Wildblue Yonder debuts new, jazzy album

Andy Cummings | Staff Photographer | Wildblue Yonder sits for a Q&A interview after their debut album performance.

Capri Scarcelli | A&E Editor

Sept. 22, 2022

Local, independent band Wildblue Yonder released their debut album “Dancing Astray” on Friday, Sept. 16. With an album release party at Mr. Smalls Theater, the band did a run-through of their album front to back, including a few unreleased songs as a teaser.

The band is composed of six Pitt and Duquesne students: pianist Joe Hodges and strings/vocalist Daniel Sawyer played music together since high school. Eli Alfieri (bass/guitar/vocalist) brought his high school friend Frank Mileto (drummer), who joined forces with Duquesne students Spencer McNeill (saxophone/flute) and Alex Perez (trumpet). The group forged toward the end of the pandemic, and is now performing their music in the Pittsburgh area.

Alfieri and Sawyer agreed that the show was “pretty sweet,” being that the band hasn’t played together recently, giving them an opportunity to workshop songs in front of an audience again and simply enjoy the energy of performing.

Alfieri describes the sound of the band as improvisation-based, though “tries to avoid genres.”

“It’s really fun to experiment with different styles and grooves. Cool thing is we have different textures, and with a six-piece band, there’s a lot of unique solos so we can build and communicate off of that,” Alfieri said.

Pulling inspiration from jazz, Wildblue Yonder offers a contemporary twist to classic composition, trying on different styles without committing to just one sound. Overall, Sawyer said the band is simply “trying to play the good kind of music.”

Hodges describes their style as a “musical playground” of opportunity.

“We don’t play our parts the same way every single time,” Hodges said. “I might put [a] different inflection in the melody, or Spencer [McNeill] might do a different solo, but really no song is played the same way twice.”

Sawyer, a Computer Science and Applied Statistics major at Pitt, alternates between bassist, guitarist and vocalist of Wild Blue Yonder – he also is one of the band’s main songwriters.

“I do a lot of arranging and writing. For the studio I overlay parts, it’s fun to experiment,” Sawyer said. “For album two we’re trying to add tones and sounds, experimenting with what we can create and what’s possible.”

Teasing this album before its release, Pitt student Owen Gambill helped Wildblue Yonder direct a 15-minute short film that explained “why the album didn’t come out.” Following the hashtag #WheresTheAlbum on Instagram, this piece was put together by local student actors and followed zany excuses for their album postponement – like the bandmates being kidnapped by “super fans.” To Wildblue Yonder, it wasn’t about the publicity or marketing, but rather sharing their art and enjoying it with friends.

“It was a blast. We want to experiment more with multimedia and collaboration with Owen [Gambill] for future projects and just having fun,” Sawyer said.

Alfieri said to stay tuned for a second album and performances in the area.

To keep up with their musical journey, follow their Instagram @WildblueYonderJams for more updates and stream “Dancing Astray” on Spotify.