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.
An intimate group of talented, vibrant and creative dancers from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, we combine music and dance origins from the Caribbean, Africa and modern America in an eclectic blend of dynamic cultural fusion.
Here is a brief history about who we are, how we began and what we do:
In 1989, seven female undergraduates of Duquesne University took a bold step in celebration of their cultural diversity and created the Rhapsody Performance Ensemble.
Fusing various traditional African dances, which culminated into a theme titled “Negritude Celebration,” this talented group of women found themselves performing routinely for functions at local Pittsburgh and surrounding state universities from 1989-1994.
Their group’s repertoire incorporated—in addition to African and Afro-Caribbean dance—modern dance, classical ballet, jazz and spoken word.
The “Negritude Celebration” premiered February 19th, 1990 to a sold-out venue. Their work not only bolstered community support for their creative innovation but also provided a means of cultural education for the audience. As a result, the “Negritude Celebration” became the staple in Rhapsody’s program for future events.
During this time, the local Pittsburgians affectionately considered their “black dancers” as “mini-cultural ambassadors.”
Since then, the ensemble has been hired to perform in cultural celebrations, private functions, church gatherings, community rallies, and international banquets.
Of the Afro-Caribbean dances exhibited within the “Negritude Celebration,” the Bele dance remains the most popular. This performance carries a special history dating from Caribbean and South American slaves’ interpretation of court dances in the salons of Spain, France and England. These courtly performances served as a means for white aristocracy to celebrate their wealth and lavish lifestyles. Usurped by slaves in African-infused mockery, “the Bele” is a flirtatious dance in which women simultaneously compete for men’s attention while teasing their admirers, thereby adding heightened, colorful energy to their already decadent taunt. The highlight and trademark of Rhapsody’s Performance, this eclectic mixing of Afro-Caribbean dance signifies the groups’ versatility and appeal.
The group has had the fortune of incorporating renown performers such as Umoja African Music Ensemble, the artistic director of Afrika Yetu: Elie Kihonia, accomplished conductor Dr. Jean Montes, and professional steel pan musician: Wayne Walters into their on-going progress and development.
We are glad to learn of your artistry and your Pittsburgh connection. thank you for finding us and re-connecting. Many of your friends are here for you to add as friends and please add me in the process. When you post sights and sounds on this network, they can be readily shared all over the globe so don't hold back.