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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

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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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    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

The Future of the Jazz Industry

Information

The Future of the Jazz Industry

I started this group because I am curious as to what your thoughts are on: the main problems facing the industry, what you think can be done to resolve these problems, and what actions can be taken to ensure a flourishing future for jazz music.

Location: Pittsburgh
Members: 64
Latest Activity: Jun 3, 2013

Discussion Forum

New York: Free Jazz and the Avant-Garde

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison. Last reply by Kevin Hurst, Sr. Nov 29, 2012. 2 Replies

AMANDA PALMER - PAY THE BAND

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison Sep 16, 2012. 0 Replies

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Comment by Kennard Williams on March 7, 2009 at 8:08am
Greg, jazz as a genre is immortal. Organization and dialogue, of and with every jazz society, jazz association etc. in this country should and could be established. Strategies, finance, artist etc. and pertinent issues addressed. The jazz community, nation-wide, has to come together and create its own success, produce its own product and manufacture its own celebrity.
Comment by Ed Skirtich on March 6, 2009 at 3:23am
Hi Nelson,

I really dig what you had to say.

I really wish my dad was still around so I could hear his stories about teaching all the jazz musicians, i.e. George Benson, who came through Connelley, Fifth Avenue, and Brashear, and the folks who ran the Black Musicians Union.

My Dad was gonna give me a tour of the Hill District Jazz Scene as part of my cultural report for a WVU Humanities Class, but he died of congestive heart failure the weekday before he was gonna pick me up from West Virginia University.

He really emphasized seeing the classic Crawford Grill and The Hill House Jam Sessions.

Unfortunately, I only made it to The Crawford Grill at Station Square (I actually played a paid gig there with Miguel's Guaracha Band), and 1 Hill House Jam Set.

I feel that jazz has to be learned both inside the classroom and outside on the bandstand.

I'm very honored that you and Harold Young, Sr. have taken me under your wings with developing me into both a heavyweight-Super Bowl- Pittsburgh Steeler Player and Head Coach in the jazz scene for Pittsburgh, PA.

I'm very blessed that you're so active in my Jazz Workshop, Inc. Outreach Programs and the annual big band concert in the summer.

To all the Pittsburgh Jazz Network- It's thrill and a Gift from God when all kinds of hip Pgh. jazz groups call me up to the bandstand for sittin' in with their group and the jam set.

And when Sean Jones walks onto the bandstand when I get done with the head and the solo - Wow! God has really blessed me with talent (However, I had to work like 28 some years (I'm 40 now, and I've been playin' since I was 10- My family has heard me in the woodshed for like 30 years- Thanks for listenin' Mom) to accomplish this feat.

To all of us who work steady as jazz musicians and jazz educators- Let's be thankful- Yeah, I know 50 bucks a piece might really stink- but those who complain and refuse to accept these offers- YOU END UP SITTIN' AT HOME MAKIN' ZERO BUCKS!
REMEMBER- BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT YOU HAVE AND ALWAYS THANK THE LEADER OF THE GROUP AND THE MUSICIANS WHO YOU WORK WITH AT EACH REHEARSAL, JAM SET, AND GIGS, AND MUSICAL THEATER SHOWS!

It seems that jazz is havin' a tough time, but remember- We gotta stick together and perservere through these tough times.

For those of you who wonder- Who is this Ed Skirtich guy- Come down and hang out with me at Jazz Workshop, Inc. every Sat. from 12 PM to 4:30 PM at 7101 Hamilton Ave, Pgh, PA 15206 CLPGH Homewood in the auditorium.

Peace,
Feel free to contact me too via this site, or email ejskirtich@comcast.net
(412) 422-4149 (H)
(412) 841-8046 (C)

P.S. I always do my best to let out my feelings and thoughts on issues with the jazz scene in Pgh.
Sometimes folks may be angry or "Man- Why's Ed bein' like that?"
I get very emotional on jazz issues and I just like bein' open and giving my opionions on issues.

But to end my usual long winded jazz phiolosophy writing on a positive note- I really dig bein' a part of this network- AND I'M SO PROUD OF WHAT WE ACCOMPLISH AS JAZZ MUSICIANS AND JAZZ EDUCATORS!

LET'S KEEP MOVIN' FORWARD!

MUSICALLY,
ED SKIRTICH
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/JAZZWORKSHOP, INC.
(412) 422-4149 (H)
(412) 841-8046 (C)
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on March 6, 2009 at 1:31am
Greg,

This is a wonderful discussion group of the type that this network is seeking. the question raised are salient to the perpetuation of the only artistic National Treasure in American history.

It's kind of ironic that Americans are so conditioned to seek and invest in temporary or decreasing values vs. permanent values that have unlimited shelf life, e.g., vintage jazz CDs outselling new issues.

