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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

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.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words
There is a plethora of jazz performances going on currently, especially during April, the official Jazz Appreciation Month in Allegheny County. Please post your opinions, reviews or commentary here.

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Tribune Review

Trombonist Nelson Harrison should have named his show at the Cabaret Theater, Downtown, "Jam Session" instead of "Horn Section."

The April 15 concert that was part of the Jazz Appreciation Month celebration did not show the cohesion, clever arrangements or sonority that a "section" would produce. Instead, it simply was a group of five horn players jamming jazz classics such as "Blue Bossa" or "Our Delight."

That didn't make the show unenjoyable, but it was easily the weakest of the series of five concerts that continues this evening. Saxophonist Lou Stellute got a big hand for his energetic solo on "Blue Bossa," but, most often, the responses simply were polite.

That made sense. The solos from the group also featuring trumpeter Chuck Austin, trombonist Al Dowe and alto sax player Hosea Taylor seldom showed passion or inspiration.

Drummer Roger Humphries was the standout. naturally, to a rhythm section that also featured bassist Virgil Walters, pianist Max Leake and guitarist Gerald Haymon.

-- Bob Karlovits
Hey Bob,

I think you missed the point.

That show, in my opinion, wasn't about flashy, over-rehearsed, well-read jazz music. To me, it was about respect, admiration, honor, and celebration of Pittsburgh Jazz Greats.

What I saw was a stage full of BAND LEADERS. To have a successful and entertaining show without egos and bravado getting in the way was an accomplishment in itself. At some point in my career, I have had the blessing of playing for ALL of those guys. Alot of jazz musicians owe part of their careers to most of the people the were on that stage in one way or another.

I believe the members were pre-chosen by a commitee (PghCultTrst, I imagine). They must have believed that each one of those guys is a "standout" in thier own way. I agreed and thats why I went. That mere "group of five horn players" amassed HUNDREDS of years worth of jazz experience. You can't get THAT without "passion or inspiration." When I see a gathering like that, it instantly reminds me that jazz isn't always about great solos and what somebody's going to play next. Sometimes its a reminder of who's played before, how the road had been paved, why there was (and IS) a NEED for this music, and in turn, a reflection of "Americana" itself, and how jazz has influenced, and will continue to influence generation after generation of musicians from Pittsburgh and world over.

That show was like watching the PGA Legends Tour. Not the All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest. There may be "good" and "bad" in both, but no question. This jazz thing is bigger than "us."

Please reply.
Thanks Howie,

As a leading disciple of this great jazz tradition, you are most definitely on point. You are correct that the players and the name of the band (The Horn Section) were chosen by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust staff (non-musicians) based on their perceived notoriety plus decades of experience as professionals. You well know that to fulfill Mr. Karlovits' expectations would have required a minimum of 12 custom arrangements by a top arranger (@$500 min. each), at least 4 months lead time, 5 rehearsals of the entire group (@ $700), music stands, lights, etc. I wonder if Bob Karlovits thinks that would materialize out of thin air? The configuration of the band (trumpet, alto, tenor, trombone, trombetto & rhythm) does not represent any stock arrangements on the market (which would probably be boring at best).

Additionally, you well know that such a presentation would not have been comfortable, much less reasonable, to expect 9 bandleaders with a range of reading facility and playing styles to come up with "cohesion, clever arrangements or sonority", i.e. a unified sound like Supersax perhaps.

In fact, the only input we had was the choice of songs. I was not the leader of the band but merely the on-stage spokesperson elected by default among the group because I am comfortable doing that.

It's a shame that people have so little understanding of how difficult it was to place a motley group of musicians (from 50 to 81 years of age) on stage together who have never rehearsed or played as a group before and present an entertaining performance without dozens of train wrecks in the process and not short-changing any player or the audience. In addition, we presented our entire program plus an encore within the prescribed time period or 8 - 11PM.

Given the above conditions, long energetic solos would have ruined the night. There is a time and place for everything and it takes more experience and maturity to play a one-chorus solo than it does to play 5 or 6 choruses. I tried to prepare the audience for that in my opening remarks which Mr. Karlovits may have missed entirely.

The format we chose has very successful precedence in the Jazz at the Philharmonic shows that Norman Granz began producing in the 1940s. In that regard, I feel that we pulled off a minor miracle for which I tip my hat in respect to every member of the group. I would like to see someone else duplicate it if you think it's so easy. In addition it was a lot of fun for us commiserating musically on stage without knowing what surprises the other members may put forth. Everyone went for it with confidence, cooperation, mutual respect and love. It takes more than a little courage to do that. I suspect that most of the audience appreciated and enjoyed it and the direct feedback throughout the night and afterwards from the grapevine supported that suspicion.

