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.
Several weeks before state Attorney General Kathleen Kane got involved with the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture, six black political leaders sent her a letter asking that she assist with efforts to keep the cultural center open.
"We did not ask the attorney general to do anything specific with regards to the August Wilson Center," Allegheny County Councilman William Robinson, D-Hill District, said on Saturday. "We sent the letter because she has oversight over charitable organizations, and we wanted to offer our support in any effort that is undertaken to help save this valuable asset."
On Thursday, Kane filed a petition in Allegheny County Orphans' Court asking for a full accounting of the center's finances, noting that nearly $17.4 millio n in public money went toward construction of the building on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
Robinson; state Reps. Jake Wheatley Jr., D-Hill District, and Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington; county Councilwoman Amanda Green-Hawkins, D-Stanton Heights; and Pittsburgh City Councilmen Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess signed the Oct. 10 letter to Kane.
It bemoans the "total lack of information" the public has received from the August Wilson Center and Dollar Bank, which holds a $7 million mortgage on the center. The bank started foreclosure proceedings in September when the center defaulted on its mortgage and allowed insurance on the building to lapse. The center finished fiscal 2013 with a deficit of $1.8 million.
The bank asked an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge to remove managers, appoint a receiver and stop the center from seeking bankruptcy protection.
The center's financial troubles can be traced to its decision to borrow heavily to finance construction of the building after fundraising efforts fell short.
The letter did not ask Kane to take any specific action. Instead, she was asked "to use your office to assure that if it is possible for the center to be saved, that such will be done."
"It is our hope that all stakeholders collaborate and communicate toward the goal of finding a solution in the best interest of the public of Western Pennsylvania," the letter stated.
The letter did, however, ask the attorney general to avoid "any (mortgage) refinancing plans" because the center lacks a "dedicated source of revenue to pay another mortgage."
Kane's spokesman Joe Peters said on Saturday he was not familiar with the Oct. 10 letter, but that any correspondence to the attorney general is taken into account when decisions are made.
On Thursday, Peters said the AG's office was working with the center and Dollar Bank to restore the center's financial stability and ensure "good stewardship on the part of charitable boards."
Burgess said he, too, signed the letter to inform Kane of the willingness of local black leaders to assist with efforts to rescue the Wilson Center.
"My hope is that we will be able to find a way to pay off the (Wilson Center's) debt and look for some creative ways to create partnerships that will provide the programming needed to sustain it," Burgess said. "But the main purpose of the letter is to let the attorney general know that we're willing to do whatever is necessary to save this important cultural asset."
This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.