MCG Jazz


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Acclaimed Jazz Concert Series and Grammy Winning Record Label
MCJ Jazz is one of the longest-running jazz concert subscription series in the country and a Grammy award winning record label.  A part of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild School, MCG Jazz is nationally acclaimed nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, present, and promote jazz. MCG Jazz keeps Pittsburgh's great jazz tradition alive through its concerts, recordings, and educational programs. 

"I wish there were an MCG Jazz in every city.  This is an organization that serves community, cherishes the arts and preserves our legacy. Add to that a beautiful and intimate concert hall run by an excellent creative team that truly understands -- it's nothing less than an artist's dream on every level." - Nancy Wilson

“The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild is a testament to the power of the arts to transform children’s lives. Its students learn much more than how to shape clay, take pictures, and appreciate jazz. They leave the Guild knowing that they have the potential and tools to become successful and productive citizens.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton

MCG Jazz has presented more than 1,638 concerts by 2,714 performers since 1987.  MCG concerts have been broadcast nationally by National Public Radio.  Booking artists for 4 day performances at its intimate 350 seat music hall in Pittsburgh MCG presents jazz masters and contemporary jazz stars.  

Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Ray Brown, Gerry Mulligan, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, Billy Taylor, Milt Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, Admad Jamal, Chick Corea, Joe Williams, Toots Thielemans, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour. Marian McPartland, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Burrell, Hubert Laws, Pat Martino, and Herbie Hancock are among the many jazz legends to appear at the MCG.

MCG Jazz -The Award Winning Record Label

As the Manchester Craftman’s Guild is a school it preserves jazz for its educational programs by recording the MCG Jazz concerts.  The archive of concert recordings contains over 300 CDs that capture the past, present and future of jazz music.  MCG distributes the best of its live recordings to national and international audiences through its record label.  MCG Jazz has released over 40 live concert recordings.

The MCG Jazz label, which launched in 1995, has won five Grammy Awards and several Grammy nominations. The MCG Jazz label won the best large ensemble award in 1997 for "Count Basie Orchestra with the New York Voices" and was awarded the Latin jazz Grammy in 2002 for "Brazilian Dreams" by sax man Paquito D'Rivera and the New York Voices. Nancy Wilson's "Turned to Blue" won the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy in 2007. D'Rivera won two more Grammy awards in 2011. His MCG Jazz album “Panamericana Suite” won awards for “Best Latin Jazz Album” and “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”.

The Grammy awards also recognized MCG Jazz with a nomination for Paquito D'Rivera & the United Nation Orchestra release in 1998. "Lullaby of the Leaves" from "Live and the MCG" by the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra was nominated in the best instrumental arrangement category in 2005.  "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," a track from the MCG Jazz release "A Day Like This" was nominated for a Grammy award in arranging in 2007. Bob Mintzer's album "For the Moment" was nominated for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and Best Instrumental Arrangement in 2012.

MCG Jazz records have received worldwide radio airplay and have topped the Billboard Jazz charts.  Nancy Wilson's 2004 release “R. S. V. P.” and her 2006 release "Turned to Blue" both reached number 7 on the Top Jazz Albums chart.  Wilson's 2001 release “A Nancy Wilson Christmas” was number 5 in 2001.  Paquito D'Rivera's "Brazilian Dreams" peaked at number 22 on the jazz charts in 2001. Herbie Mann and Phil Woods’s "Beyond Brooklyn" release climbed to No. 2 on the JazzWeek chart and the CD "Bob Mintzer Big Band Live at MCG" reached number 5.  

MCG Jazz Educational Programs

The artists who record on the MCG Jazz label generously give proceeds of their music sales to support MCG's jazz education programs.

MCG Jazz offers programs to educate the younger generations giving them an appreciation of great jazz. Students attend MCG concerts at low or no cost.  The visiting artists give master classes to students and professionals. The MCG facility also gives music workshops to elementary school pupils. Reaching outside MCG has offered summer jazz programs at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum on the North Side. Students interested in music industry careers intern in production and marketing. MCG Jazz also sponsors jazz performances at Pittsburgh area night clubs.

