Saturday, June 02, 2007


The Allegheny County Parks Department and Mellon Jazz today announced an eclectic, international series of Mellon Jazz-sponsored events to be presented as part of the 2007 County Parks series, with world-renowned French jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty to appear at Hartwood Acres at 8 p.m. on Sunday, July 1; rising young keyboardist Lao Tizer performing at South Park at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 17; and promising young keyboardist-composer Brett Williams from Hampton High School holding musical court at the Allegheny County Courthouse at noon on Friday, August 31.

"In terms of both audience and performers, jazz is an art form unrivalled in its diversity," said Rose M. Gabbianelli, Mellon executive vice president and director of corporate affairs. "This year's Mellon Jazz lineup in the County Parks series reflects that great jazz tradition, featuring a mixture of well established and rising young talents, and presenting to Pittsburgh audiences local and U.S. performers as well as an acclaimed international artist."

"Mellon Jazz events are always a much-anticipated part of the County Parks summer series, and this year's line-up is no exception," said Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. "Thanks to the support we receive from Mellon Jazz, our free-to-the-public concerts in the parks will once again include three outstanding jazz attractions."

Born in 1942 near the historic French beaches of Normandy, Jean-Luc Ponty is a world-famous jazz violinist whose 2007 concert schedule includes engagements in India, Italy, Turkey, Carnegie Hall in New York City, Holland and France. An accomplished concert violinist at the tender age of 17, Ponty became infected with the sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane while playing clarinet for a college jazz band. Committing to jazz over classical music, Ponty developed a signature jazz violin style that he later adapted to swing, bop, jazz-rock, and even country. A long-time collaborator with Frank Zappa, Ponty has shared the stage with a broad range of international stars ranging from Russian classical violinist Vadim Repin to acclaimed American jazz violinist Regina Carter.

Nominated as a "Best New Artist of the Year" at the National Smooth Jazz Awards and heralded as point man for the next generation of contemporary jazz, Boulder, Colo. native Lao Tizer is still a few years shy of his thirtieth birthday, yet has already appeared with the likes of Isaac Hayes, Boney James, Wayne Shorter, Bruce Hornsby, Jethro Tull and Spyro Gyra. Having begun formal training as a pianist at age 9, Tizer studied under both classical and jazz instructors, and began showing early on a flair for composition and improvisation. With three CDs to his credit by the time he reached age 17, Tizer relocated to Los Angeles in 1997 and shortly thereafter formed the Lao Tizer band. Recorded last year, the band's newest CD, "Diversify," features guest appearances by celebrated jazz artists Chieli Minucci, Karen Briggs, D. Munyungo Jackson and Andy Suzuki.

Opening performer at last summer's Mellon Jazz presentation of David Sanborn at Hartwood Acres, Brett Williams is an uncommonly gifted young pianist who will be returning to Hampton High School as a sophomore next fall. Showing his musical talent as a toddler on the family's pots and pans, he got a drum set at age 3, and began taking piano lessons shortly thereafter. Williams studied gospel and classical piano with Charles Rowe, and later began studying jazz with Ron Bickel at Duquesne University. With two CDs already to his credit, the talented young keyboardist-composer is equally at home in gospel, R&B and jazz, and continues Pittsburgh's storied tradition of developing great local jazz talent.

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