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, Parlanto 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.
I took Interest in drumming at six years of age, about two years after Doctors told my parents that I would never use my right arm again. My parents bought my first three piece Kit when I was seven years old and drumming has been a part of my life ever since.
Ironically, when I enrolled in music lessons to further my understanding of drumming, somehow I was placed in the trumpet class. Back then the teachers decided what you were going to play in music class. I made steady progress, however my heart was in progressing as a drummer and this is where I focused my real attention.
In the winter of 1975, at the age of sixteen, I was invited to play in my first established and working band. This was a well known, respected adult group known in the Pittsburgh area as the “Kings Court Band.” The band leader was tough on me, because my time would fluctuate. He also wanted me to play with fire. Looking back, he reminded me of Mr. Joe Jackson, the father of the then famous “Jackson 5”. As I still had one year left of high school, I left the band at the end of summer to finish my senior year.
After my graduation, in the fall of 1977, another older gentleman came knocking at my parent’s door to invite me to play for his band. They were known as the “We Mighty Soul Band”. We worked like crazy. This band leader was equally hard on me. He wanted power and creativity. Being tired was not an acceptable excuse. I’m talking practice Monday through Thursday, 7:30 pm thru 11:30 pm, and playing shows every weekend. Sometimes we worked three days a week, four hours a night. I kept this pace for well over a year and a half. And the musical experience I gained at this young age has really had a positive effect on my playing even today.
A highlight of my musical experience was in the summer of 1986, I was invited to play with a talented group of guys from the East Pittsburgh area who called them selves; “The Elements of Jazz” . We were booked to play three concerts at the Pittsburgh Arts Festival and the crowd was amazing.
A year later we auditioned to open for Stanley Turrentine, and got the call. However egos got in the way and the band broke up before the concert.
Some of my musical influences are;My older brother Robert Coffee, Art Blakey, Billy Cobham, Lenny White, Dennis Chambers, Poogie Bell and Will Kennedy. (order insignificant)
Ronnie Biggs, Walter Lowery, Vida Malcanas, Olga Watkins, Justin Brown, Shari Richards, Yolanda Barber, Indira Corales, Eric Dowdell, Larry Estas, Robby "Supersax" Edwards, Joe Defazio, Gordon Gary, Timothy Biggs, Michael Branch, John Hall and Grieg Sharock, Rick Clark, Dallas Marks, Ray Morrison, Gary Kalinosky, James Graft, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Little, Rodney Allen, Danny Lempart, Jay Weaver, and Bill Miller.
I would love to feature "you" as my guest on my show..If I am not your friend..please add me...also please call me @ the offc at 757 538 3540...757 971 3733 for details...click on the banner below to be a guest...JB