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AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS

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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

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.

 

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

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

John Heard

john_heard_1A very talented bassist, John Heard has appeared in a countless number of musical situations through the years, always distinguishing himself.

He started out playing saxophone but switched to bass before joining the Air Force in 1958. After his discharge, Heard worked in Pittsburgh, spent time living in San Francisco (1966-68) playing with Al Jarreau, and primarily freelanced in New York and Los Angeles. Among his many musical associations have been Booker Ervin, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, Randy Weston, Ahmad Jamal (1972-77), the Count Basie Orchestra (1974-76), Toshiko Akiyoshi, Louie Bellson, the Oscar Peterson Trio, Joe Williams, Barney Kessel, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis plus many others. Because he is a skilled artist, there have been times when it appeared that John Heard would retire from music, but his absences have been fortunately quite brief. His one date as a leader took place in 1983 for the tiny Los Angeles-based ITJ label

He first attracted serious attention in the early and mid-60s, working with artists such as Tommy Turrentine and Al Jarreau. Towards the end of the decade he was with Sonny Rollins, then settled on the west coast where he became a long-serving member of several bands, including the Ahmad Jamal trio, Count Basie’s big band and small recording groups, and Toshiko Akiyoshi’s group. He was also first call bass player for the big bands occasionally assembled by Louie Bellson, with whom he visited the UK in the late 70s and early 80s. He then spent time with Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, George Duke, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Tal Farlow and many other leading singers and jazz musicians. The quality of the company he keeps is eloquent testimony to Heard’s considerable skills. Whether playing in a big band, where his powerful pulse urges along the ensemble, or subtly providing accompaniment to pianists, guitarists or singers, Heard has established an enviable reputation amongst his peers in the jazz world, although he remains relatively little known to audiences.

A few of the artists John Heard has played with include: Ahmad Jamal, Airto Moreira, Art Pepper, B.B. King, Benny Carter, Bobby Hutcherson, Bud Shank, Cal Tjader, Clark Terry, Count Basie, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Morgan, Gary Foster, Gene Harris, George Cables, George Duke, Harold Land, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Ira Sullivan, Jack Wilson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Joe Henderson, Joe Williams, John Haley Sims, Kenny Burrell, Larry Vuckovich, Lester Chambers, Lew Tab ackin, Lionel Hampton, Loren Pickford, Lou Levy, Louie Bellson, Madeline Vergari, Mick Taylor, Mike Campbell, Moacir Santos, Ned Doheny, Nick Brignola, Oscar Peterson, Paul Moer, Pharoah Sanders, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Richard Boone, Roger Neumann, Ross Tompkins, Roy McCurdy, Tete Montoliu, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Zoot Sims, and too many more to mention…

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John Heard

Bassist, Prolific Recording Artist, and Visual Artist
John Heard is a versatile jazz double bassist and visual artist whose music has been heard on over 180 records and on concert, festival, and club stages around the world. He has recorded and performed with a variety of swing, bebop, traditional, Latin jazz and funk jazz artists over a fifty year career. Heard appeared on 14 Count Basie albums, six Louie Bellson recordings, five discs from with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, five recordings by Kenny Burrell, three with Oscar Peterson, three with George Duke, and two with Cal Tjader. Heard has also worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Benny Carter, Al Jarreau, West Montgomery, Freddy Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Dexter Gordon, Tete Montoliu, Sonny Stitt and many other jazz greats. He appeared with Count Basie in the 1979 film “The Last of the Blue Devils”. Heard recorded two albums as a leader: “Back to Back” and “The Jazz Composer's Songbook”.
 
John Heard is also a talented painter and sculptor.  Trained in painting at the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh Art Institute, John sketched and painted as hobby during his years touring and recording.  Guitar Player magazine published John’s sketches of six legendary guitar players in 1974.  John’s sketch of Duke Ellington was used as the cover of the 1974 Monterey Jazz Festival program. John began sculpting in 1985.  He retired from the music business in 1988 to pursue painting and sculpting full time.  During his four year hiatus from music he was recognized for his abstract works and his portraits and sketches of Ella Fitzgerald, Cout Basie, Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Frank Rosolino, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, and Jimmy Blanton.  He sculptures included busts of Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, and Louis Armstrong.   
 
