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've lived, studied, taught and performed in Pittsburgh all my life. I began playing professionally in 1968.
Favorite Pittsburgh musicians/performers
There are too many to mention, and if I forgot someone, I'd feel bad that I left them out! If you know the history of Pittsburgh jazz, you know this is true.
Favorite Jazz Radio or media station
WHAM from Rochester, NY, with Harry Abrams, long since gone. I recall late late nights, driving to Mt. Washington just to pick up that AM signal!
Favorite Pittsburgh Jazz Venue
My favorite was a venue that's long since gone - The Tender Trap on the border of Shadyside and East Liberty. It had the look, the vibe, the scene...I was sorry to see that go. Can't forget the original Crawford Grill; I caught the tail end of that. Sonny Day's Stage Door in Oakland, where Spider provided the place for alot of us young guys to grow. And the Humphrie Bros. Manteca in Manchester.
I had the great fortune to come up at a time when there still were alot of places to play and sit in. Ther are very few jazz musicians I haven't shared a stage with here in Pittsburgh, and I'm sorry to say some of them have passed on without the recognition they deserve.
For off the cuff bios, you can look up some CD's I perform on: 'Sly On Life' with Duquesne University's Catch 22; 'At Last' with Bobby Negri; 'Ventana' with Ken Karsh; 'on Fire' with Amanda Ford. I'm also a clinician and drummer for Duquesne's annual Guitar and Bass Workshop - every July, I'm blessed to perform with the world's greatest guitarists - come check it out...it's a great annual Pittsburgh music event that, to my continued amazement, gets absolutely no media coverage! It's more than jazz now...the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award went to Motown's Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbitt, who left Pittsburgh in his late teens and soon ended up recording "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" with Stevie Wonder.
Cool and 'Tasty' are nice, but I always had some fire and The Funk, too. It is also a blessing, this many years into my passion for music, that music is so emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically overwheling as to lift me above and beyond the mundane - to find deeper ways and means of subconscious emotional expression...the fine art of Spontaneous Musical Composition...Improvisation!
Artist or Fan
Comment Wall (17 comments)
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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
I met Jim Blakemore more than once thru my dad, I notice from others' comments that he passed. I had not heard as I have been so out of touch for so long. He was always so nice to me. And Bobby is related to you? Did you see the photo of him and Dodo in my dad's pictures?
Please feel free to keep me updated (even privately) as I have so many memories from the 60's of all of these guys - I just need someone to jog them!
Wow, everyone has made me feel even more proud of Dad , I am blown away by the comments by all. Thank you VERY much.
My mom is coming out to Vegas to visit me next week (it will be the first time I've seen her since Dad's passing). We are going to catch up on a lot!
I will show her this page and she will really appreciate all the wonderful things everyone has to say. I will certainly let her know you said "Hi". Thanks again and take care.
Hey Billy two things how is Bobby doing I cant seem to find out from other people? I wanted to tell you I think that the piece you wrote for Jimmy Blakemore's memorial was Brilliant I would have never been able to put it any better. You can tell just how much you will miss him and I feel the same way. We started out together in a little group here in town with Ronnie Leibfreid on piano.
We also worked on Billy Butterfields band for a few college dates. May God Rest his soul. Troy Campbell
thanks for the kind words. For a minute there i thought you had the wrong person, then i saw my name. I could say the same things about you. We always had big fun but the music always came first. Hope to have many more great gigs in the future i'll be posting photos from the past, i think you'll find some of them very interesting.
Take care bro,