Pain Relief Beyond Belief





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, Parlan to 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.






Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin



       In Her Own Words

Fred Logan: All of the Hep Cats are gone

by Fred Logan 

Some sixty years ago, when big-time jazz concerts played at Pittsburgh’s old Syria Mosque hall in Oakland, the “show” began on Bigelow Boulevard in front of the Mosque maybe an hour before the concert began on stage inside the Mosque.

On both sides of the steps in front of the Mosque were lines of Hep Cats from the Hill District, old Black Franktown Avenue in East Liberty, and other parts of the city. They ranged in age from teenagers to 50 years and above.  The concerts were a Mecca for Pittsburgh’s Black jazz community.

The Bebop cats came “Clean!”—a fashion show in the latest suites, sport coats and shoes from America’s leading men’s fashion magazines Esquire and GQ, by way of Hughes and Hatchers, Lefty’s, John Barkley’s and other men’s clothing stores in Pittsburgh. 

They dressed “Sharp” like Hard bop’s reigning artists Miles Davis, Arthur Taylor, Lee Morgan, and Max Roach. They walked and talked in the Bebop idiom.  And each one knew that he was, without the shadow of a doubt, Pittsburgh’s ultimate authority on “The Music.”  They argued jazz in front of the Syria Mosque, and around-the-clock, seven-days-a-week in community restaurants, taverns, and on the street corners much harder and much louder than any of the Pittsburgh Steeler arguments flying around town today. 

This was before Black entertainers and athletes became “American” mega-celebrities and were lionized by the news media and had to be protected from their fans by several armed body guards.

Sometimes, the featured performers would come outside before the concert and join in the “stiffin’ and jivin’” with their fans, some of whom they knew from the old Hurricane, Crawford Grill and other jazz clubs in Pittsburgh.

{This was also true of Etta James, Bobby Blues Bland, members of the Five Satins and other Rhythm and Blues stars of that era.  Back then, they were “folks.”)

During those concerts, the Hep Cats would stand up and shout—in the tradition of the old-time African American church—“Play A.T.!”, Play Miles!”, Play!”,” Play!” A two-way vibe of music and spirit between the musicians and the audience saturated the hall. Reports on Black music in earlier decades said the interchange back then was even stronger. Duke Ellington worshiped it.

Today, the audiences at most Pittsburgh jazz concerts are predominately 50 years old and above, White, and female.  The audience is not just out for the evening, but it is very familiar with the musicians on stage.  The concerts are often superb. But the overall vibe of the Syria Mosque era concerts is not there.

Last year, I attended several mid-day jazz concerts for senior citizens. The music and atmosphere were wonderful. This was in the Hill District, the center of local jazz music in the hey days of jazz. The audiences were predominately African American, and Black women made up well over 50 per cent of the audience. But, all of the Hep Cats are gone.

They are part and parcel of Bebop and Hard Bop and looking into their important role in the Music always tells the world a whole lot about the evolution of Black music and of Black people. That is because, as Amiri Baraka once said, the music and the people are the same.

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Comment by Jagsu on February 3, 2023 at 4:14am

Nice article Fred. 

Art Blakey explained the reciprocal, unifying relationship between performer and audience in a similar vein. “You know what’s happening when we are on the bandstand? The people are looking at us, and we are having fun. What are we having fun about? We’re looking at them. They’re pouring themselves into the music; they’re getting carried away. They look at us having a ball, and we’re looking at them having a ball.” Downbeat November, 1979 p. 22

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