Should I ever be lucky to win any writing award,
I've joked with Phil that he can keep the award for
one month each year. Joe and Art here on stage
with Bruce Springsteen were there many times
before. This, a show, a flood relief benefit, at
classy Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, was Phil's first gig
with Bruce. He sent this photo the next day, so
proud, and asked me for a story for the paper. He
was in sweet awe when Bruce called him "The
Medium Size Man," and one of the highlights for
me was seeing Phil out there with his friends and
Bruce making $250K for the 9-18-04 flood victims.
My return to writing for a daily paper was
supposed to be a one shot deal for Norm, but Phil
provided the sax to so many of our nights out over
the decades that getting him an article on most of
the Sunday Lively Arts page was an honor. A good
|guy and a good, fun rock and roll sax man who loves to play. Somehow-- and neither he nor I was
responsible-- this following article ended up on 32 websites at one time. It has been about a year but people
still comment to me how much they liked the story and I got asked for a copy as recently as last week. Maybe
it was a good story, but it's because Phil's such a nice guy. I've been so very proud that this story found
homes on Phil's website and Hard Rain's site, too.
'The Pittsburgh Saxman' has time of his life recording
12 albums, playing with eight bands
by Julie Toye, for the Herald-Standard
Pittsburgh saxophonist Phil Brontz has had the merry time of his life recording 12 albums with seven
bands and playing in eight bands over the last 22 years.
Currently, Brontz is a member of two of Pittsburgh's favorite bands, 8th Street Rox and Bill Toms and
Hard Rain. With these two bands he has played on four albums that some critics and fans hold in the
Brontz has been on the local music scene since 1983 when he started out with Shadow Play and The
Rythmn Method. He moved on to play area clubs with The Flashcats, Gary Belloma and the Blues
Bombers and Norman Nardini.
Also, to his credits are recordings with blues lady Jill West and the Blues Attack on "Faceful of Blues"
and Joe Grushecky on "Swimming with the Sharks." He played on two albums with Nardini, "Love Dog"
and "Redemption," and one with Erin Burkett.
Recording on Burkett's self-titled first album gave Brontz a chance to work with former Silencer
drummer Ron "Bird" Foster and Tom Valentine of Glenn Pavone and the Cyclones.
"They are all really good albums, aren't they? Every record I have worked on is really special to me, "
Brontz replies when asked if he has any personal favorites.
"They each have their own special moments and memories. It was so gratifying to finally record the 8th
Street Rox record in 1999 after being with the band as long as I have," says Brontz who joined 8th Street
Rox in 1988. He refers to the recording of â€œSittinâ€� Pretty' as "a great moment for the 8th Street
Brontz believes 8th Street Rox's longevity and continued popularity is a true testament of praise for lead
singer/guitarist/songwriter Mike Filosemi for "keeping the band going full time around town" since the
early '80's. 'Sittin' Pretty,' released on Moondog Records, included 14 of Filosemi's original songs and
guest musicians Rick Witkowski, Nardini, Toms and others.
In 1997, Brontz played on one song on Hard Rain's first album. He started playing a few tunes at Hard
Rain's shows and over time came to share the stage full time. Being in both Hard Rain and 8th Street
Rox at the same time sometimes results in schedule conflicts.
For instance, Hard Rain is playing at Excuses on March 5 while 8th Street Rox is playing two evenings at
Seven Springs Resort on March 4 and 5. Brontz will play with Hard Rain on March 5, play with 8th Street
Rox on March 4 and send in a sub to the resort the following night.
The Pittsburgh Saxman, as Brontz is known, fondly recalls playing at the Decade, as well as playing with
Belloma at Gene's Bar that was leveled by eminent domain to expand the Liberty Tunnels cloverleaf.
Like many musicians, he gets sentimental thinking about those two clubs that disappeared from the
Pittsburgh music scene. His reminiscing continues.
"I'll always remember recording with Erin, flying in from California to Pittsburgh early morning and
driving directly to the studio. I kept my sax in the trunk. I was in a fog from no sleep and jet lag,"
Brontz says. The recording session resulted in a song, 'Angels Never Would,' which contains one of his
favorite saxophone solos.
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|Phil, Joe, Art and Bruce