John Heard returned to jazz in the 1990s recording and performing with Gary Foster, Benny Carter, Ahmad Jamal, Mel Martin, and his own ensemble.  He appeared most Friday and Saturday nights at legendary Charlie O’s club in Los Angeles from 2000 to 2011.
 
Growing Up with Jazz and the Arts in Pittsburgh
John Heard was born on July 3, 1938 in Pittsburgh, Pa.   He grew up in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side in the big band swing era of the 1940s and BeBop of the 1950s.  His family exposed him to jazz and blues as a child.  Heard’s mother took him the Norman Gantz Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts at the Syria Mosque where he saw Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, bassist Ray Brown and many other jazz greats.  One of his older sisters played him the music of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith from her blues collection.  Another sister turned him on to the Be Bop of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Heard also gained an early interest in the arts on school field trips to concerts by the Pittsburgh Symphony, art at the Carnegie Museum and plays at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  In an interview he once described Pittsburgh as having "the mentality of a coal miner with culture." 
Attending the Pittsburgh Public Schools John Heard learned both music and art.  He studied alto and baritone sax in grade school.  Wanting to perform in the school orchestra he switched to standup double bass at age 14.  Heard was self taught on the bass.  To learn he played along to records featuring his bass heroes Charles Mingus, Percy Heath, and Pittsburghers Ray Brown, Paul Chambers and Eddie Safranski.  At age 15 Heard joined a band led by 13 year old trombonist Nelson Harrison called the "Beethoven BeBops".  The 7-piece jazz/dance band also included guitarist Jerry Byrd, pianist Richard Gaither, tenor saxophonist George Green and drummers Roscoe Vire and Allen Blairman.  Heard attended Allegheny High School where played in a school show with pianist Maxine Brown, drummer Jeremiah Cox on drums, and James Humphries on bongos.  John was also a gifted art student who was selected to attend classes at the Carnegie Music of Art. 
John Heard began playing bass professionally at age sixteen around 1954 in a band led by trumpeter Tommy Turrentine with pianist Horace Parlan, saxophonist Booker Ervin and drummer J.C. Moses.  Rahsaan Roland Kirk moved to Pittsburgh to join the band.   John Heard graduated from Allegheny High School in June of 1957.  
Air Force Artist
Heard joined the Air Force in 1958. He was stationed in Germany where he worked as a graphic artist designing posters and signs for special events.  To earn extra money he taught art classes to officer’s wives.  He taught them how to paint mountain scenes using a pallet knife.  On weekends he continued his music pursuits playing dates at officer’s clubs.
Johnny Wright's Quintet
After his discharge from the Air Force in 1962 John Heard returned to Pittsburgh.  Using his G.I. Bill grant he studied art at the Pittsburgh Art Institute for a short period.  Heard then took at job vulcanizing tires, but quit that to pursue music.  In 1963 he was a member of John Wright's Quintet with Johnny Wright on sax, Chuck Austin on trumpet, Roger Humphries on drums and Fred Tooks on piano.   They performed “cool Jazz” nightly at the Crawford Grill and did out of town engagements at Baker's Jazz Corner in Cincinnati.  
Buffalo and Jon Henricks
 .
Heard next found work performing with a pianist in Buffalo, New York.   During 1965 in Buffalo he met scat singer Jon Henricks who needed a bass player for his band.  His eight month tour with Hendricks ended in San Francisco in 1966, where John decided to stay.  
