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

Obituary: Barbara L. Widdoes / Former executive director of Three Rivers Arts Festival at 89

Obituary: Barbara L. Widdoes / Former executive director of Three Rivers Arts Festival
July 26, 1928 -- May 28, 2018

Barbara Widdoes didn’t cotton to omens.

If she had, the inaugural year of the Three Rivers Arts Festival surely would have been its last.

During that four-day period in June 1960, a violent storm struck Point State Park, tossing 10 paintings into the river and damaging 50 others.

Known as “Babs” to friends, Ms. Widdoes was co-chair during the first years of the festival — which kicked off it’s 59th year on Friday — and she served as its executive director during most of the 1970s.

The 89-year-old mother of three died Monday, surrounded by loved ones at her Oakmont home, after a long battle with breast cancer.

“This would probably be the first year she hasn’t gone,” to the festival, said her oldest son, Jamie Widdoes, 64, an actor and director from Los Angeles.

Much of his family life growing up revolved around the festival, remembered her younger son, Bill Widdoes.

“Every year when the festival rolled around, I wouldn’t see my mother for about a month,” said Mr. Widdoes, 54, of O’Hara.

He and his older brother and sister would be enlisted to help set up displays, distribute programs and other tasks.

The festival owes much of its success to the hard work of Ms. Widdoes, who served on the executive board of the Women's Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art, when it launched the festival in an effort to bring art to the city, said Alice Snyder, co-vice chair of the festival.

“It was Babs who truly built the festival into what it became at its peak,” said Ms. Snyder, who met Ms. Widdoes in the 1970s. “Her role was absolutely vital to the festival. She made it happen; she made it grow.”

Ms. Widdoes served in various leadership roles in the festival for 25 years, said Kevin McMahon, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which now operates the festival.

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and advisory board of the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival are grateful for Babs’ remarkable contributions, which have enabled the festival to grow, drawing millions of visitors and presenting tens of thousands of artists through the decades,” Mr. McMahon said in a statement.

Ms. Widdoes was a trailblazer in other ways, too.

When planners were seeking a new executive director after several male candidates didn’t work out, Ms. Widdoes suggested hiring a woman.

“He said to me, ‘A woman couldn’t do this job,’” Ms. Widdoes recalled about one of the search committee members, during a recent video interview. “I told my husband that remark, and he said, ‘Oh God, you’ll never be happy till you show them.’”

The encounter prompted Ms. Widdoes to seek the job, which she got. She served as executive director from 1971 until her retirement in 1978.

“She was ‘Me Too’ before there was ‘Me Too,’” said Jamie Widdoes about the recent “Me Too” movement, aimed at ending sexual harassment and assault.

Born in Manhattan to the late Ruth Yarbrough and James D. Landauer, Ms. Widdoes graduated from the Madeira School in Virginia in 1945 and earned a bachelor’s degree in drama from Vassar College in 1949.

She met W. Peirce Widdoes during one of her family’s frequent vacations on Nantucket Island, Mass. They married in June 1949 and were happy until her husband’s death in 2001.

The couple moved to Squirrel Hill in 1950 and raised three children, who said their mother’s interest in the arts wasn’t confined to just the festival.

She also sat on the boards of the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and frequently provided a temporary home for young actors visiting the city.

“It was a very bohemian, artistic culture that was around us, which clearly seeped into me,” said Jamie Widdoes, who starred as fraternity president Robert Hoover in “Animal House” in 1978.

“She referred to it as ‘soft-core porn’ when she first saw it,” said Jamie Widdoes, laughing at the memory.

“When she walked into a room or drove up in my driveway, you knew you were going to laugh and learn,” said Ms. Snyder, who said she became “the best of friends” with Ms. Widdoes over the years. “She was a wonderful person in many ways. She was so innovative in her curiosity in the arts and bringing artists to the Pittsburgh scene.”

Bill Widdoes fondly recalled the time “Sidewalk Sam,” a visiting chalk artist, stayed with the family.

“She brought her work home with her, sometimes literally,” he said.

Friends and loved ones said they will miss Ms. Widdoes.

“I am so grateful to be part of the life she lived,” Jamie Widdoes said. “We were lucky to have her as long as we did.”

“To know her was to love her and to respect her,” Ms. Snyder said. “She was a powerhouse.”

Along with her sons, Ms. Widdoes is survived by daughter Bennett Widdoes Crocker, of Los Angeles, and five grandchildren. She was preceded in death by two sisters, Beverly Landauer and Barrie Estes.

The family suggests donations in Ms. Widdoes’ memory be made in support of the Three Rivers Arts Festival through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, 803 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Janice Crompton:

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Replies to This Discussion

I had the distinct pleasure of working for Babs 3 times in the mid '70s with my band, the SHEBA Experience, as the opening act of jazz night.  We opened for Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Jefferson, and for a local bill also featuring the Walt Harper Quintet and the Nathan Davis Quintet.  Before that in 1970 I played the 3 Rivers AF with the Nathan Davis Quintet. She was the driving force as well as the heart and soul of the festival, very approachable, and made sure she knew each of the artists personally. I remember several phone conversations with her and seeing her right there beside the stage to make sure things were going as planned.  She was a Pittsburgh treasure.  May she rest in Peace.

My Condolences to the family and friends.


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