Bill Strictland Founded Manchester Craftman's

Bill Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild in 1968 offering after school education in ceramic arts to at-risk children. In 1972 Strickland was asked to merge his school with the Bidwell Training Center which offered adult job training in the trades.  Needing more space for the combined schools Strickland conducted a capital fund raising campaign for a new school. The 62,000-square-foot MCG building was constructed in an abandoned industrial park in the Manchester section of Pittsburgh’s North Side.  MCG is located at 1815 Metropolitan St. hidden behind a giant United Parcel Service Terminal.  

Within the MCG building Strickland built a 350-seat jazz performance space.  The jazz concert program was launched by Bill Strickland in 1987.  Executive producer Ashby joined the Guild that year to implement Strickland's plans for the jazz series.  Asby left his job at the Pittsburgh Symphony taking a 50% pay cut to create the Jazz Subscription Series.  Pianist Billy Taylor was the first performer to appear in 1987.  A full concert season was offered for the first time in 1988. As the series grew Ashby and Strickland acquired audio and video recording equipment to produce albums and DVDs.  Marty Asby produces the concerts and MCG Jazz recordings.  A guitarist he also performs at MCG backing and recording with the visiting artists.  

Popular jazz artists who have appeared at MCG Jazz concerts include Bob James, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Spyro Gyra, Take 6, Tom Scott, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, The Yellowjackets, Chuck Mangione, Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Joe Negri, Roger Humphries and others. Many of the artists have returned several times to MCG to record including Nancy Wilson, Joe Negri, Paquito D'River, and Bob Mintzer.

Singer Nancy Wilson described her reasons for recording three albums with MCG Jazz. “MCG provides the intimacy of a living room with the acoustics of a great concert hall. I love performing there. I believe so strongly in Bill Strickland's vision of investing in the human spirit that I personally wanted to contribute to the mission and work of this remarkable organization. I chose MCG Jazz as my home to record and have directed all proceeds from the sale of my Christmas CD to benefit the MCG Jazz program.”

Bill Strickland - Making the Impossible Possible

Bill Strickland's efforts in founding and running the Manchester Craftsman's Guild and MCG Jazz have been recognized and honored nationally. Harvard Business School's review of the school found that 80 percent of the students who finished programs at Manchester went on to college.  
Harvard Business School hailed Strickland as a "social entrepreneur."  Strickland was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant in 1996. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and  Herbie Hancock recruited Strickland to build an MCG like program in San Francisco.  Appointed by President Bush Bill Strickland served on the National Endowment of the Arts board for eight years.

Bill Strickland was born in Pittsburgh on August of 1947 and grew up in the Manchester neighborhood. He did not have much interest in education until he was mentored by a teacher in the 10th grade. At Oliver High School teacher Frank Ross taught Bill ceramics and history and made him apply to the University of Pittsburgh. Enrolling in Pitt in 1965 he majored in history and made the dean's list at the end of his first year . 

While still in college in 1968 Bill opened a basement ceramics studio in a Manchester row house owned by an Episcopalian church. Running an after school program he taught poor neighborhood children pottery skills seeking to motivate them. To continue and expand the program he raised funds from other churches.

Graduating cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969 Strickland continued his pottery school. He built a staff of volunteers and ran the program with annual budget of less than $50,000 raised through grants.

Strickland was asked in 1971 to take over the Bidwell Training Center, a neighborhood adult vocational training program. BTC had been started in 1968 by the Presbyterian church. It ran into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay withholding taxes. Rather than close the school BTC turned to Strickland to take it over and rebuild it. He successfully ran the programs at two different locations. In 1983 Strickland launched a campaign to that raised $8 million to construct the Manchester Craftman's Guild Building to house both programs and to launch MCG Jazz.

Today MCG serves approximately 3,900 students annually with classes and workshops in ceramics, photography, digital imaging and design art.  The Bidwell Training Center offers accredited Associates Degree programs in the culinary arts, chemical laboratory technologies, health careers, horticulture and office technology.   

At MCG Strickland's method is to use of art to change students' attitudes about the importance of education.  His goal is not to produce artists and musicians, but to use the arts and music to motivate and inspire troubled young people so that they will get a college education and lead productive lives.  Wth MCG Jazz Stirckland has enlivened his students and kept the great Pittsburgh Jazz traditional alive.
Bob Minzter Big Band Live from MCG
MCG Jazz Recordings

Bill Strictland
Marty Asby -MCG Jazz Executive Producer