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


With time winding down toward a Sept. 29 trial to determine whether deed covenants can stop the pending sale of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture to hotel developer 980 Liberty Partners, several community groups have rallied in support of an alternate bid proposal made by a consortium of local foundations.

On Sept. 22, Black Political Empowerment Project Chair and CEO Tim Stevens announced outside the Center that his organization supports the $7.2 million bid put forth by the foundations rather than the $9.5 million top bid from 980 that was tentatively approved by bankruptcy Judge Lawrence O’Toole.

Stevens echoed points made in multiple op-ed letters by Heinz Endowments President and CEO Grant Oliphant, saying that the 980 plan would preserve only 40-45 percent of the structure as an African-American arts and culture center and that the foundations’ plan presents the “best opportunity to fulfill its original mission and to do so utilizing the entire facility as it was meant to be used.”

He also agreed with the foundations’ opinion that, though their lesser bid is not enough to repay the $7.9 million mortgage held by Dollar Bank let alone additional creditors, the bank should write off its losses as a community contribution.



Three days earlier, a collection of Black artists and musicians performed outside the Center to mark its 5th anniversary and also to rally support for the foundations’ bid.  Organizer janera solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and chair of the foundations’ August Wilson Center Recovery Advisory Committee, said the event characterized what the Center is about.

“We’re not really activists,” she said. “We’re people who care. Look around. There’s a diverse group of people here, age-wise, color-wise. That’s part of what this center’s vision was about.”

Others in attendance included poet Vanessa German, hip-hop artists Jasiri X and Paradise Gray, and former City Councilman Sala Udin, who also sits on the Recovery Advisory Committee and was a founding member of the AWC’s board.

Even as these rallies were going on, court appointed conservator Judith Fitzgerald had petitioned O’Toole to postpone a scheduled Oct. 6 sheriff’s sale of the Center. She argued that even if the trial determined the deed covenants against altering the building exterior without city permission and using it for purposes other than an exclusively Black museum are invalid, 980 would not have time to complete the sale. O’Toole rejected the petition on Monday.


Paradise Gray (Photo courtesy Tracey TjdaMilitant Jennings)

That same afternoon the Coalition to Preserves the August Wilson Center Mission, a group convened by retired Highmark executive and past AWC Board Chairman Aaron Walton at the request of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, released a statement on its goals for the center’s disposition.

The group, which includes a cross section of African-American faith, business, political and community leaders, is moving forward “with the support and cooperation of Judith Fitzgerald, the court-appointed conservator, and AMS Planning & Research, a national arts and management consulting firm engaged to complete a community assessment of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture,” the statement said.

The group’s spokesman, Rev. Dr. William Curtis, senior pastor of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, said it would focus on methods to:

•Utilize the influence of all stakeholders in devising and executing plans to include substantial African-American and majority population input toward the perpetuation of the AWC’s existing community mission;

•Serve as a catalyst to engage the political, foundation, financial, business and greater community in productive dialogue relative to AWC’s disposition;

•Advocate for the continuation of the community’s use of AWC’s current location;

•Collaborate and cooperate to arrive at a resolution to the AWC ownership that represents the spirit and the intent of the community feedback reflected in the AMS-conducted focus group interviews;

•Participate in planning that will result in the long-term financial viability and sustainability of the AWC;

•Assist in the creation of opportunities for African-American participation in the planning and ownership of any hotel erected at the current AWC location;

•Advocate for the appointment and establishment of an inclusive independent community board of directors responsible for the management and governance of a reconstituted AWC, and

•Create an inclusive programming process that assures the ongoing participation of members of the arts community.

The Coalition’s work, Curtis said, will continue throughout the various legal proceedings set to take place before arriving at a resolution of the controversies surrounding the disposition of the August Wilson Center.

Coalition members include: Rev. Curtis; Rev. Barbara Gunn, pastor, Mt.  Carmel Baptist Church, North Versailles, Pa.; Connie Parker, President, Pittsburgh Branch NAACP; Keith Keys, Property Developer, Hill District Pittsburgh, Pa.; Mark Lewis, President, POISE Foundation; Bishop Loran Mann, senior pastor, Pentecostal Temple COGIC, Pittsburgh, Pa.; William Robinson, member Allegheny County Council; Charles Sanders, President & CEO, Urban Lending Solutions Inc.; Aaron Walton, Retired Highmark Senior Executive; and Doris Carson Williams, president & CEO, African-American Chamber of Commerce.

Other individuals and organizations, Curtis said, have committed their support to the Coalition as the official representative of their community voices.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpitts­

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