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

Tuesday, April 03, 2012
By Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Gia T. Presents: A detail from the promo for "Blink," a structured improvisation from five dancers and five musicians in response to a light/space work at Wood Street Galleries.

Pittsburgh is noted for its neighborly attitude, always eager to help strangers, always eager to please. This carries over into the arts, where, with a desire to satisfy audiences, local groups often fail to push buttons or break boundaries.

The performance result is good, art that satisfies like a sweet treat, but is it enough for the Pittsburgh arts scene as it continues to expand?

Gia Cacalano is not one who plays it safe. She has pursued the state of dance improvisation for years, often in private or small alternative spaces with little concern for huge audience numbers, and is one of a growing number of city artists looking within themselves.

But then, you have to look at her style of choice. Improvisers might be regarded as the flower children of dance, not particularly concerned with the bottom line, instead pursuing the art for art's sake.

Her free-form company, Gia T. Presents, offered a triple-barrelled approach to "BLINK," which inhabited the Wood Street Galleries last weekend. That meant structured improvisation (or instant composition, as they sometimes call it) from five dancers and five musicians in response to a current light/space improvisation, Norwegian artist HC Gilje's "blink." The work is part of "in transit," his overall Wood Street installation that occupies two floors.

More than 100 audience members squeezed in and around the exhibit on each of two nights. They found three light installations, with a circle in one corner that projected a ring of light onto the accompanying wall, and a square that lay on the floor near an adjacent wall.

Nearly half of the gallery space was taken up with "blink" itself, a large trapezoid stretching from the midpoint and climbing up the walls, then slowly unfolding its own changing landscape, including ribbons of undulating light or a river running through it.

The effect was magical as Allie Greene appeared in a silver bubble wrap costume with a mini-poof of a skirt and an Elizabethan-inspired cone of a collar. She seemed to float like an angel as she tentatively placed her feet on the trapezoid's stripes, almost like the keys of a piano.

Both awestruck by the light and robotic in response to the technology that made it happen, she slowly made her way around the trapezoid twice to a celestial haze of music, exploring the white stripe of a boundary around its edge, and then lay down on a silver box.

A quartet of humanoid dancers, Vincent Cacialano, Wendell Cooper, Jil Stifel and Ms. Cacalano, slowly entered. One by one, they bent backward and opened their arms akimbo, as if to embrace their own light source. But they would be more casual and social.

Not that there was an established thread. Certainly the performers had a specific vocabulary at their disposal and drew from that during the course of the performance. One could ascertain fragments about boundaries real and imagined as the performers walked the lit pathways as if on a tightrope, trying to maintain balance.

They could pause awkwardly, pigeon-toed, or curl their fingers like tendrils. But the viewer never knew where the energy source would come from. The audience could watch as the various art forms took dominance, which provided its own balancing act of contrasts and similarities.

When the light became more animated, the action might slow down. But when the music became more percussive, it inspired a blaze of movement from the men, filled with loping jumps and lashing twirls.

In retrospect it formed an overall arc, making it easier to detect all the textures and transparencies that this art combination had to offer. Sometimes it was enough just to relax and join in the interplay of the moment.

And when Ms. Greene took to the space at the end, she finally stopped and reached into the light. Finally it seemed as if she could feel it.

Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: She also blogs at

First published on April 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

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