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: Louis 'Lou Tracey' Mastracci, Jr. / Wrote lyrics for local jazz performers

Obituary: Louis 'Lou Tracey' Mastracci, Jr. / Wrote lyrics for local jazz performers

April 19, 1928 - Nov. 24, 2016

A jazz performer would step off of a Pittsburgh stage. A man with black-rimmed glasses would greet the performer and gently offer a typewritten poem. The words would be warm, romantic, tender — maybe a little wistful. And then the man, Louis “Lou Tracey” Mastracci, Jr., would fade back into the audience, hoping for nothing but the opportunity to someday hear the poem put to song.

Mr. Mastracci didn’t play an instrument and was rarely heard to sing, but others brought his words to clubs here and beyond. He stepped off of life’s stage early Thursday, when he died of pneumonia at UPMC Shadyside Hospital. He was 88.

“Sometimes he would give me these silly looking, almost small post cards, with lyrics written on them,” said veteran jazz guitarist Joe Negri, who, over four decades, wrote music to go with 35 of Mr. Mastracci’s lyrical offerings.  While Mr. Negri may have been the best known recipient of Mr. Mastracci’s lyrics, they also made it into the work of Marlene VerPlanck, Dane Vannatter, Joyce Breach, Etta Cox and Maureen Budway, among others.

“He would just quietly, not push the songs on them, but leave them with them,” said Mr. Negri, whose last collaboration with Mr. Mastracci was “And the Summer Smiles,” in 2015. “Most of the times the singers would pick up on them and sing them.”

Mr. Mastracci was a fixture at area jazz shows, where he invariably wore a lapel button with the title of his best-known song, “Music Is My Best Friend.” He released four discs of his songs, performed by a variety of musicians. He also worked a variety of harmonious jobs at National Record Mart and Downtown box offices, and was legendarily difficult to stump on music trivia — especially if the answer involved Frank Sinatra.

Mr. Mastracci grew up in the Hill District, but in recent decades lived in Brookline, where he cared first for his mother, Josephine Mastracci, and then his sister, Yolanda Christofanelli.

He is survived by brothers Joseph and Richard, and was preceded by his parents and brothers Pete and Fiore, and sisters Jenny Moletz and Ms. Christofanelli.

He had a low-key personality and an offbeat sense of humor, calling nearly everyone “Fralock,” and always claiming his age was “eleventy-seven,” said Maryann Dougherty, the wife of Mr. Mastracci’s nephew, who kept in daily contact with him in recent years.

Last year, Mr. Mastracci’s songs were featured at a benefit concert at Duquesne University. For once, he got on stage, for “Music is My Best Friend.” He was surrounded by accomplished singers, but when they suddenly fell silent, his voice filled the room. "He was amazing,” said Ms. Dougherty. "None of us ever knew that he could sing.”

A Mass of Christian Burial is set for 10 a.m. today at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline.

Rich Lord: or 412-263-1542.

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I remember Lou back in the day. I was doing some gigs with Opie Bellas and Lou would come to the gig. I remember her doing one of his tunes. RIP Lou.


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