Super group PGH combines musical strengths of headliners
The female vocalist looks like a hip schoolteacher, but can belt out a blues tune that makes your hair stand on end.
The male singer has a commanding personality that complements his show-stopping vocals.
The guitarist tends to be quiet until he picks up his instrument and channels his inner Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Meet Shari Richards, Sputzy Sparacino and Tony Janflone Jr., blending their talents in PGH, the area's newest super group. PGH will debut April 20 at Silks Lounge at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Washington County.
PGH grew out of a benefit concert Sparacino and Janflone played together in late 2012. What could Janflone do, Sparacino wondered, with a larger ensemble? A few weeks later, at another charity show, Sparacino found himself onstage with Richards.
“I'm looking at Shari and thinking ‘I'd love to see her with a big band,' ” Sparacino says. “Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I should have a big band, too.' ”
Sparacino says Richards and Janflone signed on almost instantly when the idea was broached to them, even though such collaborations have inherent pitfalls. When three principals are used to being headliners, friction is often an unfortunate and unavoidable byproduct.
Not in this group.
“It's one of the greatest things I've ever done, and the reason is the whole thing isn't on my shoulders,” Sparacino says. “We get to throw it around the stage, we're having so much fun.”
Richards' range extends from Etta James and Koko Taylor to Melissa Etheridge and Joni Mitchell. Janflone is one of the region's most dynamic musicians and possesses an unlimited musical palette. Sparacino, in groups including Modern Man and Sputzy & the Soul Providers, leans more to R&B and soul.
At first blush, it seems the collective talents might clash. Instead, the rehearsals have been nothing but harmonious.
“We all respect each other massively,” Janflone says. “We've worked well together from the start. ... Shari and Sputzy have distinctive voices. Honestly, I find that's the mark of an artist. If I'm walking down the street and hear something and go, ‘That's Sputzy, or that's Shari,' that's what I look for.”
And Janflone's talents?
“He's on another level,” Sparacino says. “Tony's not your normal musician. He's a world-class player who has played all over the world.”
PGH also features keyboardist Jeremy Olson, bassist George Elliott, drummer Joe Kluchar, percussionist Derrick Edwards and the horn section of Curtis Swift (saxophone), Mark Custer (trumpet) and Bob Matchett (trombone). The group will concentrate on cover songs initially — notably selections by Sam Cooke, the Neville Brothers, Etta James and The Commodores — but is open to writing new material.
In the course of her solo career, Richards admits she's had to make adjustments in order to make a sustainable living.
“Out of necessity, you need to become a bit of a chameleon,” she says. “I take pride in that ability to be what the gig requires. But this band allows me to be me. After being a chameleon for so long, you don't get to be yourself as much.”
“That's the great thing about this,” Janflone says. “The strength of it is we are all doing our own thing.”
Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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: Judas Priest hosts heavy homily in the Steel City
- ‘Heroes and Villains’ evokes array of emotions in Pittsburgh Symphony Pops season opener