Mellon Jazz Festival June 15, 2002 posted 10/23/16

I had the honor of playing the last Pittsburgh Mellon Jazz festival in 2002 opening for Dr. John.  The year before, Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank had sold it's retail banking operation and this was the last year they would underwrite events like the Jazz Festival.  The band was my working band of the time with alto and bari saxophonist Mike Sakash, alto saxophonist Dave Turner and drummer John Schmidt. Collectively we were called Perna, Schmidt, Sakash and Turner.  Guitarist Eric Susoeff, who has been my strong musical ally and buddy for decades, played with us whenever he could and for the show we added the great tenor and soprano saxophonist Eric Defade. This band recorded two albums (Ferocious Boogie and Tales of the Singing Monkey) both of which are available as downloads and/or CDs from Mark Perna Music.  They were also featured on the first album issued under my own name (Voodoo Science) which is also available through the MPM store.  

We played four tunes that day.  The first, called Smooth Telemarketer, was written by Dave Turner.  The second through fourth were written by me.  Fall Out, Bursting with Love and Wind, Rain, Fire & Schmidt were all standard parts of our repertoire in 2002.  We had a steady 4 night per week gig at a restaurant called Valhalla in the Strip District of Pittsburgh.  Valhalla closed in 2003 and there's a restaurant called Eleven where it used to be.

In 2002 though, Dan Melnick producer of the Mellon Jazz Festival (among many others throughout the US), had asked for my help with the local portion of the Festival where other artists would play local venues of which Valhalla was one.  He generously asked me if I wanted to play the big stage.  We were one of only two local acts on the big stage.  Gene Ludwig with Ken Karsh was the other.  Dr. John was the feature act.

We managed to get through almost our entire set before it started raining.  You can see it coming down during Eric Susoeff's solo in Wind, Rain, Fire & Schmidt.

Dave Turner's parents shot the video which, in 2002, was on a big old VHS camera.  I transferred it to DVD so this is a second generation copy.  

I want to thank Eric Susoeff for this video.  I've been going through my archives looking for old recordings for the Don Aliquo project (Year of the Don; see an earlier blog post for details) when Eric showed up with a giant box of recordings of EVERY session we've ever done together going back to 1999.  This video was among booty.  I had long ago lost my copy.  In addition to this video, he had at least 6 or 7 sessions that I had completely forgotten about including a great take on one of them of "Play Your Seuss Off" from a 2006 session with Mike Sakash, Eric Defade and Tom Wendt (in addition to Esus and myself) that will end up on our forthcoming album "Reunion".  He also had at least 4 sessions with Don Aliquo that I'll be pulling material from for the Year of the Don project.  In fact, the last portion of the project has been extensively revised from my original vision because of this bounty of newly discovered material.