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.
I've lived in Pittsburgh all my life, have played music in (not jazz, though) and have written for various alternative newsweeklies. I admire the Pittsburgh musicians who continue to push the music envelope on a daily basis.
Favorite Pittsburgh musicians/performers
Why limit it? If you're playing, make like your name is in the box.
Favorite Pittsburgh Jazz Venue
Well, I still miss the Crawford Grill. There are several in town that I haven't been to yet for various reasons.
I cover jazz events around town whenever I get taken up on the offer. I also contribute to JazzTimes magazine. There is also an unending craving I have to hear jazz on vinyl. CDs are cool, but if I can get my hands on a shiny piece of plastic in a piece of cardboard, I'm there. Anyone who wants to unload some old records, let me know.
I read your article in CP about Rudresh Mahanthappa and appreciated your enthusiasm for the non-traditional. I am the Board President of Kente Arts Alliance, who has been presenting jazz concerts since 2006. On November 8, we are presenting Jazz Violinist Billy Bang and the Aftermath Band at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. I think Bang's story is an intriguing one, having served in Vietnam and like most, was changed by that experience. As a catharthic event in his life, he has found solace in music and in developing the work of this band, a mix of Vietnam Vets and Vietnamese musicians. Since Billy Bang is not a household name in the jazz world, I was hoping that you could help PR the event, commemorating the sacrifice of Veteran's living and dead. Perhaps you can write an article in the CP, similar to the one I recently read in CP. Bang is available for interviews and I can send you the entire PR kit with his bio information and photo. Please give me a shout so we could discuss later. I believe you know the artistic director of Kente, Mensah Wali who recently relocated to Pgh from Brooklyn, NY. I look forward to hearing from you. Gail