Pain Relief Beyond Belief





From Blakey to Brown, Como to Costa, Eckstine to Eldridge, Galbraith to Garner, Harris to Hines, Horne to Hyman, Jamal to Jefferson, Kelly to Klook; Mancini to Marmarosa, May to Mitchell, Negri to Nestico, Parlan to Ponder, Reed to Ruther, Strayhorn to Sullivan, Turk to Turrentine, Wade to Williams… the forthcoming publication Treasury of Pittsburgh Jazz Connections by Dr. Nelson Harrison and Dr. Ralph Proctor, Jr. will document the legacy of one of the world’s greatest jazz capitals.


Do you want to know who Dizzy Gillespie  idolized? Did you ever wonder who inspired Kenny Clarke and Art Blakey? Who was the pianist that mentored Monk, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron, Elmo Hope, Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme? Who was Art Tatum’s idol and Nat Cole’s mentor? What musical quartet pioneered the concept adopted later by the Modern Jazz Quartet? Were you ever curious to know who taught saxophone to Stanley Turrentine or who taught piano to Ahmad Jamal? What community music school trained Robert McFerrin, Sr. for his history-making debut with the Metropolitan Opera? What virtually unknown pianist was a significant influence on young John Coltrane, Shirley Scott, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Timmons and Ray Bryant when he moved to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh in the 1940s?  Would you be surprised to know that Erroll Garner attended classes at the Julliard School of Music in New York and was at the top of his class in writing and arranging proficiency?


Some answers  can be gleaned from the postings on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network.


For almost 100 years the Pittsburgh region has been a metacenter of jazz originality that is second to no other in the history of jazz.  One of the best kept secrets in jazz folklore, the Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy has heretofore remained mythical.  We have dubbed it “the greatest story never told” since it has not been represented in writing before now in such a way as to be accessible to anyone seeking to know more about it.  When it was happening, little did we know how priceless the memories would become when the times were gone.


Today jazz is still king in Pittsburgh, with events, performances and activities happening all the time. The Pittsburgh Jazz Network is dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the places, artists and fans that carry on the legacy of Pittsburgh's jazz heritage.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words

     I'm only 67 years old so I don't relate well to jazz before the hard bop era.  One thing I know is that the period between the mid 50's and mid 60's produced the music that is most pleasing to me.  My experience, to a great degree, is through records and now CDs.  Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside and World Pacific were the labels that put out most of the "hits."  I say it like that because I was able to connect an artist to a hit record such as Groove Holmes to Misty,  Horace Silver to Song For My Father, Cannonball to Jive Samba, Jimmy Smith to many like Back At The Chicken Shack and Walk On The Wild Side, Kenny Burrell to Chitlins' Con Carne, Jazz Crusaders to Young Rabbits and Gene Ammons to Angel Eyes. You get the idea.  After the 60's this concept stopped.  I think the best way to get people introduced to jazz is through the classics of that era.

     Since most of the greats are dead what is still alive is their records.  I would like to hear the music of this era played on the radio consistently since so much of what is programmed is for the benefit of the program director/DJ/ record label and not for the audience.  With that in mind the audience can then be fed some worthy new recordings mixed with the ones by familiar artists. Anyone who thinks that jazz on the air, or released for that matter, is the equal of the past just doesn't understand the circumstances that created those recordings.  No longer are the clubs alive, no longer are the producers young and full of the passion and most importantly no longer are the innovators and creators of this great music in the studios to write and record it.

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Replies to This Discussion

The 50s were a golden era in jazz! Tenor sax men flourished a decade after Bird started a revolution. Jazz was used in Hollywood and TV commercials, the chitlin circuit thrived along with the black business community. Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers were the one of the most enduring groups along with Miles, Max, Clifford Brown, Newk, Monk , and Duke and Count Basie were traveling the world and who could forget Dizzy going on a State tour after Louis Armstrong with Quincy Jones! The swing cats were still gigging tough so the time period even with the emergence of rock & roll which did not have soloists yet was a golden era.- kh
Well said Travis.  Thank you for posting your thoughts and experience.  I couldn't agree more.  Another shortcoming in the presentation of jazz today is that the DJs do not mention the sidemen by name or say anything significant about them.  In the jazz world the sidemen are as important as the leader and are equals artistically.  The leader on a given recording is the one who has the contract, that's all.  Jazz players typically do not choose lesser players for their sidemen but you would assume that from the way the DJs omit the sidemen from reference when they announce a tune.

     Nelson, I'm a believer that jazz without education is dead.  People need a reason to care.  It always starts with the music.  Your comment about sidemen is relevant to me. Blue Note and Prestige were great practitioners of giving a good sidemen an opportunity and matching players.

     I also feel that presenting jazz in a concert setting saps the life and passion from it.  The interaction between player and audience in a club where I'm ten feet away is exciting. 

     I think only a non-profit that shares our vision and experience can make it possible.  Young artists need to work out their material before recordings by getting feedback from the potential paying customer.  They need hard times, not Berklee as a teacher.

Amen Brother.
With WYEP's acquisition of WDUQ do you think that a lobbying effort to influence programming might be helpful?

Obviouly...some folks have not been following certain folks on the air. While to markey the music to the public is the goal, a lot of us were never part of the payola game to push certain records on the air. That is NOT how you further the Jazz legacy. The truth is in the music and the knowledge and information you pass on. Not how popular you are to a certain group of people as is the case here and in many parts of the country.


More on this later.



Joining a 6-year-old discussionis odd, but I'm surprised to learn that a love of jazz got underway in the hard bop era. I think of jazz as being an aquired taste, , including accessibility and progression. Most Western ears, hearing Chinese music for the first time, would find it pleasing, I don't believe. But a billion or so Chinese must. I had the advantage as a kid of hearing my sisters play big band or New Orleans type music on a wind-up victrola over and over. That;s what was constantly on the radio and all the juke boxes. That's what I mean by accessible. As for progression, I then adapted quickly to what Bird, Diz, and Thelonius were doing. I have a hard time believing that someone growing up with country/western musicwould latch on to bebop or bop without having had some form of jazz or swing as a forerunner. What I didn't like about the fifties was that great rhythm-and-blues was transformed into rock-and-roll by dumbing down the syncopated beats of jazz and blues. Dixieland evolved into John Coltrane. Elvis Presley evolved into grunge---whatever that is. But jazz has not entirely lost its voice or a devoted following. Young players are coming out of University programs in surprising numbers.


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