The Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra

I'd been eager to hear the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra live ever since I first heard their debut CD, Night Owl Suite. I asked my husband if I could borrow his copy for a trip I was going on. That was months ago and the last time he saw his CD. As luck would have it, Dowe's on Ninth recently started Big Band Mondays, a booking that features a different local big band every Monday night, with the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra playing every other Monday.

We arrived at Dowe's just as the band was laying into Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar." The Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, co-led by Mike Tomaro and Steve Hawk of Duquesne University and Slippery Rock University respectively, has been creating quite a buzz since its creation almost two years ago. Individually, the band consists of some of the best Jazz musicians in the Pittsburgh area. Collectively, the TRJO is a powerhouse. Their clean, distinctive sound owes much to Tomaro's inspired arranging and compositional skills.

While the Night Owl Suite CD features some terrific Tomaro originals, the sets that night consisted of standards like "Up Jumped Spring," "All the Things You Are," "Round Midnight," "Bluesette," "Harlem Nocturne," Tommy Turrentine's "Junebug," and Michael Brecker's "Midnight Voyage." The music, while always accessible, challenges and excites with its complex harmonies, its fearsome energy, and hard-edged precision.

Beside the leaders, Tomaro on saxophones and Hawk as lead trumpet, the band features a rhythm section consisting of pianist Max Leake, guitarist Eric Susoeff, bassist Paul Thompson, drummer Dave Glover; and a horn section consisting of saxophonists Eric DeFade, Jim Guerra, Rick Matt, Terry Steele, and Jim Germann; trombonists Bob Matchett, Clayton DeWalt, Chris Carson, and Jay Ashby; and trumpeters Joe Herndon, James Moore, Steve McKnight, and Ralph Guzzi.

As well as playing alternate Monday nights at Dowe's, the TRJO is returning to the studio soon to record their second CD and will appear at the upcoming Pittsburgh Jazz Society's Winterfest with Boston-based vocalist Rebecca Parris.

 By Linda Goshay Jones

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