Tady: Cool jazz meets space funk and spicy guitar in Beaver

·5 min read

They're funky, jazzy, and rock 'n' roll, too.

Slam Band & Sam is ready to jam. The quintet will showcase its upbeat grooves Jan. 29 as the leadoff headliner for the Cabin Fever Music Series at the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center.

Profiled last week on "The Soul Show," airing on 91.3-WYEP, Slam Band & Slam enjoyed a breakout year in 2021, playing gigs at the Three Rivers Arts Festival and Hartwood Acres Summer Concert Series.

“All of us in Slam Band & Sam hail from areas of Pittsburgh, including Beaver County," bassist Mark Ondrey says. "This homegrown, blue-collar attitude has given us a humble approach and confidence in creating an organic sound with funky, gritty undertones.”

The band will highlight songs from "&" an EP released on Spotify and other major sites.

“Musical composition from top to bottom is our priority, emphasizing a blazing melody and resounding harmonies," Ondrey said. "We commonly create music with a story in mind and emulate that feeling throughout.”

A big chunk of that feeling comes from the playing of Ambridge saxophonist Mark Jackovic, the jazz education and archives manager for the MCG Jazz series and record label on Pittsburgh's North Side.

“Our approach stems from our love of many musical genres," Ondrey said. "Cool jazz meets spicy guitar licks with space funk and Motown soul to ensure a stimulated musical experience for every listener. If you ain’t cuttin’ that rug, we ain’t doing the job.”

Showtime is 8 p.m., following a cocktail hour with complimentary beer and wine as part of your $30 ticket. Snag your seats at RSVP.BeaverStation.org

"We are thrilled to have the music series return to its original format of bringing outstanding live music to Beaver County during the winter months when people need a reason to get out and about," Leanne Rogowski, venue manager at Beaver Station, said.

The Beaver Heritage Foundation, operators of the historic former train station, will recognize a well-deserved group each month of the series, offering half-price seats as thanks for their dedication and service. January will honor active-duty military members. When visiting the reservation website, there will be a military reservation option to select to receive the discount, Rogowski said.

Slam Band and Slam headline the Cabin Fever Music Series at the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center.
Slam Band and Slam headline the Cabin Fever Music Series at the Beaver Station Cultural & Event Center.

Van Gogh keeps going

It's as clear as a starry, starry night: western Pennsylvania loves "Immersive Van Gogh."

Thanks to popular demand, the groundbreaking, multisensory art exhibit has extended its Pittsburgh run to March 20.

Featuring enlarged, digital recreations of legendary painter Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces moving vertically and horizontally around four large, blank walls, "Immersive Van Gogh" opened in Pittsburgh on Oct. 21, and initially had been expected to continue through January.

Van Gogh paintings surround you: Van Gogh paintings will surround you at Pittsburgh event

A glimpse of "Immersive Van Gogh": Get Out to see 'Immersive Van Gogh' in Pittsburgh

It's a trippy experience, worth a drive to Pittsburgh's North Side.

Even if you've seen it already, you can try another flavor via the 35-minute yoga classes that are taught during "Immersive Van Gogh: sessions on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Admission is $54.99 per class, with reservations at vangoghpittsburgh.com/yoga-classes/

Pittsburgh's "Immersive Van Gogh" has been extended a few months to March 20.
Pittsburgh's "Immersive Van Gogh" has been extended a few months to March 20.

Remembering Michelle

The Beaver Valley music scene is mourning the death of Michelle Walser, the popular vocalist for Willow Creek Band.

Walser, who had been battling esophageal cancer, was 56.

Willow Creek, formed in 2018, entertaining local audiences with a variety of classic rock, Southern rock, blues and a bit of country.

Walser, a graduate of Lincoln High School in Midland, previously performed with the Jason Craig Band.

Walser's vocal tone and power made her a standout singer, former JCB bandmate Rich Mannion, now of Bobby Thompson & The Groove, said. " One of the best soft vocal tones I’ve heard. Yet she could really put some amazing power behind her voice that would give it that gritty rock tone, like Ann Wilson of Heart".

Mannion posted on Facebook a touching tribute to Walser, whom he credited with convincing him to get back on stage after a 12-year absence as he was combating a neurological and arterial disease.

"She would tell me that I had to get back to writing and performing because, as she would say, 'it would be the best therapy,'" Mannion said.

Countless area musicians thought highly of Walser, rallying to hold benefit shows at Kendrew's Lounge in Aliquippa and O'Donna's in Rochester Township in 2021 to help defray her expenses. Those were fitting tributes to someone who regularly gave to her community.

In 2013-14, while with the Jason Craig Band, Walser spearheaded The Michael Dunlap Celebration of Life and Hope benefit concerts, in honor of her high school band director's son who lost his battle with cancer. Proceeds went to the oncology department at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

At that time, Walser told me how she and her bandmates volunteered at many charitable causes including Wounded Warrior events and for other veterans' programs.

She said, "We aren't making music for fame or fortune...it's about making a difference."

Popular local singer Michelle Walser passed away a week ago. She's remembered for her wide-ranging vocal skills and dedication to charitable events.
Popular local singer Michelle Walser passed away a week ago. She's remembered for her wide-ranging vocal skills and dedication to charitable events.

Ambridge musician on CBS

Ambridge musician Robert Snyder, of local power trio GumBand, got to hear himself singing in the Jan. 13 episode of CBS' "Young Sheldon."

The sitcom's scene with a Mustang car radio featured a mid-1990s song "Are You Ready For Love?" from a band called PHX fronted by one of Snyder's good friends.

"I did all of the backing vocal harmonies," Snyder posted on his Facebook page. "It was pretty cool hearing myself on national TV, even if only for a moment."

Scott Tady is the local Entertainment Reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He's easy to reach at stady@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @scotttady.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Tady: Slam Band & Sam's jams will make folks groove at Beaver Station

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