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




There is no need to wait upon the 4th estate to give us coverage anymore. We can also cover our own industry with our own reviews. Let's start here.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
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Discussion Forum


Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison. Last reply by Dr. Nelson Harrison Oct 22, 2014. 2 Replies

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Comment by EVD on September 18, 2017 at 10:23pm
Dr. Harrison - If I want to send a link to the blog, how is that done? Or if I wanted to send you the link, do you have an website e-mail address? For instance, I received a poem prose by Claudia Rankine, born in Jamaica, MacArthur recipient, author of 5 collections. The piece is called "Don't Let Me Be Lonely," a reflection on Mahalia Jackson that includes an archival video from Newport.
Comment by shawn hopson on May 26, 2017 at 1:38am

Check out this new jazz search engine for your jazz needs. 

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on November 28, 2016 at 5:34am

I must say the say the Birthday celebration of Billy Strayhorn at last night was great, and not as well attended for something that was "Pay what makes you happy" I guess many Jazz fans must be unhappy after the election results, politics aside, I am amazed with the vocal stylings of Anqwenique Wingfield! Her voice during one of the numbers was reminiscent of Ella, but she is able to add inflection and playfulness to lyrics that is all her own, one of the funny creative moments occured when band leader Roger Humphries walked off the stage as bassist Sam Harris was taking a solo, Roger told him just go ahead and play, and that he did! To great applause when he finished his solo and Rodger returned to the drums, the entire band was great but there were great solos by Yoko Suzuki on Alto, and Dr. E. Ron Horton on trumpet, who was also Musical Director, and special praise goes to Dr. Nelson E. Harrison on trombone, and lets not forget there were all manner of treats in the lobby and a dance party in the lobby afterwards with S.M.I doing the music .   ---Katanu Masudi

Comment by C. Denise Johnson on July 30, 2014 at 8:10am

NPC -Nathan Davis Passes the Torch

Professor of Music Emeritus Nathan Davis passes the torch to Geri Allen by C. Denise Johnson

  Internationally acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Geri Allen (MA 1982, ethnomusicology) has stepped in as Director of Pitt’s Jazz Seminar and Concert, now in its 43rd year. Allen is continuing the legacy of Professor of Music Emeritus Nathan Davis, the founder and former director of the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert, who retired this summer. In January, Allen will join the faculty of the Department of Music as an associate professor and assume leadership of the Department’s program in Jazz Studies.

  Allen was one of the first to graduate from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in jazz studies. It was at Howard where she began to embrace music from all cultures and it has greatly influenced her work. She met Nathan Davis through one of her instructors who had studied under him. After graduation from Howard, while studying under Kenny Barron in New York City, Davis encouraged her to attend Pitt. She followed Davis’ advice and earned her master’s degree in ethnomusicology in 1982.

  But first, let’s focus on the trailblazer himself, Nathan Davis. Although he’s well regarded for his numerous accomplishments on the Pitt campus, he is the founder of the first incarnation of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra in the mid-1980.

Davis’ work goes beyond academic success, says Sean Jones, assistant professor of music at Duquesne University, who, like Davis, is blending a teaching and performing career. Jones is the music director for revamped PJO.

“He means a great deal to me as a young African-American,” Jones says. “He fought all the battles back then to get the music passed on the younger cats like me.” In 1969, when Davis took the position at Pitt, it was unheard of to have a person basically known as a performer teaching in the little-explored area of jazz studies, Jones says.

But there so many other accolades Davis had garnered that are not so well known. Like at the very beginning of his illustrious tenure at Pitt with the birth of the seminar and concert, as Davis was quoted in Spring 2007 issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, “I once read in one of those European books, like an encyclopedia of jazz history or whatever, and it said something like, ‘Nathan Davis went to Pitt and put Pitt on the map by calling on his expatriate friends from Europe.’ That’s exactly what I did.

People that I knew passed the word around and we always got great artists to talk and play at our seminar. In the beginning, we were paying them no more than 500 bucks. Can you imagine that? Things have changed since then. Now I have supporters like (BNY) Mellon Bank, Dominion, Office of the Provost, The Ford Foundation, and private donors like Larry Werner who contributes on a regular basis. As a result, we have been able to expand the outreach part of our program by taking it international. We were selected by UNESCO’s International Music Council to be the first and only jazz group to celebrate International Music Day throughout the world in such places as Bahia, Brazil, Jordan (The Queen Noor Conservatory of Music), the University of Ghana, Bahrain, and elsewhere.”

