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 have been an enthusiastic listener since the age of 4. In my spare time, I work with non-profits to present jazz. As a presenter, I first worked with the Harambee II Black Arts Festival, presenting such greats as Max Roach, Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), Hugh Masekela, Roy Ayers, Straight Ahead, and Koko Taylor. Currently, I serve as Board President of the Kente Arts Alliance. Our very first concert featured Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band. The concert was voted "The Best Jazz Concert of 2006" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Since then, Kente has presented Geri Allen, Winard Harper, Roger Humphries, and Steve Turre who all paid tribute to legendary Pittsburgh jazz musicians. Our next concert on November 8, 2008 will feature Billy Bang and the Aftermath Band, at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater at 8 PM. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from presenting jazz. A presenting organizations's work behind the scenes keeps jazz alive! Sometimes it can be frustrating work because many who purport to be jazz enthusiasts do not support the music. To me, support means attending paid concert events, purchasing the music and supporting the musicians. Many think that attending free events in the park, is the only form of support. Jazz is always changing. Many only listen to music of the '50s and '60s. The music is always evolving. My favorites among the younger crop of living jazz artists are: Roy Hargrove and Kenny Garrett (NOT their funk formations, sorry). I would travel anywhere to hear Billy Harper and Pharoah Sanders. Tip: Check out the DVD: "Billy Harper in Concert: Live in Poland". I could watch it everyday if I had the time. It is the work of a genius. My pet peeve about Pittsburgh listeners: They TEND to support only Pittsburgh music and musicians. It's true that Pittsburgh has a long and enduring legacy of jazz legends. Kente devoted two whole seasons to this legacy. But if someone is truly a jazz fan, one would note that there is so-o-o-o much more. Challenge: Support jazz events, buy CDs and DVDs. If you have money for a vacation, travel to one of the jazz festivals. Detroit International Jazz Festival (only 4 - 5 hrs. away and FREE), is the Best Jazz Festival in the world!! We have gone the last 3 years in a row, and hope to go the next 30! Thanks for reading about me. Check out Kente's website below for details about the Billy Bang concert on Nov. 8.
Gail, I hadn't been on the sight for several months so I only got your note now. I didn't want you to think I was blowing you off. Of course I did end up writing about Billy Bang and thought the show was amazing. Keep up the good work!
You and Kente Arts Alliance are doing such important work in the community. This network can be a valuable aide as well as a showcase for your activities and opinions. I look forward to you being very active. thanks for joining and for all you do.
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