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 remember vividly seeing Wendell Byrd playing at the "Smart Set" on Central Avenue in Albany , NY in the Summer of '64 when I was just a teenage piano player just starting out (I had worked at the Smart Set a few times myself). It was one of the first times I saw and understood how dynamic and exciting a jazz performer could be. I remember he had a silver grey Jaguar which also impressed me. I remember his EBBTIDE which feature a passage of lightning fast block chords in triplets like I have never heard anybody including Jimmy Smith do that left every body gasping. He was to me, at that moment, the definition of cool. And I have always remembered his vivid musical performance that evening and wanted to know more about him. Thanks for all these posts on Wendell. (Didn't find any active video though.)
Man I love the jazz organ, Hammond, Wurlitzer, whatever. I played with a mentor named Ross Mounds from Steelton ,Pa. in the Harrisburg area for 19 yrs and he is a B-3 man. When I was 16 a drummer took me from a wedding reception to the Elks and first got to play with an idol of mine. From playing funk and soul I was lucky to listen to radio and play 'it's Too Late ' in B minor because I had borrowed the previous band bass players flute. That was the first tune he called and I realized learning different styles in different keys would mean more work! If you still play I would love to hear and sit in when I roll through Pittsburgh. Tony Janflone plays with a cat who is an organ man? and I would like to check him out also. I talked to him and he is a great spirit. - kev
Thanks, John! There were so many great rooms to play in back in the day! I used to come see you, and Chuck Corby, and the rest of the guys all the time when I wasn't working. Who else was in the band with you? Do remember playing at The Flaming Torch (it was The Hi Hat first)?