Personally, it was an honor to share the stage with my esteemed colleagues and it was quite an amazing experience.

Unfortunately Bob... it seems that the Headline may have blinded you... and you missed the point.
it seems mr karlovitz doesn't understand jazz music or its organic, spontaneous nature....and perhaps that's why he is a writer at the Tribune Review......more power to the musicians......you guys articulately stated the weakness of that horrible review.....his type of "criticism" is why artists shouldn't and don't pay much attention to critics.....
Eloquently stated, Howie. You are the next generation of jazz legend. -J
Nelson, I think it's great that you put this review on this network. Good or bad, I think it's important that we hear what's the thinking of people not, "in the know." You don't have to convince me nor does Howie or all of the other great Jazz musicians I've heard in the last month that I've lived in this area. I already was a fan of Jazz before I came to the city. But, if you are going to carry on this legacy of great Jazz and it's traditions then we must hear out critics without putting them down. Their opinions are just as valid as ours. Thanks, again, for your post of the article.
Beautifully said, Howie! You should be a music critic! ... but only if it didn't take time away from your own fabulous music... I'm sorry I missed this show! All the best

Anne
Folks...I'm new to this particular board so I'm going to sit back for a while and read what everyone has to say.
I will say this in the meanwhile.
Is anyone suprised? These discussions have gone back and forth for years. Especially between the writers, the musicians and the schools of thought (Get it?).
Perhaps someone needs to envoke the spirit of Doug Drown(God rest his soul). He may have drank a little too much, but as least he called it as he saw it.

Kevin
Very true Kevin. That's why I named the network jazzburgher.ning.com in honor of the spirit of Doug Drown - the Jazz Bard of Pgh who coined the term.

I fell in at Cj's on the Strip. Havent enjoyed myself as much...in quite a while..Plenty of cars in the lot..and within 30 minutes, the room was full!

Humphries: In complete command. If you can play, he'll MAKE you play better.. He called some great tunes, and everybody fell into it Unrehersed...as it has to be... to be ...jazz. To refer to Roger as a timekeeper, is a complete oversight. He plays just a little ahead..his cymbal accents right there and just a little ahead...so the band never "drags"...even after 3 or 4 sets. He's the only percussionist who PLAYS THE TUNE! He's another soloist! The very best in town...and can play with ANYBODY.

Dolphin..Just the best in town. Knows all the changes and plays all the halves..in between...up and down. Outta the old school..but very hip. The guys out front just in case they stray, just gotta listen to Dwayne bangin those changes and they can't help just followin him thru...just in case they have a little melody lapse. And its so effortless. Don't want to hear him on FENDER..he belongs on UPRIGHT!!!

Leake played better than I've heard him in a while Heard him last month with Negri, just doin the hotel thing...and his chord progressions weren't up to Joe. A much easier venue with Negri, I would think...not like havin' to lay down all the bop-changes as with Humphries group...especially with three heavy hitters blowin 3-4-5 solos on some great, be-bop things. So...a pretty big plus for Max. The changes in the tunes were just great, and Leake could hear and execute, pretty damned well.

Stellutte...was Stellutte. Heard him once...you've, heard all of him. Old school...all emotion...a crowd pleaser... and seemingly, never tires! A good steady...fairly predictable player..if you ...also...know the tune.

Moore: The young kid, on trumpet, who teaches at WVA (some small college). Always impresses me..Strong, forward thinking blower...He doesnt play black, but he's avante garde, knows the tunes and can solo however long you like...without boring the listener/ He reminds me of Joe Mags...a little. To his credit..he doesnt copy..he's himself, and impressive.

Don Aliquo, Jr...the piece d'resistance. Blew me away. I mentioned to Aliquo Sr and wife...if that was my son up there..I'd be totally incorrigible...with pride. Probably have to run me outta town. This kid...well, he's so fresh with ideas and interp. He can play with anybody. Him and stellutte side by side...what a contrast. they complement one another...in approach. Their "battle" is a ball...but...Aliquo teaches to a body of PhDs...Masters degree musicians...while...Stellutte teaches...lets say, the BA level players. I just had the feeling...one could learn something, from WHAT HE LEAVES OUT!!! With Stellutte one hopes the emotion makes an impression on the student...but I still maintain...you cant teach...heart. And, Stellutte is all heart.

Aliquo just left me for dead...and I had to tell him so. He can't get much better. I'd love to have had you on the stand. The guys I've heard you with..dont PUSH you...CANT push you...so the real Harrison doesnt get a chance to come all the way thru. Had you been on the stand with Humph- Dwayne..and Aliquo...You'd have been carried back to older days. What a gas!

Later, Donny, the be-bop fanatic

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