Duking it Out in San Fran
In San Francisco John Heard joined the band at the Half-Note Club playing with singer/social worker Al Jarreau and pianist George Duke who had just graduated from high school.  The Half Note located near the Fillmore District was just four blocks from the center of hippy-dome the corner of Haight and Asbury.   Music was flourishing in the late 1960s in San Francisco with the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Three Dog Night, John Handy, and Cal Tjader.  Heard made his first recording with the George Duke Quartet in 1966 at San Francisco’s famed Jazz Workshop club.   During 1967 Heard worked with Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, and Randy Weston.   He appeared on Richard Boone’s 1968 album “I’ve Got A Right To Sing”.   Heard continued to live in San Francisco through 1968.
L.A. Session Player
Wanting to get away from the hard-core drug scene in San Francisco Heard and his wife Carolyn relocated to Los Angeles in 1969.  There he first worked with Shelly Manne.  He recorded three albums with Jon-Luc Ponty in 1969 including “Live at Donte’s”, “Canteloupe Island”, and “Experience”.  Live at  was recorded at Donte's Jazz Club  in March of 1969 with George Duke on piano, John Heard on bass, and Al Cecchi  on drums.   “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience With The George Duke Trio” album was recorded on September 27, 1969 with drummer Dick Berk as the Three Experience Club.  The club was packed with Frank Zappa, Quincy Jones, Gerald Wilson and Cannonball Adderley in attendance.  John Heard also appeared on George Duke’s 1969 “Save the Country” album.
John Heard worked with Latin jazz artist Cal Tjader in 1972 touring and appearing on his “Descarga” and “Tambu”.   Pittsburgh born pianist Ahmad Jamal was impressed with John Heard’s playing seeing him perform with Tjader at New York’s Village Gate.  Jamal hired Heard for a tour in 1972 and appearances in 1994.  Heard began working with guitarist Kenny Burrell in 1974 appearing on his "Stormy Weather" release and his "Moon and Sand" release in 1979.
Basie Bassist
John Heard became a member of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1974 touring with them through November of 1976.  John Heard continued to work with Count Basie on several recordings during the 1970s and early 1980s including the Basie and Oscar Peterson collaborations “Time Keepers”, “Night Rider”, and “Yes Sir”.  Heard's work with Basie led to his tours and recordings with Basie’s drummer Louie Bellson and Oscar Peterson.  
In the 1980s before his fine arts retirement Heard recorded with Zoot Sims, Tete Montoliu, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Art Pepper, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Pharoah Sanders and others.
Solo Recordings
Heard recorded his first solo project as a leader “Back to Back” in 1983 on the small  ITJ label.   He was joined by Sherman Ferguson and Tom Rainer on a selection of classic songs from Count Basie, Ellington / Strayhorn and others.   John second solo record, the two disc CD ‘The Jazz Composer’s Songbook” was released on Straight Ahead Records in 2005.  Produced by Stewart Levine and Bernie Grundman it featured newcomers pianist Danny Grissett and drummer Lorca Hart along with veterans saxist Herman Riley and trumpeter Nolan Shaheed.  The album include two Horace Silver songs, “Doodlin’” and “Soulsville”, Sonny Rollins’ “Valse Hot”,  Wayne Shorter’s “Lester Left Town” and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty.
John Heard Recordings
The Beethoven BeBops led by Nelson Harrison
John Heard with Ahmad Jamal
John Heard with Gene Harris
John Heard with Count Basie
Jazz Composer's Song Book -Artwork by John Heard
Heard

