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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

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.

 

WELCOME!

 

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

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

IT'S TIME FOR SMOOTHAHEAD TO TAKE CENTER STAGE

Hello fellow Jazz lovers, I believe it's time that we start to take a serious look at this concept called SmoothAhead. I know some people may think the name is a little corny or not easy to say, but get pass the name and think about what it represents. With the demise of so many Smooth Jazz radio stations across the country and only a few NPR stations at all, wouldn't it be great if we had stations that played both genres. They could rotate (Traditional or Straight-Ahead) with (Contemporary or Smooth Jazz) in such a way that the listeners would be delighted to hear both. I’m really confused as to why this has never happened in the jazz world. What if you heard a Charlie Bird Parker song played and then you heard his song later played by a Smooth Jazz Artist, what a great way to not only honor him, but get younger kids to listen to this great music called JAZZ. The concept is really simple; pay both genres in such a way to get a wide variety of listeners to enjoy both styles. I will be out here on a crusade to make this happen. Let's just make it happen. Linda Morgan as Ms. SmoothAhead Jazz. May 24, 2009

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Comment by Bill Trousdale on January 24, 2010 at 3:49pm
Linda,
Your observations are right on...Your idea is directly on target with the objectives of the Pennsylvania Museum of Music and Broadcast History. Education is the foundation for music appreciation in all genres. Radio was the vehicle for the education. With the deregulation of Radio more and more corporate programmers are forgetting the foundation of the success of radio. Radio needs to get local again, embrace the community and engage. In part this is a plank of our mission at the Pennsylvania Museum of Music and Broadcast History. Across the Commonwealth many histories need to be saved. Music in our communities will not prosper without an understanding for the next generation to know where we came from. I reposted your comments for context:
Bill Trousdale

"Thanks for understanding my idea. I believe if the general public is educated in a new way of thinking about jazz, then we can bring Traditional Jazz back to the forefront to show everyone its roots and how all other jazz is just an offspring or bi-product from the GrandDaddy. We must get to this point now & not wait any longer, we're losing all the greats who can tell the story 1st person. This is my passion & I welcome anyone that want to take this journey with me. No more shyness this is a must. "
Posted by Linda Morgan Ms SmoothAhead Jazz

PS Dr Nelson...Thank You again for providing such a valuable forum
Comment by Frank B. Greenlee on May 26, 2009 at 2:55am
New name old concept, for many years I presented many forms of jazz on WYJZ and WAMO all within a program everyday. Many stations do dictate what you play and you're locked in. If you have the freedom to play what you want, you must put your own likes and dislikes on hold. If your listener knows that they are going to hear something that they will enjoy, they will stick around.

Ego has killed many potential programs and stations.

Pittsburgh will now have no "Urban Contemporary" formatted radio station. At this time Pittsburgh is heading back to the future of the 1940's where there is no outlet for broadcast media unfiltered African American cultural or politictal expression.
Comment by derrick schippers on May 25, 2009 at 10:25am
I do agree with your statement and feel that this concept will get the younger musicians to revisit the music of the previous generation and reference from it.
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on May 25, 2009 at 6:01am
Linda,

I feel your passion and think you are onto something. It is important to note that most successful jazz performers present mixed programs of smooth, straight-ahead, Latin and even funk on any given night. I always make sure I do on my gigs because I want people to know that a true jazz player plays it all, not just a narrow band of one style. Remember the Funk Brothers of Motown fame were all jazz payers. The journalists have really confused the public trying to create false careers for themselves and well as the record companies trying to sell an old product as if it were new. Smooth jazz is 100 years old. It is the jazz style performed when we play for dancers vs. listeners. When I was with Count Basie we had one book for concerts and another one for dances. This was in the late 70s and we had songs like "Just the Way You Are" and "Minute by Minute" in the dance book. Actually we also played some of them on concerts as well.

Don't capitulate to the labelers or those who don't know what the label represents. Continue to educate at every opportunity. We need a good shot of edu-tainment into the marketplace today.

A problem that has had the most negative effect in my opinion is the selection of DJs on the public jazz stations who either don't know much about jazz or who are simply following the station protocol (most likely without choice) and presenting the music as dictated by formula or computer.

Over 8 years ago the then program director of our local NPR jazz station told me that they don't pick the music anymore. NPR stations all over the country had begun to subscribe to a formula published monthly by some consultant group that determined what songs should be played or not played. Their goal was to get jazz played in offices between 9a - 5p and they couldn't play anything to dynamic that might interrupt the work process. That was also the impetus behind the conflagration of smooth jazz programming that shortly followed and fizzled after a few years.

What they didn't understand and still don't seem to get is that there is a certain way to present jazz that increases an audience and another way that turns them off. They are still largely using the method that turns the listener off and it is very annoying to a real jazz listener. I'll spell it out and then you listen to your jazz station to see which method they are using.

1. They play 3 songs in a row and then back-announce the songs.
2. Before the back-announcement they give the station ID and promo.
3. During the back-announcement they tell you who the bandleader is but NEVER tell you who the sidemen are.
4. On rare occasions they may mention a sideman but not infrequently they give erroneous information.

They don't understand that in jazz each sideman is as important as the leader or else they wouldn't be in the band at all. The leader is the contractor/paymaster but the sidemen are not just grunts who fill out the roster. :When I get the gig, I call you as a sideman; when you get the gig you call me as a sideman. On most jazz recordings musically the leader could be anyone of the players in the band. But by today's standards of presenting jazz, a quintet could be represented as 5 different groups though each one had the same personnel but the designated leader was a different member. How would anyone learn that if the sidemen are never announced?

The smooth jazz stations would play 12 songs in a row without announcement of the tunes, leaders or sidemen. This is total anathema to jazz awareness and it does nothing to upgrade the sensibilities of the audience. What follows from there is jazz festivals disappear or are converted into soul, rock or funk festivals just to draw crowds. The audiences are becoming less and less sophisticated and more reluctant to pursue jazz performances on radio or live.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I hope it generates more commentary. Thank you for your leadership and please keep the faith going forward.
Comment by Kevin Amos on May 25, 2009 at 1:48am
Linda.....one of the problems is that most people are unaware of others sources to go to besides NPR stations to hear any form of Jazz on the radio. Folks here in Pittsburgh are lucky because they have me.

There is no demise of the music, only that of the stations who play the music. People have always been able to go to other sources for that. For example...I do most of the Jazz presentations on the Soul Patrol website. (www.soul-patrol.com) People are going to many sources to hear music.
I have successfully been exposing many to Jazz and it's sub-genres for years with no problem. I at one time programmed Jazz and Blues with contemporary urban music (Boy I can't stand these music terms and categorys) at an AM stereo station! So it can be done and the idea is not new. Listners DO like both and I still have my torch lit after 30 years as an independent radio producer.

Sorry Linda....some folks just don't get it and probably never will.

Kevin

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