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
A portrait of women and men at Crawford Grill No. 2 at 2141 Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh's Hill District.

Jazz landmark Crawford Grill headed to National Register

If all goes well, Pitts­burgh’s land­mark jazz mecca, Craw­ford Grill No. 2, will be listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places by year’s end. Penn­syl­va­nia’s his­toric preser­va­tion board voted unan­i­mously Tues­day to for­ward the nom­i­na­tion to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice.

That’s a big leap for a Hill Dis­trict build­ing closed since 2003. Lis­t­ing a build­ing on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter means it is wor­thy of preser­va­tion, but it’s the first step in a $2 mil­lion ef­fort to re­vive a place that hosted nearly ev­ery great jazz mu­si­cian and vo­cal­ist of the 20th cen­tury.

If its own­ers suc­ceed in sta­bi­liz­ing and re­stor­ing the land­mark, their next step will be map­ping out a sus­tain­able busi­ness plan. The own­ers’ strat­egy will likely in­clude ex­pand­ing the build­ing to the va­cant prop­erty they own next to the night­club, said Rob Pfaff­mann, lead ar­chi­tect of Pfaff­mann + As­so­ci­ates.

Mr. Pfaff­mann, whose firm is also re­stor­ing play­wright Au­gust Wil­son’s Bed­ford Avenue home, has drawn plans for up­dat­ing and ex­pand­ing Craw­ford Grill No. 2.

This 1953 postcard shows the interior of Crawford Grill No. 2 on Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh's Hill District.
Marylynne Pitz
Crawford Grill No. 2 nominated to the National Register of Historic Places

The night­club, which op­er­ated from 1945 to 2003, was owned by Wil­liam Au­gus­tus “Gus” Green­lee, a suc­cess­ful num­bers run­ner who started the Pitts­burgh Craw­fords, a base­ball team made up of out­stand­ing African Amer­i­can play­ers. When his health failed in 1950, he sold the club to Joe Robin­son. Later, his son, Wil­liam “Buzzy” Robin­son, ran it, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Reg­is­ter nom­i­na­tion writ­ten by Jeff Slack, a Pitts­burgh preser­va­tion plan­ner.

Franco Har­ris, a Steel­ers Hall of Fame run­ning back turned busi­ness­man, is an in­ves­tor in Craw­ford Devel­op­ment Group, which bought the jazz club in 2003. He could not be reached for com­ment.

Pitts­burgh Gate­ways, a lo­cal non­profit founded by Robert Meeder, also has a fi­nan­cial stake in the prop­erty. To trans­form the for­mer Con­nel­ley Trade School into the Energy In­no­va­tion Center, Pitts­burgh Gate­ways used his­toric, new mar­ket and con­ser­va­tion ease­ment tax cred­its as part of its fi­nanc­ing for that proj­ect.

“His­toric tax cred­its would be de­ployed for ren­o­vat­ing the Craw­ford Grill if the pri­vate own­ers wish to do so and I think they do,” Mr. Meeder said in a tele­phone in­ter­view, add­ing that the cost of the grill proj­ect is roughly $2 mil­lion. Mr. Har­ris serves on the board of di­rec­tors for Pitts­burgh Gate­ways Corp.

Hill Dis­trict res­i­dents and jazz fans love to re­count sto­ries about the per­form­ers they heard at the night­club, and prom­i­nent in their cu­li­nary mem­o­ries is the suc­cu­lent fried chicken served at 2141 Wylie Ave. U-shaped red booths gave pa­trons a great view of the 10-by-12-foot stage up above, Mr. Pfaff­mann said.

Lo­cated in a three-story com­mer­cial build­ing erected in 1917, the prop­erty needs ba­sic ame­ni­ties like an el­e­va­tor, mod­ern stair­cases and larger, up­dated rest­rooms. Also es­sen­tial are new win­dows and a stron­ger sup­port sys­tem for in­stall­ing a new roof to pro­tect the struc­ture, Mr. Pfaff­mann said.

On the build­ing’s two up­per floors are four, 800-square-foot apart­ments, two on each level.

Guitarist Ken Karsh, bassist Mark Perna and keyboardist Keith Stebler at James Street Gastropub on the North Side in 2017. The venue closed last year.
the Editorial Board
Pittsburgh, music city: Some good advice on nurturing a healthy scene

“That’s where a lot of the jazz play­ers stayed,” Mr. Pfaff­mann said, add­ing that they could be­come af­ford­able hous­ing for art­ists or mu­si­cians.

Once the build­ing is sta­bi­lized and its in­te­rior re­stored, Mr. Pfaff­mann said, in­ves­tors will have to “de­velop a busi­ness plan for a jazz club that only has a few dozen seats.”

“The chal­lenge is to cre­ate ad­di­tional space in the fu­ture on that ad­ja­cent lot. Most jazz clubs to­day can’t gen­er­ate enough in­come to sus­tain them­selves,” Mr. Pfaff­mann said.

A planned new el­e­va­tor and stair­case would con­nect to an ad­di­tion that could hold a flex­i­ble space with a large stage and seat­ing for 200 peo­ple.

“You could af­ford to bring a na­tional jazz act into that venue. You could have a kitchen, a first-class restau­rant,” Mr. Pfaff­mann said, add­ing that the more in­ti­mate Craw­ford Grill space would be one part of a larger com­plex.

“Imag­ine this new ad­di­tion has ga­rage doors across the front,” Mr. Pfaff­mann said. “The idea is to con­nect it out to the street.”

Patrons could ei­ther sit in the same booth Au­gust Wil­son oc­cu­pied to hear John Col­trane or at­tend a con­cert in the larger venue. The con­cept is sim­i­lar to a Chi­cago blues club, King­ston Mines, which has two ven­ues, Mr. Pfaff­mann said.

“Good food and good drink — that’s what drives the in­come to pay the band,” the ar­chi­tect added.

Marylynne Pitz at, 412-263-1648 or on Twitter:@mpitzpg.

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