Discography[edit source]

LPs[edit source]

CDs[edit source]

Appearances (selective)[edit source]

References[edit source]

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 195. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Secondhand songs Artist John Heard
  3. ^ Allmusic Artist Biography by Scott Yanow
  4. ^ All About Jazz John Heard
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, 31 May 1987 Jazz John Heard Carves Out New Career by Leaonard Feather
  6. ^ Oakland Museum of California OMCA Collections african american art drawing figure, male Bud Powell
  7. ^ Oakland Museum of California OMCA Collections african american art drawing figure, male Milt Jackson
  8. ^ Historical Dictionary of Jazz by John S. Davis Page 161 Heard, John William (1938 -)
  9. ^ Berkeleyside 3 October 2013 Larry Vuckovich: He’s got those Balkan Blues again by Andrew Gilbert
  10. ^ Larry Vuckovich website Photo Gallery: Group Dates Club Date (PBS)
  11. ^ WorldCat Heard, Ranier, Ferguson
  12. ^ Discogs Heard* – Ranier* – Ferguson* – Heard Ranier Ferguson
  13. ^ Billboard 15 October 1983 Page 36, Jazz – Fledgling ITA Label Maps Ambitious Plans
  14. ^ Los Angeles Times, 31 May 1987 Jazz John Heard Carves Out New Career by Leaonard Feather
  15. ^ Pittsburgh Music History Pittsburgh Music Story > Jazz > Modern Era > John Heard
  16. ^ Historical Dictionary of Jazz by John S. Davis Page 161 Heard, John William (1938 -)
  17. ^ Discogs John Heard & Co. – The Jazz Composer's Song Book
  18. ^ Jazz Police August 2005 Live Jazz in Los Angeles Tuesday, 26 May 2015
  19. ^ All About Jazz 2010-05-10 Legendary John Heard Returns to Charlie O's
  20. ^ Healdsburg Jazz Festival 7 April 2011 "Healdsburg All Stars at the Raven – June 11"
  21. ^ Discogs Heard* – Ranier* – Ferguson* – Heard Ranier Ferguson
  22. ^ Discogs John Heard & Co. – The Jazz Composer's Song Book
  23. ^ Discogs John Heard & Co. – The Jazz Composer's Song Book

John William Heard (born July 3, 1938)[1] is an American bass player and artist. His recording credits include albums with Pharoah Sanders, George Duke, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Zoot Sims, Ahmad Jamal, Frank Morgan, George Cables. His professional jazz performance career lasted from the 1960s to the early 2010s, during which he also worked as a visual artist, producing drawings, paintings, and sculptures.

Background[edit source]

He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.[1]

He also played saxophone in his early years.[2][3] He began playing bass at the age of 14. His professional career began in a band that included sax player Booker Ervin, drummer J.C. Moses, pianist Horace Parlan and trumpet player Tommy Turrentine. While in high school, he attended special classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

In 1958, he joined the United States Air Force and was sent to Germany. Because of his art experience he was given a job of designing posters for events. He also did some art teaching, teaching the wives of officers. He left the Air Force in 1961 and enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He returned to music and went to Buffalo and later to California.[4]

Art[edit source]

In the 1980s, he had converted a North Hollywood garage into a studio and was spending much time there painting. He said that he was hanging out with Santa Monica-based sculptor Jim Casey, who was teaching him the way he wanted to learn. 18 months prior to his being interviewed for the article he had taken up sculpturing. His first one was a bust of Duke Ellington, then one of Billy Eckstine. At the time he was working on one of Louis Armstrong.[5]

Examples of his work are held in the Oakland Museum of California. They include drawings of Bud Powell and Milt Jackson.[6][7]

Musical career[edit source]

1960s[edit source]

Playing double-bass, he has worked with Tommy Turrentine and Al Jarreau from the mid to late 1960s.[1] Also in the late 1960s he worked with Jean-Luc Ponty, Sonny Rollins[1] and Wes Montgomery.

1970s[edit source]

In the 1970s, he performed with Toshiko Akiyoshi, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, John Collins, Joe Henderson, Ahmad Jamal, Blue Mitchell and Oscar Peterson.[1]

1980s[edit source]

In the 1980s, he performed with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Buddy Montgomery and Pharoah Sanders.[8]

In 1981, he played bass on the Blue Balkan album by pianist Larry Vuckovich. Other musicians to play on the album were vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and drummer Eddie More.[9] Heard also played with Vuckovich's band on their first "Club Date" show on PBS, which was picked up by at least 120 cities in the U.S. In addition to Heard and Vuckovitch, the band included Tom Harrell on trumpet, and Sherman Ferguson on drums. As an unexpected bonus, the group was joined by saxophonist Charles McPherson for their last piece. The show's producer Paul Marshall spotted him in the audience, and asked him if he had his saxophone which he did and asked him to join them.[10]