Long time ally Bill Robinson, is well acquainted with Davis. “I have been associated with Jazz ay Pitt since my days as a staff member in Pitt’s Office of Urban and Community Services. Nathan Davis is an internationally-known Jazz icon. He is and was a noted author, musician, visionary and highly respected authority on Jazz.”

(Click the link for the rest of the article)

Comment by C. Denise Johnson on July 30, 2014 at 7:54am

NPC Review: Herbie Hancock/Heinz Hall

Musical legend Herbie Hancock’s Heinz Hall performance was beyond all imagination by C. Denise Johnson

  BNY Mellon Jazz presented Herbie Hancock’s “The Imagine Project” at Heinz Hall and he provided a mesmerizing performance from beginning to end.

  In the music industry for nearly 50 years, he knows what it takes to captivate his audience through music and song. Young, old, Black and White came to see and hear the piano genius as he took us on a musical journey.

  Hancock was joined by Vinnie Colaiuta (percussion), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Pino Palladino (bass), Greg Phillinganes (keyboard) and Kristina Train (vocals).

  The “Imagine Project” consists of 10 tracks is his latest musical effort and was released two months ago. It is an album that will take you on a journey of different sounds for the listener. “A Change Is Gonna Come” featuring James Morrison is a Sam Cooke remake, but Hancock makes it his own. He opened the show with “Actual Proof” from his 1974’s “Thrust” album that was an all-time bass groove classic.

  Hancock’s fans were blown away from the spell-binding performance and did not want the concert to end.

  “I’ve been a big fan of Herbie Hancock for many years. About five years ago I saw online where you can demand someone come to your town and the artist I picked was Herbie Hancock. There is something about his music that reaches across genres and pulls you in. When I heard his version of Thelonius Monk’s “Round Midnight” it really made me feel great. The way his fingers touch the keys and the flow of his body and hands as he plays makes me feel his soul. It hits me in a place so deep that I cannot reach it,” said fan Phat Man Dee.

  Hancock’s performance had the audience in a trance when he just played the piano alone. It was like being in another world where your imagination could run wild. He was captured by the performance and you could tell when he said to the audience “It’s dangerous up here.”

  Other musicians were also in attendance to hear the great legend on the keys at Heinz Hall.

  “I’ve always loved Herbie Hancock’s music and he reaches across all age groups because I’ve seen elderly people getting down in their seats. All races were here and everyone loves Herbie Hancock. My husband is Skip Peck and we have two sons that are also performers. We have a group called The Skip Peck Trio. He is a composer and has written over 1,500 songs,” said singer Donna Peck.

  “Herbie is one of my profound influences and he is a great musician. He has touched every genre with his music and he is an incredible performer. My expectation was a little low coming to the concert and then I was blown away afterwards. I have to get the ‘Imagine Project’ after attending this concert,” said Pittsburgh jazz bassist Paul Thompson.

  While certain members of Hancock’s band have toured with him for a while, this was bass player Pino Palladino’s second show with the piano man.

  “Playing with Herbie Hancock is incredible. Just to be on stage with him is great and I’m learning more now than I’ve ever learned in my life. This is my second show with Herbie but it felt pretty good. I love the ‘Imagine Project’ and the concept behind the album,” said Palladino.

  Hancock ended the show with his major hit “Chameleon” from his 1973 “Head Hunters” album and the audience went crazy as he played the keytar and finished out the show.

  Now in the fifth decade of his professional life, Herbie Hancock remains where he has always been, in the forefront of world culture, technology, business and music.

Comment by C. Denise Johnson on July 30, 2014 at 7:12am

New Pittsburgh Courier Jazz review

Audience wins in Jazz intrastate rivalry (by C. Denise Johnson)

  With a double-bill headlining two Grammy winning jazz musicians, it goes without saying that in this rivalry, the winner would be those who had enough sense to be in the audience.

  Fresh off of his Grammy Award for Big Band Jazz Performance, Christian McBride continued his winning ways by performing songs of his award-winning release, “The Good Feeling” and yes, that good feeling (and good music) wafted through the near capacity house at the August Wilson Center for another performance featuring the swinging Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.  

