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.
Michele with one L here! It's just by chance that I logged onto this site and you saw what I posted about my dear friend. Thank you so much for your very kind words. It's been a sad week so far. Chris and I had worked together…"
As our musical icons are graduating into the higher realms we want to keep them fresh in our memories. Please join this group where you can post any obituaries of the ancestors of our tradition for all to read and learn more about them.
"Yes, yes. It sure was. Many thanks, Nelson, for bringing it back to me. I had no idea that he had gone on to such prominence, which I just learned about by "Googling" his name. It mentions something about him having appeared with the…"
"I'll ask my son Mark, a musician living in Manhattan, if he has heard Steve Nelson in his visits to NYC jazz clubs.. Speaking of vibeists, does anyone know what became of a young vibes player who was in Harry Cardillo's band? I thought he…"
"Steve Nelson's mother is (was?) a lovely woman that I became friends with while living in Pittsburgh. She had owned a jazz place on Market Square. She spoke of Steve and was very proud of him. When Joe Williams appeared at Walt Harper's,…"
"You're right, Melissa. Blues singer Bull Moose had both men as instrumentalists in his band. Jackson was retired from the music business and working for a catering firm at Howard University in in D.C., when a Pittsburgh blues group called…"
Worked in PGH for 38 years and lived on Mt. Washington for 10 years. Friend of many jazz performers---Frank Cunimondo, Michelle Bensen, Virgil Walters, Roger Humphries, Kenny Blake. Was a regular visitor to the Crawford Grill 2, Balcony, MCG, Zebra Lounge, etc.
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Michele with one L here! It's just by chance that I logged onto this site and you saw what I posted about my dear friend. Thank you so much for your very kind words. It's been a sad week so far. Chris and I had worked together for over 20 years here in Pittsburgh. I haven't been singing much. 2017 was very slow and I don't have any gigs for 2018 yet. I'm still writing and creating and hoping to feel better health wise. Would love to catch up with you at some point. Wishing you all the best, Michele Bensen