In 1983, he joined Tom Ranier and Sherman Ferguson to create the group Heard, Ranier, Ferguson, which released an eponymous album on the ITI Records label in 1983. The album art included a lithograph of Count Basie that was drawn by John Heard.[11][12] An article in Billboard's October 1983 issue, indicated that he was going to be used as a graphic artist for the label. He was to be marketed as both an artist and a musician.[13]

In an article in the Los Angeles Times dated 31 May 1987, he said that he had always wanted to paint, and planned to leave music.[14] Before his retirement he had managed to record with musicians such as Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Art Pepper, Clark Terry, Pharoah Sanders, Zoot Sims and Joe Williams.[15]

1990s[edit source]

After taking time out from music to do painting, he returned to the scene and played with, Benny Carter, Jamal and others.[16]

2000s[edit source]

In 2005, he had his album The Jazz Composer's Songbook released on Straight Ahead Records and produced by Stewart Levine and mastered by Bernie Grundman.[17]

Around the mid-2000s onwards, his group The John Heard Trio played at Charlie O's club in Van Nuys. In 2005, the group consisted of John Heard on bass, Tom Garvin on piano and Roy McCurdy on drums. At the club they played with Justo Almario and Rickey Woodard.[18] Around 2010, the group consisted of Heard on bass, Andy Langham on piano and Roy McCurdy on drums and later around 2011, Lorca Hart instead of McCurdy was on drums. They would play Fridays and Saturdays there. Some of the musicians they would appear with were trumpet player Scotty Barnhart, trumpet player Ron King, saxophonists Chuck Manning, Don Menza, Lanny Morgan and guitarist Thom Rotella.[19][20]

RIP, John.

That's a spectacular career!  And a nicely done obituary.

John Heard was an exceptional bassist.  I heard him a number of times with Kenny Burrell and others.
He always lit it up.  (Also a very fine painter)
 
John Heard told me a story once. He was working with Rahsaan, Horace Parlan and JC Moses in Pittsburgh. From polio as a child, Horace's right hand limited finger use and did not look typical. John said when they came in the club, the club owner's facial expression was of disbelief. Here was this blind guy strapping all these horns to himself; the piano player had a unusual looking hand... WTH? Ahh, but when they started playing, everything was cool. (John had me laughing as he told the story)

John W. Heard Send Flowers Share July 3, 1938 - December 8, 2021 John Heard, the renowned jazz bassist, and artist passed away peacefully on December 8, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA with his wife at his side. This mostly self-taught musician/artist lived his life in much the same manner that he played, with an uncompromising, improvisational style. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, the seventh of 8 children to John and Clara Heard. His musical career spanned over fifty years; he created reputations in the bustling jazz scenes of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities domestically and abroad. Throughout his career, he worked with the likes of Count Basie, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, BB King, and bandmates too numerous to name here. He performed at many venues ranging from large concert halls to small clubs such as the Half Note, the Both/And club in SF, and Carmelo's, Dante's, and Charlie O's in LA. When asked about the nature of his music, John concluded, "Jazz improvisation is a series of miraculous recoveries." After officially retiring from music, he continued to focus on his paintings, drawings, and sculpture, creating busts of Clifford Brown, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and others. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn; his daughter, Nicole; his two sisters, Maxine Edmunds and Betty Brewer; his three grandchildren, Solia, Miles, and Cole; and many relatives in Pittsburgh and beyond. He will be deeply missed. Published by Los Angeles Times on Jan. 1, 2022.