An important question is why are there so few contemporary jazz stars. There are certainly market variables but we also need to look at the tradition that produced that jazz stars of the previous generations. One glaring common denominator is that jazz was NOT a classroom subject, i.e., it was not learned in schools rather it was learned through the oral tradition of master-apprentice... in the community. Actually classical music was also learned in the community not in the school.

In my generation we played in the school musical groups but the best players learned their skills outside of the school environment through private lessons and/or community mentorship. The level of training needed to produce stars requires levels of initiation or trials-by-fire. The oral tradition in every culture uses rites of passage to qualify the adept for mastery. The classroom never did.

The community environments that produced the previous jazz stars have faded into obscurity beginning with the demise of the musicians clubs nationally during the mid-1960s when the black locals merged with the white locals, gave up their clubs, buildings and records and experienced massive unemployment as a consequence of this "so-called" integration. This is an historical and economic fact. This happened at a time when black musicians had not penetrated the symphonies, operas or pit orchestras to any significant degree if at all.

Prior to the mid 60s there was a segregated marketplace called the Chittlin' Circuit. The airwaves played "race records" on select stations and the recording companies exploited the best musicians by holding back product to create false scarcity and kept the money generated from flowing to the artist
for their intellectual property. Though many of those "stars" are dead, others are still being deprived of their royalties earned over the years.

One prime example is pianist Freddie Redd, whose music is listed on 54 Google pages being sold by people he doesn't know who also ignore his existence. Freddie once told me that the main problem with jazz is that it is not heard anymore... not that it is old. Mozart and Beethoven are old and people both young and old still respond positively to it without even questioning its vintage... because they hear it all the time everywhere whether they are seeking it or not. Jazz used to be the sound-track of the black community, i.e., it was heard everywhere. Every kid wanted to learn how to play it. Every kid had a musical hero or heroine just like they have athletic ones today. In fact, the professional athletes used to follow the jazz musicians around.

Let's not forget the journalists who have re-labeled the music and created false genre divisions that create the illusion that jazz, blues, gospel and rock, soul, and R & B, etc. are separate musics when they are simply branches and twigs of the same African American Music Tree that has it's roots in the blues that came directly from West Africa. The question is: Why don't we know this?

Nobody talks about it is the main reason. Yet I have seen the "immaculate reception" over 1000 times over the past 35 years. children under 15 can tell you who Franco Harris is... or maybe Mozart or even OJ Simpson. I met some young musicians in the club last week where I was playing with the Blues Orphans who were fascinated and very moved by the experience. They want to see us again and will seek us out. They wanted to know who I had played with and when I mentioned Count Basie, they had never heard of him. I asked them if they had heard of Duke Ellington and they said, "No." I mentioned a dozen other names that we take for granted that are the major stars and they had never heard of them either and they were all stars of America's National Treasure. I know for certain, if rather than mentioning a litany of names, I had played some the music of the same people, they would have been hook just as everyone else is hooked when they hear it.

MUSIC ENTERS THE HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS THROUGH THE EARS not the eyes, tongue, or nostrils.

These and many other reasons are why this discussion is important. It is also why we are sponsoring the Pittsburgh Jazz Network Forum monthly at the New Hazlett Theatre. At the forum we can not only discuss the music but we can also demonstrate it in vivo. Please try to join us on March 8 from 8 - 11pm. See the "Events" post on this network. (Beginning of commercial)

Comment by Kennard Williams on March 5, 2009 at 10:16pm
To launch a career playing jazz, I would consider how to set it in motion and what is necessary to accomplish that. A musical group (I would prefer same personnel throughout the process); and finance, which I would consider governmental programs, grants etc...my sites would be set on using the best launching-pad available...The Grammy's, the #1 show for the music industry.
Comment by Greg on March 5, 2009 at 10:14pm
Sure thing Kennard.

Looking at problem #1 -- I am beginning to think that in order for the jazz industry to truly flourish in the future it does need to develop new ‘stars.’

In my world, it’s very difficult (nearly impossible), to develop stars the old fashion way, i.e. thru playing gigs, developing a fan base, using that fan base to propel the artist to larger / more profitable shows, releasing cd’s, getting exposure on the radio, signing with a record label, etc.
Sure, this sort of process may land you a decent paying job one day but because of a number of the problems I listed in my previous comment the music never reaches a large enough audience to actually help advance / expand / grow the industry as a whole.

