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.
Roger Humphries (my percussion teacher at CAPA!), Phyllis Hyman, Billy Eckstine, George Benson, Billy Strahorn, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Billy Porter, Sandy Dowe, Etta Cox and the list goes on...
Kendra Ross is a truly gifted singer and performer. With her beautifully smooth voice and impressive songwriting talent, she is an artist in high demand. A proud Pittsburgh native who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, she has appeared at legendary venues such as Blue Note in New York City, Arena Theater in Houston, Jazz Cafe in London, and BB King’s Bar & Grill in Los Angeles. Kendra has opened for many world renowned artists such as Babyface, Isaac Hayes, Ryan Shaw, and Lalah Hathaway. Recently, she was one of a handful of Soul artists invited to showcase at the 2009 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX.
Kendra is also an accomplished theatre performer having been featured in a National Tour of the Broadway smash hit, “Smokey Joe’s Café” starring Rita Coolidge and Gary “U.S.” Bonds, at Carnegie Hall with Broadway star Linda Eder, and on NBC’s Today Show with the Broadway Gospel Choir. Over the past few years, Kendra has emerged as a sought after session vocalist as she has lent her talents to several major label recordings including, “Won’t You Stay” (which she co-wrote) and the Kanye West-produced hit “Get By” both from acclaimed hip-hop recording artist Talib Kweli’s gold-selling album, Quality. Her songwriting skills are also featured on Kweli’s 2nd solo LP, The Beautiful Struggle on a track featuring Faith Evans called “We Know.”
Kendra, who sites Sarah Vaughan, Donnie Hathaway, Joni Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, and British psychedelic rock-soul artist Lewis Taylor as some of her greatest musical influences, is celebrating the release of her debut album titled, New Voice. The long-awaited project, co-produced with longtime collaborator/music director/guitarist Christian Ver Halen, is comprised of all original compositions. In addition to appearances by hip hop luminary Talib Kweli and soul sensation Eric Roberson, many of the best touring and session musicians on the music scene today are featured on the album, including Teodross Avery (Amy Winehouse), Maurice Brown (Wynton Marsalis), Lonnie Plaxico (Cassandra Wilson), Chris Rob (John Legend), Daniel Sadownick (Matisyahu), and Skoota Warner (Santana).
Kweli wrote of the gifted recording artist in the liner notes of Quality: “Kendra’s talented, beautiful, and one of a kind.” Time Out New York has hailed Kendra as “an underground soul singer with a mellifluously fluid voice” and BBC’s Radio 1Xtra declared her to be “…the divine Kendra Ross.” In 2007, Kendra was voted “New Artist of the Year” by thousands of readers of Soultracks.com.
Fully aware of the iconic legacy associated with her last name by a triple threat performer whom she has admired since childhood, Kendra is set to garner her own respect and attention. Get ready to be introduced to the new Ms. Ross.
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