker at the Byham

Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Just attending the Maceo Parker concert at the Byham Theater on January 16 would have been enough to convince you that his fans are an eclectic group ranging from James Brown era boomers to current college students.  I was a accompanied by my nephew Josh Kurnot, 23 year old, Mechanical Engineering Student from West Virginia University.  He had never heard of Maceo and quickly became a fan. Maceo is known as the funkadylic sax of the James Brown Band.  

Now a little education for those of you are not schooled in the music genre called "funk."  It is a genre that originated in the mid
picture by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
to late 1960s when African-American musicians discovered the rhythmic, danceable combination of soul music, jazz and R&B using the strong rhythm groove of electric bass and drums and in, my mind, hi-lighting brass instruments.  Funk uses the same extended chords as bepop jazz, often extending one vamp on a single chord.  James Brown developed the signature "groove" that emphasized the downbeat leaning heavily on the first beat of every measure, funky bass line, drum patterns and syncopated guitar riffs.

Not getting it yet?  Getting funky with these extended vamps will have your head bopping, dancing, dancing in your seats and having fun especially if it is to Maceo Parker's famed alto sax and the amazing trombone of Dennis Rollins who often graces the audience along with Maceo in vocals with his sultry deep baritone.

At 72, Maceo is still the consummate performer. He and his "super band" are the epitome of funk entertainment.  Each is a celebrated musician in his own right making the audience experience delightful for "smorgasbord listening."  Dennis Rollins on trombone, Will Boulware on keyboards, Bruno Speight on guitar, Rodney “Skeet” Curtis on bass, Marcus Parker (son of Maceo’s brother and long-time drumming partner Melvin) on drums, Martha High singing backup and Darliene Parker (Maceo’s cousin) singing backup as well.

Darliene Parker adds so much energy and absolute mirth and sex appeal to the backup singing but her solo of "Stand by Me" could almost stand alone along with her scat duo with Maceo on the flute.  Spellbinding!

picture by Josh Kurnot
The band truly is a family affair as some of the performers actually date back to Maceo's stint with George Clinton with his bands Parliament and Funkadelic.  A musician whose resume includes James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Prince, among others, would only bring entertainment giants to the stage.

These musicians perform as though they were born to be on the stage, performing.  And it is obvious they are having a rollicking good time with joking and comical antics.  The show is a musical rodeo that really ropes you in with equal parts of fun antics and exciting musical execution.  We should all have careers where we have as much fun as Maceo's band does. And this translated to the live performance at the Byham.

The entire band stacked one musical showcase of their individual talents on top of each other.   Each band member had an opportunity
picture by Josh Kurnot
to strut their stuff, with at least one if not more opportunities for a solo performance showcasing each of their outstanding talents.

In old-school jazz show fashion, the band led off the night vamping a Latin groove as the back-up singers announced a “Funky Fiesta.” Soon, Parker took the stage, and the show moved into full-on funk time with “Off the Hook,” as in the funk is off the hook. It’s a Parker concert chestnut, as are “Make It Funky” (a James Brown number)"Baby Knows" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."  There are also tributes to Marvin Gay and of course Maceo's impression of and tribute to Ray Charles.

Still Maceo's mesmerizing saxophone playing remains the biggest reason to go see his show. Whether in tandem bouts with Boyer or soloing on his own, he retains the style and substance that made him a funk icon. Lest we forget “I Got You (I Feel Good)"--James Brown, James can be heard in many recordings shouting, "Maceo, I want to blow." Even James was a fan!  Maceo is fond of saying that his music is 98% funky stuff and only 2% Jazz and he has a book out by the same name:

If you missed the show and you get a chance, please for the memory of your life, don't make the second mistake twice.

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster,
blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Learning to LIVE through PIPPIN

 Learning to LIVE through PIPPIN

A Roving Pittsburgher Review

by Sunita Pandit, Mrs. Cardiology

My husband and I got tickets at the last minute.  Its busy during the week but I thought 'you only live once!' oh what a cliche! Convinced my husband to treat me with 'us' time and off we went... oh my...

Photo by Joan Marcus & Bruce Glikas   Pippin, Kyle Dean Massey
and father John Rubenstein.

Did not know what we were going to see... we are both first generation Indians that are still getting culturally Americanized! While walking from the parking garage to the Benedum I was able to hear a lot of chatter from the audience that had seen the Original Pippin and were all without fail excited at the prospect of seeing the original lead for Pippin arrive here in our very own Pittsburgh to play the part of the father of Pippin...In 1972 the starring role of Pippin was played by a virtual unknown, John Rubenstein.  Now Mr. Rubenstein an actor, composer, director and educator is back as the royal father of Pippin. 

