Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stranger Convention Brings Nujazz to Most-Wanted Fine Art Gallery

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stranger Convention Brings Nujazz to Most-Wanted Fine Art Gallery

Article excerpt

Like mad scientists working in their dungeon lab, the members of Stranger Convention were tinkering with the known -- and the unknown -- elements of jazz, searching to create a new form.

(Cue the flash of lightning.)

It's nujazz. And it's alive!

"We always wanted to play jazz honoring the tradition of jazz," said keyboardist and founding member Pulsar Li. "But we wanted an innovative sound. I think the best music balances innovation with a sound that is aesthetically pleasing. Balances harmonies and instrumentation.

"We don't listen to just jazz. We also listen to electronic and rock. We do covers of Radiohead and Bjork. But back in the day, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong would make jazz renditions of the popular songs of their time. It sounds kind of unique and new, but it's really in line with jazz tradition of taking something that people are listening to and trying to make something new out of it."

They call it nujazz.

"We made that up," Mr. Li said, "and then I typed it into Google and found out that it already was a genre. But all these genres are very loosey-goosey. I don't know if what we play matches the Webster's definition of nujazz."

Mr. Li, 28, grew up in North Carolina with a love of jazz. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music before returning to Duke -- for his medical degree.

His search for a good-paying day job brought him to Pittsburgh, where he is a resident in the department of anesthesia at UPMC Presbyterian and Montefiore. His love of music, however, was anything but asleep.

"After four years of not playing music in med school, I was desperate to get back into it," Mr. Li said.

He started playing in a band called Steeltown Soul. Along the way, he hooked up with drummer Dave Landes, via Craigslist. About two years ago, Mr. Li and Mr. Landes decided to branch out on their own with Stranger Convention. …

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