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







Last week the New Pittsburgh Courier received word that the August Wilson Center for African American Culture would be closing its doors on May 30 due to financial difficulties. When news broke on May 10 of massive layoffs at the Center, it seemed the rumors could be true, but the Center’s interim president and CEO Oliver Byrd said the Pittsburgh community shouldn’t count the AWC out yet.

“The rumor is completely unfounded, no merit to it whatsoever,” he said in an interview with the Courier May 13 hoping to set the record straight. “What’s happening is after four years of being in the building the board is looking at what’s working and what’s not working and to look at how we have to recast the business model to ensure the Center stays around for a long time.”

The $40 million AWC was opened in 2009 with $11.2 million construction debt. The debt was reduced to $7 million in January with help from foundation grants, which have long made up the base of the AWC’s funding.

The center is now behind with loans payments on the $7 million debt and despite Byrd’s optimism, 10 members of the AWC staff lost their jobs on Friday.

“Given the escalating expenses and the imbalance between the expenses and our revenue, we had to lay off some employees. I think the media has focused on the layoffs and we’re always disappointed when we have to lay people off, but with the appropriate course corrections, I think it’ll be healthy for us in the long run.”

Part of those course corrections will include bringing in more revenue by reducing the amount of free programming. Byrd also said the AWC is looking at other avenues for telling the stories of African-American people, beyond the arts, as a way to increase revenue.

“The marketplace will have to pay for the programming that’s offered,” Byrd said. “There will still be a big mix between free programming and ticketed programming because it’s part of our mission, but we need to have a better mix of contributed revenue.”
In April the AWC announced the inclusion of five new fellows in their 2012-2013 fellowship program. Byrd said their First Voice Festival debut set for May 17 to 25 would continue as planned.

“A lot of what we do at the AWC has been looked at positively not just locally but nationally. So we’re very proud of the quality of programming that we’ve been putting out there,” Byrd said. “Very often when you’re looking at the financial reality that we’re dealing with, those kinds of stories get lost. But we’re not at all dissimilar from other arts institutions at this stage.”

However, he also noted that some contributions originally promised during the capital campaign for construction of the facility were not honored. This could be a contributing factor to the AWC’s current financial situation.

Byrd is filling in for Andre Kimo Stone Guess, former AWC executive director who departed in September 2012. Byrd said the board has delayed their search for a new executive director, but plans to commence the search within three to six months.


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