Even as we sat down, the people behind us were commenting the same... We were excited about seeing acrobats... but what we actually saw and experienced was just astounding - a feast for the eyes - a smorgasbord for all of the senses... we had trouble focusing on one performer for long as so much kept happening at the same time. The performers filled the stage inch to inch with color action style all choreographed to timely perfection by Tony Award nominee Chet Walker in the style of Bob Fosse and circus creation of breathtaking acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main.

Pippin also has a unique connection to Pittsburgh.  According to Playwright, Stephen Schwartz,  PIPPIN began as a show for the Sotch 'n' Soda club at Cargnegie Mellon University in 1967.  At that time Scotch 'n' Soda produced an original musical every year and he had written songs for two previous musicals. Schwartz had a friend, Ron Strauss, who had an idea to write a story about Carlegmagne's son launcing a revolution agains this father and had begun to write a musical about the idea.  So Schwartz and Strauss collaborated right here in Pittsburgh to create PIPPIN which became the most nominated Broadway show of 2013, won four 2013 Tony® Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.  

Pippin a journey of self discovery that draws you in to wonder about your own life... And I will never be able to do justice to the performance of the cast in their singing... they all carried strength, clarity, but most important of all all of them were in the 'zone'. I could not help but be drawn in completely... IMPRESSIVE is an understatement... 

Pippin tells the story of a young prince who longs for a life filled with passion and adventure. Aided by an acting troupe headed by the Leading Player, the musical tells the story of Pippin’s pursuit of the extraordinary.

And as for the original Pippin -well at this age he has an impressive stage presence and voice - oh I wonder and wish I could have seen him in the original version... I firmly believe that Cirque de Soliel has fierce competition in this troupe!

My husband and I are honored to have witnessed this feat of performance brought from Broadway to the Benedum... allowing us to enjoy such excellence in the comfort of our home town! The show swings through the Benedum from January 20 – 25, so be sure to grab your tickets for this unforgettable show!

 Sunita Pandit, host of Mrs. Cardiology which is an anchor podcast at is also the practice manager for her husband Santosh Pandit's private cardiology practice in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, she is also the Health Director on the Board of NAWBO Greater Pittsburgh.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


“An Electrifying Performance”
Reviewer:  JoAnn R. Forrester, Empress of Biz,  

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE, presented a spectacular night of entertainment aimed to amaze, awe and make one wonder  out loud   “How in the world do they do all the twisting, turning, leaping, climbing, juggling, acrobatic and aerial feat and still be smiling and ready to do more?”   The international cast of 30 performers from 12 different countries are extraordinary as they whirl, twist and perform almost impossible feats through 20 acts, and 300 custom changes in a 2 hour production. 

 The show pulls out all the holiday favorites, gingerbread men, Santa Claus, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, snowmen ice men and maidens, and penguins all performing amazing feats to entertain you. So much is going on at one time it is difficult at times to take in all the activity.   Kudo’s to all that design, produce and deliver this holiday spectacular.  The only thing I miss is not knowing the names and background of the individual performers and what country they are from.   I think each one would have an amazing story to tell.       

photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Many of the performers have appeared on America's got Talent and although we can't be certain, my companion and I think we recognized Quick Change Artists, Lex Schoppi and Alina, masters of high speed haute couture entertainment.  Also we think we recognized  from America's Got Talent, quarter finalists Donovan and Rebecca although we cannot be sure as there was no program.

CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is part of a franchise by directory Neil Goldberg, who created the groundbreaking Broadway hits CIRQUE DREAMS and JUNGLE FANTASY. CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is a cirque show, a Broadway musical, a holiday spectacular and family show all in one! 
photo credit Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Great entertainment! Amazing show with fantastic performers whose enthusiasm and boundless energy could produce enough electricity to light up downtown Pittsburgh for a week.  Who needs gas wells?  Just harness the performers of CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE.  Truly an amazing and electrifying performance by all!

Written By: JoAnn R. Forrester
Host of Empress of Biz
Anchor Internet Radio Show on
JoAnn R. Forrester is co-host of the Empress of Biz Talkcast and co-founder, president and partner in S. I. Business Associates, Small Business Solutions, LLC and Celebrate and Share. She is an entrepreneur, writer, business growth specialist, teacher, columnist and award winning writer. JoAnn specializes in helping small businesses grow and prosper. She is the co-developer of the PRICE IT PERFECT™ cost management system for small business, and has secured over 40 million dollars in loans and investment for her clients.