John Heard

Bassist, Prolific Recording Artist, and Visual Artist
John Heard is a versatile jazz double bassist and visual artist whose music has been heard on over 180 records and on concert, festival, and club stages around the world. He has recorded and performed with a variety of swing, bebop, traditional, Latin jazz and funk jazz artists over a fifty year career. Heard appeared on 14 Count Basie albums, six Louie Bellson recordings, five discs from with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, five recordings by Kenny Burrell, three with Oscar Peterson, three with George Duke, and two with Cal Tjader. Heard has also worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Ahmad Jamal, Benny Carter, Al Jarreau, West Montgomery, Freddy Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Dexter Gordon, Tete Montoliu, Sonny Stitt and many other jazz greats. He appeared with Count Basie in the 1979 film “The Last of the Blue Devils”. Heard recorded two albums as a leader: “Back to Back” and “The Jazz Composer's Songbook”.
 
John Heard is also a talented painter and sculptor.  Trained in painting at the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh Art Institute, John sketched and painted as hobby during his years touring and recording.  Guitar Player magazine published John’s sketches of six legendary guitar players in 1974.  John’s sketch of Duke Ellington was used as the cover of the 1974 Monterey Jazz Festival program. John began sculpting in 1985.  He retired from the music business in 1988 to pursue painting and sculpting full time.  During his four year hiatus from music he was recognized for his abstract works and his portraits and sketches of Ella Fitzgerald, Cout Basie, Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Frank Rosolino, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Art Tatum, and Jimmy Blanton.  He sculptures included busts of Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, and Louis Armstrong.   
 
John Heard returned to jazz in the 1990s recording and performing with Gary Foster, Benny Carter, Ahmad Jamal, Mel Martin, and his own ensemble.  He appeared most Friday and Saturday nights at legendary Charlie O’s club in Los Angeles from 2000 to 2011.
 
