'Jazz & Fashion' shows how they blended, changed over decades
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
From the zoot suits of the bebop era to the understated elegance of Esperanza Spalding, fashion always has been a part of jazz.
Marty Ashby, program director of MCG Jazz at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, has seen how clothes work with jazz in the suits of Wynton Marsalis and the T-shirts of Pat Metheny.
“Jazz and fashion are joined at the hip,” he says. “But, whether it is Duke Ellington and his high-class look or someone on the stage in jeans, it is a personal statement.”
A look at that individuality is at the core of “Jazz & Fashion: Hill District Beat,” Saturday's show at the guild on the North Side.
The show is subtitled “A Look at Teenie Harris: American Photographer,” and will use his music as a way of examining that change in fashion.
Ashby admits the Harris connection also provides a musical element that gives the show more strength.
The first half of the show will look at Harris' photography and, through it, take a look at the fashion of the five decades he was a photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier.
It will use the music Ashby and the guild put together for the show, “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story,” a collection of his work that was at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland from October 2011 to April 2012. Mike Tomaro, head of jazz studies at Duquesne University and a composer-arranger, and trombonist Jay Ashby composed five pieces, representing the decades of the 1930s to the '70s.
“This music has never been played live in a concert,” Ashby says, “so this gives us a chance to do that.”
The photography of Harris (1908-88) led Marty Ashby to start thinking about the fashion element in jazz, and at pairing of the elements, he says.
Tomaro says the two sides of the show fit together nicely.
“The purpose is to show the parallel lives of jazz and fashion,” he says, adding the people in the photos and the music will go together so well, the relationship will be obvious.
He says is music will be bits of Dixieland, swing, cool West Coast jazz, finally working its way into the fusion of the '70s, when Harris ended his career.
Similarly, the music of the second half, which is a look at the fashion of the past 70 years, will feature music from those eras. Tomaro also has been commissioned for a closing piece that is a decades-spanning medley.
While photographs are the visual element of the first half, models in clothes of the decades will be featured in the second.
“The music and fashion speak to the last 50 years,” Ashby says. “It always it is part of an individuality.”
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
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