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.
Combining a play-within-a-play structure descended from Pirandello and an existential bleakness à la Beckett, The Connection explores the gritty reality of heroin addicts waiting for their fix. Gelber’s script calls for an onstage jazz quartet to perform “in the tradition of Charlie Parker.” The musicians have speaking roles too.
With Gelber’s blessing, Redd wrote an original score and recruited McLean, whose Parker-inspired alto and animated personality were perfect for the play. “When I heard the music, it enraptured me and made me weep,” McLean told Will Thornbury three decades later in the liner notes for The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Freddie Redd (Mosaic). “I had to play that music!”
The Connection, which opened in July 1959, became a theatrical sensation. Most notable from a jazz perspective, Redd’s inspired score led to a pair of remarkable Blue Note recordings taped six months apart in 1960. The Music from The Connection and Shades of Redd granted immortality to a musician who spent most of his peripatetic career in the shadows.
Redd, who died March 17 in Manhattan at age 92, was a profound composer. Songful melodies merge with soulful harmony, intriguing forms, and the significant influence of Bud Powell to create music delirious in its lyricism and spellbinding in its drama. His LPs from 1960 are precious documents, by far the best he ever made: a magical confluence of compositions, personnel, record label, and culture just at the moment the hard-bop hegemony was starting to splinter.
A native New Yorker and child of bebop, Redd worked with Cootie Williams and Charles Mingus in the ’50s and recorded with Tiny Grimes, Art Farmer, and Gene Ammons. He made his debut as a leader in 1955 on a Prestige 10-inch LP, and his San Francisco Suite (Riverside) in 1957 is notable for imaginative and urbane tone painting.
The Music from The Connection and Shades of Redd showcase the symbiosis of Redd’s yearning romanticism and McLean’s passionate astringency. Both records deliver a dialect of hard bop now extinct: muscular vulnerability. It was a New York sound of the early ’60s. Style, culture, race, hipness, and drugs coalesced in bittersweet music that swung behind the beat and aspired to a state of wounded grace. At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, it was junkie music.
Ben Sidran once wrote perceptively about musicians in this era channeling the urgent intensity of young artists trying to prove themselves but tempered by the enforced relaxation of heroin. The resulting tension—Sidran calls it an attitude of “passionate indifference”—helps define players like McLean, Tina Brooks, Sonny Clark, Billy Higgins, and Lee Morgan. Unlike these musicians, Redd was never a hard drug user, but he certainly knew the emotional territory of blissful alienation.
“Who Killed Cock Robin” opens The Connection in a furious rush of syncopation and melodic pirouettes, but feelings of longing seethe in the subtext. Chords move in descending major or minor ii-V sequences that underpin the song’s lyrical ache; such harmonic movement is a Redd calling card, especially the way he leans on evocative half-diminished chords (min7 with a flat fifth). The song is through-composed—a 16-bar intro plus an unusually long, re
It's a lovely, snowy morning in Harlem and I am just getting in from hangin' out with the "Big Boys"...it couldn't be better weather...it's like 40 degrees (which is heaven for a winter in NYC) and I got in about 3:00 am because I couldn't cut the music loose.
The threat of a blizzard did not deter the die-hards of Jazz or me or those other straight up Freddie Redd fans from every where (Japan, France, Germany...) from coming to see and hear the Living Legend tonight with their CDs and LPs for Mr. Redd to autograph. It was like he was a Rock Star!
Hard Bop pianist, Freddie Redd's sextet played Birdland on West 44th Street in NYC, (Mr. Redd is a TGJN Jazz Family Member) All I can say is...EXCEPTIONAL! The horn line was burnin' with Brad Linde (another TGJN Jazz Family Member) on Tenor, Chris Byars on Alto and John Mosca on Trombone with drummer Stefan Schatz and a master of arco...Ari Roland on Bass.
Redd and the band embraced the audience with verve and a vibe that captured everyone in the room. You could hear a pin drop. The 82 year old composer, Freddie Redd played fluidly, bringing to life his compositions from his many recordings; "Shades of Redd", "Freddie Redd in Sweden" and others mixed with his critically acclaimed score in Jack Gelber's 1959 play "The Connection" and later Shirley Clarke's 1961 film adaptation and on The Blue Note Records sound track featuring the late great alto saxophonist, Jackie McLean. Actor Redd appeared in Gelber's play and the film.
We look forward to seeing more of Freddie Redd now that he has come back East after a long stay in Los Angeles and a new relocation to Virginia. Originally from New York City, Freddie Redd has come home to play.
Jackie McLean once said, "Freddie just appears from time to time, like some wonderful spirit." So while Freddie is in the appearing mood and you are in NYC or somewhere nearby... catch him at Dizzy's Coca Cola Room at Jazz @ Lincoln Center on Monday, March 1, 2010 @ 11:00 PM. You will be glad you did!
My friend Janet Spittler who had been hanging out with me at Birdland and I drove up the West Side Highway to Harlem to hang out some more at St. Nick's Pub up 149th... St. Nick's Pub where some of the baddest horn players were throwin' down! when we stepped down into America's hippest Dive. Cats like trumpeter Kevin Batchelor, saxophonist Cedric Brooks, and a bunch of cats whose names I didn't get were hittin' hard with Corcoran Holt on bass, Marcus Persianni on keys and trumpeter Melvin Vines who runs the Tuesday Night Jam with his Harlem Jazz Machine featuring singer/songwriter Gregory Porter and there were more than one dynamite drummer.
FUN! was had by all and to you all I bid you GOOD NIGHT! or I guess I should say GOOD MORNING! LOL! It's 5:58 AM and it's still snowing.