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

L-R: Joe Kennedy, Jr, Edgar Willis, Ray Crawford, Sam Johnson (seated)

Views: 141

Location: Pittsburgh, PA


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Comment by Rev. Dr. Bobby Fulton, Ph.D. on October 29, 2015 at 6:52pm

Dr. Nelson, Thanks for this great piece of Pittsburgh Jazz History!

Comment by Melissa Jones on October 27, 2015 at 4:48pm

WOW! Excellent information. Is there any way to hear the Asche recordings? Is it possible to post them? I would find it fascinating, as hearing the music evolve is an essential aspect of the art form.

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on October 27, 2015 at 4:32pm

The Four Strings were formed by Joe Kennedy II in 1939.  The original members were: Joe Kennedy II - violin, Edgar Willis - bass, Sam Johnson - piano and Ray Crawford - guitar.  Mary Lou Williams sponsored their only recording on the Asche Label in 1947 and shortly afterwards Sam left the group for a gig in Philly that never happened.  Replacing Sam at 16 years of age was a young pianist we now know as Ahmad Jamal.  Edgar Willis left soon after to join Sonny Stitt and was replaced by Tommy Sewell.  The 1949 version of the group recorded but I have not been able to find the artifact.  I do have the Asche recordings that Edgar sent to me. When the quartet broke up, Ahmad took Tommy Sewell and Ray Crawford to Chicago as the first Ahmad Jamal Trio. There he met Israel Crosby who replaced Sewell and they recorded that group. One could say that they were the forerunner or template for the MJQ which was formed shortly thereafter by 2 Pittsburghers (Kenny Clark and Ray Brown) together with John Lewis and Milt Jackson, all 4 of them comprised the rhythm section of Dizzy's Big Band at the time.  It was initially called the Milt Jackson Quartet but as it was soon to be a cooperative they modified it to the MJQ (Modern Jazz Quartet).

Comment by Melissa Jones on October 27, 2015 at 10:40am

Tell me about The Four Strings. I know of Joe Kennedy, Jr. (Benny Carter's cousin), but I don't know about the group.

Comment by Ayaba on February 14, 2009 at 6:13pm
This great! Thanks a mil !!!

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