  Ace bassist Christian McBride was clearly enjoying himself as he led the PJO through his arrangements and engaged in some brief banter introducing the selections. “Shake and Blake” was a nod to longtime musical co-hort Ron Blake (with a tasty passage by saxman Michael Tomaro) while the next tune, “Mister Brother” was a tribute to James Brown.

  The highlight of McBride’s set had to be “Science Fiction” a homage to TV show themes (think “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits”) featuring an out-of-this-world flute solo by Kenneth Powell and Alton Merrill’s usual wizardly work on piano.

  McBride brought out vocalist Melissa Walker to recreate the magic her contralto brought to two tracks from “The Good Feeling” CD on “A Taste of Honey” and “The More I See You,” before Jeff “Tain” Watts joined in on drums to trade bars with McBride on “In A Hurry.”

  Following intermission, Pittsburgher Watts assumed the stage with the disarmingly cool he portrayed in the Spike Lee joint, “Mo Better Blues.” But once he picked up his sticks, the fire was stoked.

  Watts paints pictures with his drum work, using the skins as his canvas and sticks and mallets as his brush. His opener, “The Impaler” was right to the point pushing a hard rhythm and Sean Jones used the same urgency with his trumpet solo.

  “Blutain” was Tain’s interpretation of the blues with Powell adding a funky sax solo. “PAEN” is a recent composition that showcased the varied subtleties and textures that Watts brings out of his cymbals.

  “Of August Moon,” a Watts composition dedicated to August Wilson, could serve as a Broadway overture to the Pittsburgh Cycle of plays with its bluesy swing and shifts in rhythms and melody with occasional hints of dissonance and melancholy.

  Another unexpected pleasure was a haunting ballad, “May 15, 2011” (Watts readily admitted he couldn’t conjure an appropriate title), that featured the drummer on vocals. On this night he dedicated the song to Whitney Houston, whose homegoing was held earlier in the day.

  Watts concluded his set and the evening by bringing McBride back to the stage to join him on “Return of the Jitney Man.” “There was already a song called Jitney Man,” Watts explain as he introduced this recollection of his father working out of the Bedford and Chauncey jitney station.

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on November 9, 2011 at 2:11am

Just thought I would share with you at our recent (Nov 4) Smooth Jazz Fridays at the Holiday Inn - Oakland, we featured a band called Funkdafied Jazz from Cleveland that had a female drummer, they awesome!  What was even more incredible, Larry Coryell & Randy  Brecker sat in with the band on three songs, it was phenomenal!  They were staying at the Holiday Inn for their event on Saturday with Nathan Davis, so it was special treat that my customers got.  They played to a couple of standing ovations as well!  it was great!


We had were hoping Billy Cobham would come down and make an appearance, but apparently he was feeling under the weather.  Maybe next time!


This is the kind of stuff that Pittsburgh misses and needs! 




Shawn Hopson

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on October 29, 2010 at 7:05pm
EUR on the Scene: Boppin’ and Rocking at Playboy Jazz Festival
Story and photo by Ricky Richardson
June 16, 2010 at 06:49 am Comments (0) If You like this story, click here to become a Fan on Facebook

Jay Hoggard and Bill Cosby at 2010 Playboy Jazz Festival
*Los Angeles – A festive, upbeat party mood was the norm during the 32nd Annual Playboy Jazz Festival presented in cooperation with the L.A. Philharmonic Association, June 12-13, 2010. The festival was held at the historic Hollywood Bowl.

I couldn’t make it to the Bowl in time to see the opening act, El Dorado High School Jazz Band under the direction of Richard Watson. I always try to begin the festival by enjoying the talents of the next generation of jazz legends.

I’m sure that the next act was the first in the history of the Playboy Jazz Festival to perform solo to my knowledge. Jake Shimabukuro is a unique musical artist, recognized internationally as an exciting and innovative ukulele player and composer. Festival attendees had to stop pulling their coolers etc. and take note of this talented artist showmanship on the ukulele.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue served up a tasty set of “SupaFunkRock.” The audience and I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel dished out by the group. A sea of handkerchiefs could be viewed all over the Bowl to the following tunes “American Women,” “You Got The Same Thing On,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Higher Ground,” an upbeat version of “St. James Infirmary,” and concluded with “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

Vocalist Kurt Elling was dressed to the nines for his Bowl debut. His trademarked vocal styling’s and scatting delighted the crowd. His tight band featured Ernie Watts-sax; Laurence Hobgood-piano; Harris Raghavan-bass; and Ulysses Owen on drums. I’m not sure if this was a coincident that Kurt Elling was singing “Golden Lady” at the same time as Hugh Hefner and his beautiful entourage was making their grand entrance to their boxed seats that were front and center. Kurt saluted Hef with a few choruses of “Hail to the Chief.”

