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Thursday Night Jazz: James Johnson III (Part I)

August 8 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

The first of three unique jazz concerts curated by and performed with James Johnson III.

A frequent percussionist on the City of Asylum stage, we are excited to present a series of concerts with James Johnson III at the helm curating. His first concert will feature original arrangements in which he gives a jazzy twist to classical favorites by Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin. Joining him for this concert are pianist Glenn Zaleski from New York, bassist Jeff Grubbs, a bassist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and an expert in both jazz and classical traditions, and Brazilian accordionist Vitor Gonçalves.

James is an incredibly accomplished musician, composer and arranger, and this series will allow him to stretch creative boundaries, combining Western Art music and American jazz, and bringing a new genre to Alphabet City audiences. James says his hope is “to blur the lines between great improvisation and great compositions to make a style of music that sounds like neither one or the other.” While the combination of these styles may not be a novel concept, James makes creative use out of every sound around him to bring elements of improvisation and notated music together to create a new sound, guaranteed to dazzle the imagination.

Future concerts in this series will take place Thursday, November 7th and Thursday, December 19th.

Featured Musicians:

James Johnson: drums

Glenn Zaleski: piano

Vitor Goncalves: accordion

Jeff Grubbs: bass

About the Musicians:

James Johnson III began playing the drums at the age of five in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Johnson attended CAPA, Pittsburgh’s high school for the creative and performing arts. It was here he came under the mentorship of the drummer Roger Humphries. Upon graduating high school, James was invited to tour with jazz legend Ahmad Jamal. With Ahmad, James performed all over the world, appearing in major jazz venues such as Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. As a member of the Ahmad Jamal trio, James has also appeared at major festivals such as the Cully jazz festival in Switzerland, the North Sea jazz festival in South Africa, and the Dublin jazz festival. James has also performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Geroge Coleman, James Moody, Sean Jones, Monty Alexander, Mulgrew Miller, Russell Ferrante, Bob Mintzer, Kenny Werner and Hubert Laws. In addition to his performance schedule, James currently serves on the music faculty at the Afro American Music Institute, University of Pittsburgh, and Chatham University. His second solo album Between was released in 2019.

Glenn Zaleski is one of the most in-demand pianists on the New York City jazz scene. Originally from Boylston, MA, Glenn has made a name for himself playing with the likes of Ravi Coltrane, Cécile McLorin Salvant, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Yotam Silberstein, Ken Peplowski, Lage Lund, Ari Hoenig, and many more. His latest album is Solo Vol. 2, a solo album of standards recorded during the pandemic, and the second from his own label Stark Terrace Music. A new trio album, Star Dreams, is set for release in August of 2024. Solo Vol. 1 was released in early 2018—his first solo piano album, as well as the first release from his own label. He has been described as “one of the most important pianists of his generation” by All about Jazz. In 2011, Glenn was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, as well as a finalist for the 2011 APA Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz. He attended the Brubeck Institute Fellowship program in Stockton, CA from 2005-2007, and then finished his undergraduate studies at The New School in 2009. From 2009-2011, while working towards his graduate degree at NYU, Glenn was also on NYU faculty, teaching a variety of classes and private students.

Vitor Gonçalves is a pianist, accordionist, composer and arranger from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After an illustrious career as an in demand musician in Brazil, playing with such icons as Hermeto Pascoal, Maria Bethânia, Itiberê Zwarg, and many others, he made the move to New York City, where he currently resides. Vitor moved to New York in 2012 to deepen his pursuit of Jazz and its connection with Brazilian music, and to explore the diverse musical melting pot that is New York City. It is here that he began leading his own group and forming new collectives, while pursuing a Masters Degree at City College. Since then, he has garnered much acclaim and built a star-lighted resumé. A frequent resident on the stages of Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Jazz Standard, and the Jazz Gallery, he both leads his own projects and collaborates with figures in the New York scene such as Anat Cohen, Vinícius Cantuária, Anthony Wilson, Cyro Baptista, and Yotam Silberstein. He also has played in Jazz Festivals and venues around the world, such as Newport Jazz, Jazz à Vienne, Umbria Jazz Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and the Coliseum in Lisbon, Portugal. In 2017 he released his debut album on Sunnyside Records, Vitor Gonçalves Quartet, featuring Dan Weiss (drums), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Todd Neufeld (guitar). The album was reviewed with 4 and half stars at Downbeat jazz magazine. He has been nominated for two Grammys: Best Latin Jazz album (with Thalma de Freitas) and Best Large Jazz Ensemble (with Anat Cohen Tentet).

Jeffrey Grubbs, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, comes from a family of music-loving non-musicians. He started as a violinist through his public elementary school at age nine and later switched to the double bass at age 18. He went on to pursue his musical training at Youngstown State University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the University of Southern California. He was also fortunate to be a recipient of the Music Assistance Fund (now the Sphinx Organization) Orchestral Fellowship, which gave him the opportunity to perform as a full-time member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for two years. From there, he went on to win a position in the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra in 1991 and has now been a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since 1996. In addition to his orchestral achievements, Jeffrey is also an accomplished jazz bassist. He has performed and recorded with many touring internationally-known jazz artists and is currently actively performing in the Pittsburgh jazz community. Jeffrey has served as a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon University, Florida International University, Clark-Atlanta University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Slippery Rock University. He also served as associate professor of jazz double bass at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

About Your Visit: 

The in-house restaurant 40 North is open for dinner from 5-9pm. Please visit Open Table or call 412-435-1111 to make a reservation.

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August 8
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
Program Category:


Alphabet City
40 W. North Avenue
Pittsburgh,PA15212United States
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