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.
Greetings... I am establishing a live Jazz Night on a Wednesday between 7pm to 10pm at a very nice, clean, and classy venue in the East Liberty area. The evening will feature local Pittsburgh musicians like Tony Campbell and many others performing for a very appreciative audience of jazz lovers.
I am a Pittsburgh native and local youth arts advocate attempting to expose young up and coming artists to the heart and soul of pure Pittsburgh music culture and traditions as they meet and learn from some of the local Music Masters. If you are interested in hosting a Wednesday night once a month or every other month I would be humbled and honored to make this happen.
Jazz, cat lovers come to rescue of crash victim's cat
Thursday, March 26, 2009
By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A cat that survived a Feb. 17 car crash in California that killed Wilkinsburg native and jazz musician Dr. Derrick R. Finch is being flown to a new home in Pittsburgh thanks to the generosity of jazz lovers and cat lovers.
The tabby cat named Shadow has a new home with Shelia Finch, Dr. Finch's mother.
Dr. Finch, 37, a jazz musician who played throughout California, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate's degree from the University of Southern California.
Riverside County sheriff's deputies who arrived at the accident scene found the cat and took it to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, a shelter in Thousand Palms in the Los Angeles area. Friends told shelter workers that Shadow frequently traveled with Dr. Finch. The shelter contacted Mrs. Finch, who said she would like to take Shadow into her Wilkinsburg home.
The California shelter raised money to buy Shadow an airline ticket. He arrives in Pittsburgh on Friday, and Gretchen Fieser from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society will pick him up and deliver him to Mrs. Finch.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First published on March 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm
I just heard today about Derrick’s tragic passing by happenstance. We hung out frequently or as he would say would say-journeyed together, broke bread, smoked plenty of cigars, but more importantly we talked about how to overcome the challenges of life in a progressive manner and "keep it real." We shared so much and he truly made me a better person. I spoke to him last while I was in D.C., which was in mid-January. He was telling me about his days playing at Twins Jazz on U-Street; he was also packing boxes and putting the finishing touches on his dissertation while talking on the phone with me. I only wish that he was able to make the transition to Boston for bigger and better. Already well respected by peers directly in the music industry, and loved by friends generally, I think it can be agreed that Derrick was a once in a generation pianist and the next "big thing" for the rest of the world to know.
My heart goes out to his family in Pittsburg, his fiancé and those who were positively touched by him all over. My deepest sympathies to the family of Sonja Abate, I hope your daughter makes a full and fast recovery.
There will be a memorial service for Derrick’s LA family on Sunday, March 29, 2009: 3:00 p.m. at the University of Southern California (USC).
Here is a link with more details: http://web-app.usc.edu/ws/eo2/calendar/32/event/869006
There is so much more I want to say, but this will have to do.
His Funeral Mass was beautiful, his fiancee worte a stunningly perfect and simple letter to Dr. Derrick for all of us that was so real and so powerful, and she delivered it to us proud, head flung back, tears flowing but not stopping her, she gave it to us all woman, every bit as good as Maya Angelou ever delivered a poem.I could see why Derrick loved her..
My Best friend's wife is a life-long friend of Derrick's & has informed me that Spriggs & Watson Funeral parlor is handling the funeral/visitation arrangements. As of today she hadn't heard that a specific date had been set but that it would be early this week. As soon as I get specifics I'll definitely post it here.
Totally different venue...but if anyone knows the song "Six Strings Down", which was a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, you will appreciate the lyrics.... I didn't know you Derrick, but may God bless you...
Derrick was one of my early music students in the wilkinsburg school system. He loved the piano! I have known him and his family for many years. We had so many musical good times together and I was so proud of his accomplishments! My heart and goes out to his family!
I didn't know Derrick, so 'Thank You' Nelson, for providing this information about him. What came to mind is a piece by John Donne that includes the lines, "...No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."
RIP young Mr. Derrick Finch and condolences to the family and friends.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1972, Derrick Finch grew up in Pittsburgh, and began playing
the piano at the age of three. Motivated by his parents, both musical advocates, his
attentions evolved to encompass both pop and jazz. “I began improvising on my small
Casio keyboard, imitating the recordings my father brought home weekly… It was early
ear training and self learning.” Derrick played in school bands before meeting and
performing with Roy Ayres: “This was incredible motivational training. I was performing
with my parents’ idol as a teenager.”
While a teenager, Derrick worked with drummer Roger Humphries, and received
big band experience with a Dr. Nathan Davis. After graduation, Derrick continued to
freelance around Pittsburgh while continuing his studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
There he met veteran pianist Frank Cunimondo: “I began studying with Frank who
guided me in developing my own signature sound and exposed me further into the history
of the instrument.”
After seven years with Dr. Nathan Davis’ ensembles, Finch earned his Bachelors
and continued to freelance and with his mentors Roger Humphries, Duane Dolphin and
Jimmy Ponder to name a few. Having led his own small groups, Finch returns to school
to pursue his Masters of Music degree in Miami Florida.
After performing periodic short stints as a sideman with Ira Sullivan (1998 –
2000) in Miami, Finch migrates to Washington DC and meets veteran bassists Keter
Betts, Butch Warren and pianist Shirley Horn (2000 – 02). “Being on the bandstand with
such a musical heroes was such a moving experience.”
In 2002, Finch gets accepted into U.S.C. Thornton School of Music’s Doctor of
Music Arts program in Los Angeles California. Having met Patrice Rushen early in his
formative years in Pittsburgh, she accepts him as a musical student and mentor: “I began
studying with Patrice who consistently encouraged me to explore various genres and
writing styles of music composition.
Finch’s recording, producing, performing, writing, and teaching careers reach into
various plateaus of music. Movies: Blind Spot-2006; Television: Heroes – 2008, E.R.-
2006, The Smiths-2006, U.S.C. Television-2004 and B.E.T. Jazz-2000; Recording:
Washington Rucker’s My Ballerina (2005) and Barbra Morrison’s Summertime (2007).
A continual student of the history of Jazz piano, Derrick Finch mentions Art
Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Phineas Newborn, Errol Garner and Ahmad Jamal as some of his
main influences. “…If the music does not swing, its not fun… the music is an expression
of life’s experiences that I try to convey constantly.
Finch completes his doctoral degree at U.S.C., owns a small music production
company and freelances both locally and internationally as an educator and performer.
University Of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
Student status: Alumni
Major: Jazz Studies, Theory, Education and Industry
2002 to 2008
University Of Miami
Coral Gables, FL
Student status: Alumni
Degree: Master's Degree
Major: Jazz Studies, Theory, Education
1998 to 2000
University Of Pittsburgh-Main Campus
Student status: Alumni
Degree: Bachelor's Degree
Major: African American Studies, Jazz Studies
Clubs: Prince Hall Mason, York Right, Scotish Right and Shrine
Greek: Omega Psi Phi
Who will take your place....none can. But we can play your music, god, Derrick, remember that gig you had at the bookstore and you thought your keyboard was in the trunk but it was at your HOUSE!!! Remember, me and your friend screamed down the HOV lane ant got from Mcknight Road to Wilkinsburg and back in under TWENTY minutes with that piano??? You played like an angel from God that day. And now you are an angel from God.
Folks, the First Annual Greater Pittsburgh Jazz Festival will be dedicated to Dr. Derrick Finch. Now who will help me bake the bread?
wow... I had the pleasure of meeting Derrick in DC several years ago. What a wonderful person and musician. I did not know at the time that we were from the same area. You will be so missed. My condolences to the family. So young and oh so talented. RIP Derrick