Local jam/psychedelic band Brahctopus headlines a concert at Row House Hollywood in Dormont on Nov 18. Photo courtesy of Carly Dreskins.

It’s November, so we’re all heading back indoors for live music. Club and theater shows have their advantages though: no lanternflies, sunscreen not required and mud is rarely a problem. 

And this particular November, local venues beckon with an enticing range of shows.

Saxophonist and singer Camille Thurman, a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, is part of the ensemble at the 53rd annual Pitt Jazz Concert on Nov. 4 at Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert Week: Nov. 3-4

Here’s an excellent November music tradition: We’re about halfway through the 53rd annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert Week, but the big events are yet to come. 

On Nov. 3, the life and work of Pittsburgh native and jazz legend Ahmad Jamal, who died earlier this year, will be discussed at Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in the Hill District at 3:30 pm. That evening, Benito Gonzalez will give a solo piano concert at Bellefield Hall Auditorium.

More seminars are lined up for Saturday, Nov. 4. The week culminates in a concert that night, featuring nationally known jazz musicians including Camille Thurman, Lenny White and Keyon Harrold, at Point Park University’s Pittsburgh Playhouse. Schedule and tickets.

Eric Gales, called “one of the greatest electric guitar players on the planet” by Guitar World Magazine, performs with blues legend Bobby Rush as part of the Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. Photo courtesy of Katrena Wize.

Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival: Nov. 3-4

November is also the month for the sixth annual Highmark Blues & Heritage Festival, happening Nov. 3 and 4 at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. 

The blues comes first on Nov. 3, with a concert featuring Bobby Rush and Eric Gales. The next night, Afro-Latino music takes over, with Buena Vista Social Club singer Omara Portuondo, accompanied by percussion legend Pete Escovedo and Nestor Torres, a Puerto Rican flutist. Think of the festival as a gathering of the elders: Escovedo is 88, Rush celebrates his 90th birthday on Nov. 10 and Ms. Portuondo just turned 93. Schedule and tickets.

Happy birthday, Joni: Nov. 4

Nov. 7 is Joni Mitchell’s 80th birthday, and it’s a blessing that she’s still with us. A few days before the milestone, on Nov. 4, the Original Pittsburgh Winery celebrates the genius that is Joni with a birthday tribute, as part of the Songwriters in the Cellar series. Local artists Mirabelle Skipworth, Trinity Wiseman and Ashley Marina are among the performers. Tickets.

By the way, fans need to check out Joni 75, a 75th birthday concert recorded in Los Angeles in 2019. Brandi Carlile, Los Lobos, Chaka Khan and more sing the Joni Mitchell songbook. Seal kills on “Both Sides Now.” The live album streams everywhere.  

Ladybug Transistor at The Warhol: Nov. 9

The Ladybug Transistor, a psychedelic-pop group that had success with its 1999 album “The Albemarle Sound” (Merge) and other releases, has reunited for a mini-tour this month after performing in Norway in July. They’ll play as part of The Warhol’s Sound Series on Nov. 9. The minimalist electro-pop duo Giant Day (featuring Derek Almstead, formerly of Of Montreal) open the show. (Full disclosure: Jennifer Baron, a founding member of The Ladybug Transistor, is NEXTpittsburgh’s Jobs & Events Editor). Tickets.

Jamming at Row House Hollywood: Nov. 18

Scrappy Dormont promoter The Parking Pad returns to the Hollywood Theater, now known as Row House Hollywood, with a local rock double bill on Nov. 18. Brahctopus, a festival band whose sound includes psychedelic rock and funk, headlines the show. Paging Doctor Moon, a local band that describes its music as “neo-psychedelia and post-rock with the heart of a jam band,” plays first. Advance tickets are available.

Molly Alphabet is among a long list of performers at the Smalls Waltz, a Last Waltz tribute at Mr. Smalls on Nov. 18. Photo courtesy of Long Q. Hong.

The Ramble and the Smalls Waltz: Nov. 18

Forty-seven years ago, if you can believe it, the Band came together on Thanksgiving for The Last Waltz, a farewell concert filmed by Martin Scorsese, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. Surprise guests included Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan — and Neil Diamond. (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has some juicy Last Waltz details.)

Pre-pandemic, musicians from Randy Baumann’s Ramble, a series of concerts by local musicians, performed a Last Waltz tribute at the Rex Theater. On Nov. 18, they’re bringing it back, this time to Mr. Smalls Theatre. 

The Smalls Waltz will feature a long list of Pittsburgh performers, including Bill Deasy, Joe Grushecky, Liz Berlin, Clinton Clegg and Bill Toms (see below), to name a few.

“It looks to be our biggest Ramble yet,” says Molly Alphabet, a proud fourth-generation Lawrenceville resident and member of the Ramble “family.” Performers rotate in the Ramble shows. “I’m sure it was hard for Randy to narrow down the list” for the Smalls Waltz, she adds.

The Last Waltz “was the holy grail for us in a way,” Baumann says. “These shows have become a big musical hug for all of us.”  The WDVE morning DJ will also be playing piano throughout the show.

More Rambles are planned for 2024. Tickets.

Bill Toms (with guitar and tattoos) and his Hard Rain bandmates George Arner, Phil Brontz and Tom Breiding will perform at the 16th annual Thanksgiving Eve Benefit Show on Nov. 22. On the 18th, Toms will join other local musicians at the Smalls Waltz, a Last Waltz tribute. Photo courtesy of Zeke Caresani.

Thanksgiving Eve Benefit Show: Nov. 22

A lovely Pittsburgh tradition comes around again on Nov. 22. Joyce and Bill Toms host their 16th annual Thanksgiving Eve Benefit Show, this time in a new venue, City Winery. For the second year in a row, proceeds will benefit Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR). 

One of their relatives is a sexual assault survivor, Joyce Toms notes, and has been grateful for PAAR’s assistance.

“We raised $10,500 last year, our largest amount yet,” Joyce says. Past beneficiaries have included St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Band Together and the ALS Association.

“She organizes everything,” including a basket auction and 50/50 raffle, Bill says of his wife. 

But Bill does pretty well with the concert lineup: this year’s show will feature Billy Price, Pete Hewlett, Rick Witkowski, the Pittsburgh Women of Soul including Stevee Wellons and Shari Richards, and many others, including, of course, Bill’s band Hard Rain. Rob O’Friel of WYEP will host.

“We don’t really get to see each other a lot, so this is a good chance to get together,” Bill says. “We get everyone started for the holiday season.” Tickets.

Annette Bassett is a freelance writer and grant writer living in Bloomfield. She likes visiting local breweries, going to concerts and walking the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh while listening to audiobooks. She prefers wired earbuds.