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.
From the moment he received his first drum set at age eight, Joe Lastie's destiny was clear -- although given his family history, the odds were always good that he would follow the drumming footsteps, of both grandfathers, Deacon Frank Lastie and Emil Desvignes and his uncles, Jessie Hill, Melvin, David, Walter Lastie, and cousin Herlin Riley, into a life devoted to music. Church played a critical role in Joe's personal and creative growth due to the influence of his aunt, BettyAnn Lastie. In 1969, he moved with his family to Long Island, New York, where he took lessons from Clyde Harris through the public schools where he became the first drummer to play a set of drums in the Elementary School Band. In 1976 he returned to New Orleans, where he attended George Washington Carver High School and played in the Marching Band under the directions of Yvonne Bush. During that time he studied jazz with Willie Metcalf at the Dryades Street YMCA, where his classmates included the young Wynton and Branford Marsalis. That lead him to his first paying gig at Lou and Charlie’s, earning him a grand five dollars. While walking on Bourbon Street, he picked up a steady gig with bassist Richard Payne's band, all the while still attending his weekly jam session at his aunt BettyAnn’s house with his Uncle Jesse and Professor Longhair. He also played the drums with the Desire Community Choir, where he made his first recording and road trip with the renowned Raymond Miles.
Getting better all the time, he was often asked to play with his Uncle David’s band, The Taste of New Orleans, where he accompanied the like of Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Eddie Bo, Oliver ‘Who Shot the Lala’ Morgan, Frog Joseph, Sunny Jones, and Bobby Laqour, all local royality. He also played with Scottie Hill and the French Market Jazz Band. After time with Scottie, he hooked up with the Creole Cooking Band featuring Antoine Domino, Jr., at time his father Fats Domino would come in jam with them. He also began his own group, New Orleans Homegrown Jazz Band. He even went on the road with an off Broadway show called One Mo’ Time. Upon returning to Bourbon Street, he went to the Maison Bourbon Jazz Club, and played with Wallace Davenport. On a tip from trumpeter Gregg Stafford, he was invited to substitute on drums at Preservation Hall. Then owner, Sandy Jaffe, hired him as a drummer to replace Freddie Coleman on Friday nights. His supreme acknowledgment came when he was asked to play with The Humphrey Brothers, then he knew he had arrived.
Through his career he has played with many talented musical ledges like Narvin Kimball, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Lenny Kravitz, Allen Toussaint, Mos Def and Dr. John. And the list keeps growing.
Today you can still find him playing at Preservation Hall and The Maison Bourbon on Bourbon Street, where he is one of the longest active musicians on the street. Be on the lookout for his new band, Joe Lastie New Orleans Jazz Legions.
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