However, I absolutely think that it is possible to create new jazz stars. This may sound silly but, how is P Diddy capable of creating an R&B star, almost overnight? Or better yet, Simon Cowell (the dude on American Idol)? They bring the music right into the living room of every US citizen -- using the TV of course. They explore the artist’s (for lack of a better word) personalities, they educate the viewer on the music (sort of), they sometimes involve the viewers (thru voting), etc. and then once the show is over those artists sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, they do commercials, they go on tour, they’re on the radio, they’re on TV, YouTube, Facebook, myspace, etc. They get great exposure, as the marketing efforts behind them are fairly extensive and well thought out.

Now, though I do feel the Internet is the future (in terms of entertainment), I still think TV is better suited for accomplishing what Simon Cowell, for example, accomplishes, i.e. creating a star, and then the Internet serves as a supplementary tool / marketing medium.

Nevertheless, what I would love to see happen is someone take a chance on exposing jazz music and musicians to a mass audience thru network television, and in the process, educate people on what jazz music really is, and is not… keeping in mind that:
1) There IS jazz music that the uneducated listener can still relate to / understand (I have brought ppl to Ava who have said before coming, ‘I don’t like jazz music’ and sure enough, they had a great time and loved the music), and
2) there are certainly jazz musicians, i.e. their personalities, that the everyday (dare I say it) ‘joe the plumber’ can relate to as well.

The good news is that jazz is entertaining enough that you don’t need to create all the other drama that the shows I mentioned above need to create to keep things interesting. But it DOES need to be fun and entertaining.

Additionally, the shows I mentioned above often only create ‘temporary’ stars, because the musicians they expose are not true artists, whereas with jazz you could create a star that remains in the public eye / profitable until the day they die.

I think this could be one step among many that could give the jazz community a bit of a boost / kick start… but it could also backfire / prove to be ineffective if done the wrong way. And I have close friends that completely disagree and believe that exposing / commercializing jazz in this way would ruin the authenticity (assuming it could be done at all), so I understand the opposition as well.
Comment by Greg on March 5, 2009 at 6:16pm
Whether you believe the future of the jazz industry is a) a truly bright one, b) at risk of vanishing, or c) lies somewhere in between, it certainly faces problems just like any other industry.

I started this group because I am curious as to what your thoughts are on:
- the main problems facing the industry,
- what you think can be done to resolve these problems, and
- what steps / actions can be taken (potentially outside of simply resolving the problem(s)) to ensure a flourishing future for jazz music

I’ve compiled a list of problems / quotes from people in the industry to kick off the discussion (fyi - some of these are potentially outcomes of other problems rather than unique problems in and of themselves). Please feel free to tear them apart if you disagree, add to the list, etc.

"The important thing about a problem is not its solution, but the strength we gain in finding the solution”

1) “The Industry isn’t developing stars.” - Neal Sapper, president of New World ‘n Jazz

The biggest “stars” in the jazz world include the likes of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and numerous others that continue to be the only artists that are recognizable to younger generations of music fans. These artists sold hundreds of thousands of albums. We simply have fewer jazz stars today achieving success of this magnitude, among them Diana Krall and Norah Jones. With all the oustanding talent, few of the so-called young lions of jazz have made profound artistic waves or established lasting big-label support.

2) “There's this general perception that jazz is dead music - dead guys, old guys, old audiences." - Chuck Iwanusa, Jazz Alliance International.

Among young adults and kids, the word ‘jazz’ often times carries with it negative implications: old (both the musicians and the music), boring, unfamiliar, unpopular and unintelligible, to name a few.

3) "Acquired interests like jazz and classical -- consumers don't know how to enter those genres. They're confusing." - Joe Rapolla, former SVP Consumer Marketing at Warner Music Group & VP Consumer Marketing at Universal Music Group. The majority of prospective listeners are simply not educated in what jazz is all about.

4) Since the emergence of the compact disc in 1984, reissues of albums have out sold new artists considerably.

"Say some guy has recreational dough in [his] pocket -- he's sort of interested in jazz and he's confronted at the store with a Thelonious Monk reissue vs. some new record from a kid from the Bay Area. It's a no-brainer where he's going to spend his money.”

5) Jazz artists have difficulty getting their music to the marketplace.

“Guys who make jazz records are asking themselves, `Who are we making records for?"' says Gary Giddins, longtime jazz critic for The Village Voice and author of several award-winning books on music. “The people who run the record companies don't care. You don't hear it on the radio, you don't see it on TV, you don't see it in the stores."

6) Alternatives to music in general

With Netflix, xBox, Playstation, YouTube, TiVo, On Demand, etc. people have more entertainment at their fingertips than ever before. You therefore need to provide someone with a really good reason to shut everything down and choose to go to a jazz club or listen to a jazz CD / mp3 in their free time.

7) “You've got an ultra-conservative industry right now, and that's unfortunate," says David Baker, one of the top jazz recording engineers for the past 30 years. “Safe bets have never been the world that jazz has flourished in."
 

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