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 and expect to do so many more times. I have also hired many Pittsburgh musicians for gigs and recording sessions in State College (and expect to continue.) I have also brought Pittsburgh musicians to perform at University Park for the Penn State Jazz Club (and expect to continue.) I consider myself an honorary Pittsburgh musician and my Pittsburgh cohort will surely vouch for that (Tony Campbell, Larry Estes, Nelson Harrison.)
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
saxophonist, flutist, composer & lyricist, beginning to sing my own lyrics instead of always finding a singer, but still am happy to have a real singer in most situations