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.
"Thanks for posting Nelson - this was a great read. Sonny's always been an incredible inspiration as a human being as well as a saxophonist, and he continues to be, even in hardship - or perhaps especially in hardship. I'll…"
"What a treat - thank you! We (Penn State Jazz Club) hosted Charles at PSU in 1998 and both his artistry and his humanity were wonderful. Reading this I appreciate the beauty of his intellectual conceptualization as well - which is truly…"
"I just found out about this and I have 2 ideas off the top of my head. (1) Some form of Indigogo campaign to draw support from people without having to attend the club - even nationwide - and (2) work with local activists to change that…"
I have performed in Pittsburgh many times with Tony Campbell, Larry Estes, and before them Jimmy Ponder, Gene Ludwig & assorted R&B bands. Larry has played with me in State College and recorded with me. Luther DeJarunette and Duane Dolphin also played with me in State College and Jean Tate sings with my band whenever she's feeling feisty. I brought many Pittsburgh musicians to perform at University Park for the Penn State Jazz Club, including Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Ponder, Sal Samba, TC's Jazz Surgery and Roger Humphries' Big Band. My friends Larry and Tony and Nelson Harrison make me feel like an honorary Pittsburgh musician - and it is indeed an honor.
Favorite Pittsburgh musicians/performers
Tony Campbell, Larry Estes, Nelson Harrison, Duane Dolphin, Roger Humphreys, Howie Alexander, and R.I.P. Jimmy Ponder, Gene Ludwig and Luther DeJarunette
I play soprano, tenor and bari sax, flute, and compose music and lyrics. I sing my own material as well as a few favorite standards and pop/rock tunes (the new standards) but am always inspired when I have the pleasure of working with a real singer. Besides the Pittsburgh musicians mentioned above, I've also played and recorded with Ronnie Burrage, Marvin Horne, Stanley Banks, Greg Bandy, Duane Eubanks, Mike Boone, Adam Faulk, Okyerema Asante, the late great Sid Simmons, Dr E., and my daughter AeB. I am Associate Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University and faculty advisor of the Penn State Jazz Club and Chess Club. I have 3 grown daughters. AeB is a professional musician in L.A., a voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammys), and a regular collaborator of guitarist Robby Krieger of THE DOORS. AeB writes her own material and sings, plays flute, sax, keyboards, guitars, & percussion. Check out her website. My oldest Keely and youngest Grace have settled in New Orleans. Keely is in finance and is active in affordable housing and other civic issues. Grace is a budding neuroscientist, having recently finished her Masters at Tulane University. My wife Caryl of 34 years is a nurse and activist in the single payer healthcare movement. When I'm not visiting clubs in Pittsburgh, Philly or NY, I play in State College with Urban Fusion, a band I've been with for over 30 years, and as a sideman with numerous singer/songwriters, and solo or with ad hoc duos, trios, quartets, etc. I am hoping to find a big band to play with - especially on baritone.