Growing Up with Jazz and the Arts in Pittsburgh
John Heard was born on July 3, 1938 in Pittsburgh, Pa.   He grew up in the Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side in the big band swing era of the 1940s and BeBop of the 1950s.  His family exposed him to jazz and blues as a child.  Heard’s mother took him the Norman Gantz Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts at the Syria Mosque where he saw Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, bassist Ray Brown and many other jazz greats.  One of his older sisters played him the music of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith from her blues collection.  Another sister turned him on to the Be Bop of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Heard also gained an early interest in the arts on school field trips to concerts by the Pittsburgh Symphony, art at the Carnegie Museum and plays at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.  In an interview he once described Pittsburgh as having "the mentality of a coal miner with culture." 
Attending the Pittsburgh Public Schools John Heard learned both music and art.  He studied alto and baritone sax in grade school.  Wanting to perform in the school orchestra he switched to standup double bass at age 14.  Heard was self taught on the bass.  To learn he played along to records featuring his bass heroes Charles Mingus, Percy Heath, and Pittsburghers Ray Brown, Paul Chambers and Eddie Safranski.  At age 15 Heard joined a band led by 13 year old trombonist Nelson Harrison called the "Beethoven BeBops".  The 7-piece jazz/dance band also included guitarist Jerry Byrd, pianist Richard Gaither, tenor saxophonist George Green and drummers Roscoe Vire and Allen Blairman.  Heard attended Allegheny High School where played in a school show with pianist Maxine Brown, drummer Jeremiah Cox on drums, and James Humphries on bongos.  John was also a gifted art student who was selected to attend classes at the Carnegie Music of Art. 
John Heard began playing bass professionally at age sixteen around 1954 in a band led by trumpeter Tommy Turrentine with pianist Horace Parlan, saxophonist Booker Ervin and drummer J.C. Moses.  Rahsaan Roland Kirk moved to Pittsburgh to join the band.   John Heard graduated from Allegheny High School in June of 1957.  
Air Force Artist
Heard joined the Air Force in 1958. He was stationed in Germany where he worked as a graphic artist designing posters and signs for special events.  To earn extra money he taught art classes to officer’s wives.  He taught them how to paint mountain scenes using a pallet knife.  On weekends he continued his music pursuits playing dates at officer’s clubs.
Johnny Wright's Quintet
After his discharge from the Air Force in 1962 John Heard returned to Pittsburgh.  Using his G.I. Bill grant he studied art at the Pittsburgh Art Institute for a short period.  Heard then took at job vulcanizing tires, but quit that to pursue music.  In 1963 he was a member of John Wright's Quintet with Johnny Wright on sax, Chuck Austin on trumpet, Roger Humphries on drums and Fred Tooks on piano.   They performed “cool Jazz” nightly at the Crawford Grill and did out of town engagements at Baker's Jazz Corner in Cincinnati.  
Buffalo and Jon Henricks
 .
Heard next found work performing with a pianist in Buffalo, New York.   During 1965 in Buffalo he met scat singer Jon Henricks who needed a bass player for his band.  His eight month tour with Hendricks ended in San Francisco in 1966, where John decided to stay.  
Duking it Out in San Fran
In San Francisco John Heard joined the band at the Half-Note Club playing with singer/social worker Al Jarreau and pianist George Duke who had just graduated from high school.  The Half Note located near the Fillmore District was just four blocks from the center of hippy-dome the corner of Haight and Asbury.   Music was flourishing in the late 1960s in San Francisco with the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Three Dog Night, John Handy, and Cal Tjader.  Heard made his first recording with the George Duke Quartet in 1966 at San Francisco’s famed Jazz Workshop club.   During 1967 Heard worked with Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, and Randy Weston.   He appeared on Richard Boone’s 1968 album “I’ve Got A Right To Sing”.   Heard continued to live in San Francisco through 1968.
L.A. Session Player
Wanting to get away from the hard-core drug scene in San Francisco Heard and his wife Carolyn relocated to Los Angeles in 1969.  There he first worked with Shelly Manne.  He recorded three albums with Jon-Luc Ponty in 1969 including “Live at Donte’s”, “Canteloupe Island”, and “Experience”.  Live at  was recorded at Donte's Jazz Club  in March of 1969 with George Duke on piano, John Heard on bass, and Al Cecchi  on drums.   “The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience With The George Duke Trio” album was recorded on September 27, 1969 with drummer Dick Berk as the Three Experience Club.  The club was packed with Frank Zappa, Quincy Jones, Gerald Wilson and Cannonball Adderley in attendance.  John Heard also appeared on George Duke’s 1969 “Save the Country” album.
John Heard worked with Latin jazz artist Cal Tjader in 1972 touring and appearing on his “Descarga” and “Tambu”.   Pittsburgh born pianist Ahmad Jamal was impressed with John Heard’s playing seeing him perform with Tjader at New York’s Village Gate.  Jamal hired Heard for a tour in 1972 and appearances in 1994.  Heard began working with guitarist Kenny Burrell in 1974 appearing on his "Stormy Weather" release and his "Moon and Sand" release in 1979.
Basie Bassist
John Heard became a member of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1974 touring with them through November of 1976.  John Heard continued to work with Count Basie on several recordings during the 1970s and early 1980s including the Basie and Oscar Peterson collaborations “Time Keepers”, “Night Rider”, and “Yes Sir”.  Heard's work with Basie led to his tours and recordings with Basie’s drummer Louie Bellson and Oscar Peterson.  
In the 1980s before his fine arts retirement Heard recorded with Zoot Sims, Tete Montoliu, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Art Pepper, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Pharoah Sanders and others.
Solo Recordings
Heard recorded his first solo project as a leader “Back to Back” in 1983 on the small  ITJ label.   He was joined by Sherman Ferguson and Tom Rainer on a selection of classic songs from Count Basie, Ellington / Strayhorn and others.   John second solo record, the two disc CD ‘The Jazz Composer’s Songbook” was released on Straight Ahead Records in 2005.  Produced by Stewart Levine and Bernie Grundman it featured newcomers pianist Danny Grissett and drummer Lorca Hart along with veterans saxist Herman Riley and trumpeter Nolan Shaheed.  The album include two Horace Silver songs, “Doodlin’” and “Soulsville”, Sonny Rollins’ “Valse Hot”,  Wayne Shorter’s “Lester Left Town” and Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty.

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