Javon Jackson Band was bopping for most of their set before performing the classic tunes “Cold Duck Time,” and “Compared to What” with special guest Les McCann.

I must admit that I was one of many who kept looking on stage for instruments during the performance of Naturally 7. The crowd and I were blown away with this acapella group’s ability to imitate actual instruments. They were excellent on “Waiting for Your Love,” “Come Together,” and their sensational YouTube hit/version of “I Can F eel It In the Air” by Phil Collins. Check out this video on YouTube. You will not believe what you are hearing and or seeing without instruments. Everyone of their CD’s that were on sale sold out at the CD booth on site. Quite naturally, pun intended.

Marcus Miller Band with special guest trumpeter Christian Scott revisited the Tutu CD by Miles Davis. The band got busy with some funky grooves for the last half of their set. Don’t be surprise if Christian Scott returns to the Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival next year with his band.

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra features an All-Star roster of Los Angeles based musicians. Their set of straight-ahead jazz was another of the many highlights of the festival.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar presented Chick Corea with a birthday cake to kick off his set. The band dived into some original tunes featuring some amazing solos by Chick Corea, saxophonist Kenneth Garrett and Christian McBride on bass. Legendary drummer Roy Haynes rounded out the band.

The cliché “the family that a play together; eventually jams together” applies to Pete Escovedo Orchestra featuring Sheila E., Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo. They were hands down crowd pleasers as the crowd got their groove on dancing the cha-cha and salsa to the contagious Latin rhythms laid out by the band.

Sax for Stax with Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Jeff Lorber closed out the first day of the festival with some smooth jazz.

I also missed seeing the opening act on Sunday, the L.A. All District High School Band under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas.

The Jazz Mafia’s Brass Bows and Beats served up a smorgasbord of sounds of epic proportions. This was the largest group on the line-up of about 50 band members. They also served up a delicious four course meal of sounds featuring some hip-hop, jazz, big band jazz and some tunes that would fit perfectly as a soundtrack for a movie.

The Cos of Good Music is always a treat to hear each year. This year the band consisted of Bill Cosby and Ndugu Chancler on drums; Mark Gross-saxophones; Jay Hoggard-vibes; D.D. Jackson-piano; Ron Johnson and Dwayne Burno on bass and Ingrid Jensen wailing away on trumpet.

Robert Randolph Family Band was making a return engagement to the festival to deliver another explosive set of original tunes including the crowd favorite “It Doesn’t Matter.” Robert Randolph can add actor to his resume. He did a superb job portraying Bo Diddley in the movie Who Do You Love. This is a movie worth purchasing if you haven’t already had the pleasure of viewing in its limited release in theaters.

Esperanza Spalding is fast becoming a Media/Press and crowd favorite at the festival. This is another return engagement to the Bowl to showcase her boundless energy with a memorable set consisting of some Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian music with some funk and pop.

The Playboy Jazz Festival continued their association with the Crescent City acknowledged as the birthplace of jazz. Irving Mayfield & The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra didn’t disappoint the jazz purist in the house. The band also featured a rising new jazz vocalist Johnaye Kendrick for a few songs.

I could have listened to Bobby Hutcherson & Cedar Walton Quartet all evening. This wouldn’t be fair to others on the line-up. These two legends still remain true and pure to America’s number one art form-JAZZ.

Salif Keita was another highlight of the two day festival. This was his debut performance at the festival, which I hope will not be his last. Mr. Keita is an internationally known Afro-Pop singer who continues to delight audiences all over the world. Festival goers and I were treated to a special evening of World music.

The Manhattan Transfer and George Benson were extremely entertaining in their respective time slots.

Miami based Tiempo Libre brought down the house to closed out the 32nd Playboy Jazz Festival. Their was a huge conga line snaking out the Bowl to the parking lots and waiting shuttles. A good time was had by all.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via:
Comment by Ricco J.L.Martello on October 9, 2010 at 12:08am
Hey check out the story I wrote on Roy Ayers and Tom Brown
Comment by Ricco J.L.Martello on August 30, 2010 at 3:26am
its a pleasure to be a member hope all is well

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