Gershwin's work a lesson in mutual understanding for some
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 10:44 p.m.
Bassist Dwayne Dolphin says he was turned on to jazz “by a little Jewish guy.”
Trumpeter Sean Jones looks at the classic works of George Gershwin (1898-1937) and also sees a Jewish role in jazz.
For them, a concert celebrating the music of Jewish-American George Gershwin fits well into the August Wilson Center's “Great Collaboration: The Alliance of Blacks and Jews in the 20th Century.”
Not only did Gershwin borrow some of the blues style and harmony to include in his Tin Pan Alley hits, but they also became part of his bigger works such as “A Rhapsody in Blue,” Jones says.
Gershwin also wrote “Porgy and Bess,” an opera about black fishermen in Charleston, S.C., far removed from operas written about the royalty and elite of Western Europe.
That sort of mutual understanding is at the heart of the Downtown site's ongoing collaboration program. It is looking at that connection through a visual art presentation on the Berlin Olympics in 1936, when black and Jewish athletes were oppressed minorities. It also will examine the sharing of experience through dance and theatrical productions.
“In some way, they care about each other,” Dolphin says about Jews and blacks. “They each have been oppressed in ways, and so they can understand what each goes through.”
He says when he was attending Schenley High School, music instructor Ken Cook — the “little Jewish guy” — told him to embrace jazz because it is “the music of your birthright, the music of your people.”
“I can't believe the positive boost he gave me,” Dolphin says.
To examine that music, Jones will lead a quintet with Dolphin, drummer Roger Humphries, pianist Alton Merrill, and saxophonist Eli Digibri from Israel.
Digibri is a blazing a path in jazz these days, working with well known stars such as Herbie Hancock, Al Foster, Brad Mehldau and Ron Carter as well as releasing five albums of his own.
“He is just phenomenal,” Jones says of Digibri. “We are going to be able to do a lot of things in the quintet setting. We'll really be able to stretch out.”
Jones sees that freedom as giving Gershwin's music more of the jazz nature it borrowed.
Most of the music will be quintet versions of his hits or even material from “Porgy and Bess,” Jones says. But they might be able to do small-group looks based on melodies from “A Rhapsody in Blue.”
Dolphin says he is excited about having the ability to look at the composer's work in this setting.
“I've got something to say,” he says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Photo gallery: Springsteen brings ‘High Hopes’ to Consol Energy Center
- Bulgarian violinist Bella Hristova to perform Barber concerto with Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra
- Tickets going on sale for Wiz, Steely Dan, Brian Regan, others
- Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band to play Consol on April 22
- Cyrus’ rescheduled U.S. tour now includes Pittsburgh stop in August
- Festival shares Mozart’s secrets
- DVD reviews: ‘Philomena,’ ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and ‘Ride Along’