“Avi Diamond is a Pittsburgh-based singer songwriter inspired by the musical styles of jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan as well as modern music such as Fiona Apple and Radiohead. She has been composing jazz-inspired rock music from the age of 16. She attended Duquesne Universitys music therapy program where she studied jazz voice with Maureen Budway. Avi performs in venues all over Pittsburgh and collaborates with local musicians to create a unique alternative style of music.”>
Avi Diamond is a jazz rock singer from Pittsburgh who returns home to perform tomorrow night (3/31) behind her latest release “Down the Drain“. I want to thank her for taking the time to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
The first album I ever bought is probably really embarrassing. I think it might have been N’SYNC’s first album on cassette tape.
Your last album bought?
“Middle Cyclone” by Neko Case. I’ve been meaning to get this album for a while and finally got around to it earlier today. I actually got to see her perform over the summer at the Byham. She has one of the most engaging voices. It kind of feels like wolf howl that makes me you stop what you’re doing and listen. Her lyrics are poetry, and her are songs so stylistically unusual. I love artists who mix genres and pick creative instrumentation.
Favorite album of all time?
That’s really difficult. I can say that The Dresden Doll’s self-titled album was one of the most influential albums to me as a songwriter. The first time I heard their song ‘Girl Anachronism,’ it felt like a switch went off in my brain. I didn’t know that music could sound chaotic with hectic piano, creepy music box-sounding drum parts, and shouting vocals yet still work as a cohesive song and be relatable. The Dresden Dolls inspired me to play with multiple styles of music at a time and to test the boundaries of where emotion can take you in a song. Good songs aren’t always pretty songs. Sometimes they’re loud and dissonant.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
I would have to say “Encore” by Eminem. I liked Eminem when I was a little younger but was really weirded out by that entire album.
First concert attended?
My first big concert was Green Day during their ‘American Idiot’ tour when I was 13. My mom drove my friend and I to Columbus, Ohio to see them. We were completely thrilled. Green Day was my favorite band in my early teenage years. I learned how to harmonize from singing with Mike Dirnt’s harmonies and making up my own.
The last concert I went to was on Saturday in Manhattan. I saw Banda Magda, which is a band associated with Snarky Puppy. Their music is difficult to describe. The band leader is an adorable woman from Greece named Magda. She plays the accordion and has a soft jazzy style of singing. She led a 14 piece band on a tiny stage, and sang in four different languages. It was probably the most musically impressive performance I’ve ever seen. Their rhythms and arrangements were so interesting and diverse. They played Columbian, French, Greek, and styles of music that were hard to generalize to one location (such as a song in Greek that had a samba feel to it). It felt like a party for my ears.
Favorite concert ever?
I’ve been too a lot of good ones, but I think I would have to say Brandi Carlile at Carnegie Lecture Hall in October was probably the most enjoyable. It was a part of the pin drop tour, which involved no one in the band having any amplification. It really made the audience feel like a part of the show. Every time we clapped along with the beat, we had to stop so we could hear the music. Our patience and attentiveness was a part of the performance. I love all of her music. I don’t think there is one song by her that I don’t like. Everything she writes feels genuine and strong. She has one of my favorite voices. The best part of the concert was she marched around the lecture hall with her band trailing behind her like a little marching folk band while she sang through an old fashioned blow horn. There were no frills and no flash. It felt very rustic and full of real talent.
Least favorite concert?
I don’t usually bother going to a show if it’s going to be a band that I don’t love. I don’t really want to call anyone out because performing live is difficult, and it takes a lot of bravery to get up there and perform in front of people.
Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
I love Pittsburgh’s music scene. There are a lot of friendly generous people who I have met through jam sessions and open mics. It took me awhile to feel confident enough to put myself out there, but as soon as I did I really felt embraced by the community. The AcoustiCafe is one of my favorite weekly Pittsburgh events.
Thanks, Avi. I am really appreciating the power of the open mic scene here in Pittsburgh. I hear more and more about artists networking and making some waves through the many opportunities in town. Something to sure be excited about.