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Sept. 21, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Pittsburgh's Negri debuts café-style show

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Jazz guitarist Joe Negri, best known on college campuses as "Handyman Negri," from the popular children's television show "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," will initiate Slippery Rock University's café-style performance series at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 12.

The "Joe Negri and Friends in Concert" program, part of SRU's Performing Arts Series, will be in the University Union Multi-Purpose Room.

"By using a café-style seating plan, we will offer ala carte food service throughout the performance, as something we think the audience will enjoy," said Deborah Baker, SRU's director of special events and series planner.

Negri is one of the most recognized names in Pittsburgh music circles and is sometimes called "one of the finest jazz guitarists in the nation." He will be joined by bassist Tony DePaolis, drummer Thomas Wendt and Maureen Budway as special guest vocalist.

The Pittsburgh icon has served as musical director for WTAE-TV, the ABC affiliate for more than 20 years, and has performed with such musical greats as Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Costa as well as Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, John Williams and Wynton Branford.

In 1999, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust honored him with the "Established Artist of the Year" award.

He began singing at age 3, performing on radio and appeared in theatrical and stage productions throughout the tri-state area. He was chosen to become one of Pittsburgh's "Stars of Tomorrow." He began his love for the guitar at age 8.

By age 16, Negri was playing well enough to win a job with one of the country's top swing bands and soon became a featured member of the band and traveled nationally.

After serving in the Army, where he also sharpened his musical skills, Negri enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University

Following CMU, he landed a job in the then growing world of television. The post was the start of a 40-year career.

Negri began at KDKA-TV where he headed his own trio, but later switched to WTAE-TV where he stayed for 20 years.

"My life, in many ways, parallels the history of the jazz guitar. I grew up listening to and emulating guitarists like Charlie Christian, Les Paul and Django Reinhart. I consider myself to be a part of the second wave of jazz guitarists that came into prominence after World War II. Some of my peers included Johnny Smith, Jimmy Raney, Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell," Negri said.

He enjoyed the role of Handyman Negri for more than 30 years.

Negri is the author of the guitar method book, titled "A Common Sense Approach to Guitar Improvisation" published by Mel Bay Publications.

DePaolis is an in-demand bassist in Pittsburgh who comes from a musical family that has been active in the local music scene since the mid-60s. In addition to many tours, recording dates and performances with notable local and national leaders, he also released his debut CD as a leader, titled "The Contemporary Dynamic."

The two-disc cross-section of the jazz scene and beyond of Pittsburgh, features 36 other musicians, from Negri and Roger Humphries to Sean Jones and Gene Stovall.

Wendt has been playing drums professionally since age 14. A graduate of The Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, he studied with master drummers Roger Humphries, Joe Harris and Kenny Washington.

Wendt maintains a freelancing schedule with Pittsburgh's top jazz artists such as Dwayne Dolphin, Jimmy Ponder, Sean Jones, Negri and Budway along with Kenia, a Latin jazz group, Salsamba and the newly re-formed Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.

He has played with many visiting international artists such as David "Fathead" Newman, Donald Byrd, James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Monty Alexander, Curtis Lundy and Javon Jackson. In 2008, Wendt played on the Emmy Award-winning soundtrack for the PBS documentary "Fly Boys" and has just finished an album featuring trombonists Jay Ashby and Steve Davis.

Since 1998, he has been on the faculty at the Afro-American Music Institute in Homewood.

Budway, born and reared in Pittsburgh, started her jazz singer career with her brother, jazz pianist David Budway, at a jazz club called "The Balcony." She went on to receive a bachelor's degree in jazz performance from Duquesne University where she studied both classical and jazz voice. She has a master of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

Her performances include the role of Cozy Cool in the Duke Ellington jazz opera "Beggar's Holiday" with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh.

Budway has performed on numerous occasions with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; sang a Billy Strayhorn tribute in the jazz ballet "Indigo in Motion" with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater; performed with jazz drummer and downbeat pole winner Jeff "Tain" Watts at the Frick Mansion; Hidden Valley Jazz Festival with jazz flutist Hubert Laws; with renowned jazz drummer Louis Bellson in the Duke Ellington Jazz Mass, and performed with New York jazz musicians Ron Afif, Eric Revis, E.J. Strickland, Jonathan Kreisberg and Freddie Bryant.

She is a member of the 21st Century Swing Band and its brand new CD "Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy." Other recordings include "Maureen Budway and the Freddie Bryant Trio," "The Mass of Hope" by Joe Negri, "Latinventions" by Salsamba and "Jazz...the Budway."

She recently performed a Gershwin tribute with her brother as part of the Pittsburgh Symphony's Paris Festival 2012.

She is a member of the voice faculty at Duquesne University and performs regularly at Andy's in the Fairmont Hotel, downtown Pittsburgh.

Remaining shows in the 2012-13 SRU Performing Arts series are The Moscow Boys Choir's "Christmas Around the World Tour," Dec. 2; "The Marvelous Wonderettes," March 9; and The Hunts, a performing family, April 28, which will also be presented café-style. All concerts are at 7:30 p.m., except the Hunt Family step-dance family performance, which is at 4 p.m.

Tickets for the Negri performance are, adult, $20; seniors, $18; youth, $16; and SRU student, $8. They may be ordered by calling 724.738.2018, or by visiting the Alumni House from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., weekdays.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.