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

Trumpeter, composer and educator Donald Byrd, one of the most important, widely recorded and versatile jazz musicians to come roaring out of Detroit during the city’s golden age of bebop in the 1950s, has died at age 80.
Trumpeter, composer and educator Donald Byrd, one of the most important, widely recorded and versatile jazz musicians to come roaring out of Detroit during the city’s golden age of bebop in the 1950s, has died at age 80.
Jazz legend Donald Byrd plays beside his shadow in the Art Gallery at the Delaware State University Library in Dover Delaware, Tuesday Aug 17, 1999. / Tim Shaffer/Special to the Free Press/File photo

Trumpeter, composer and educator Donald Byrd, one of the most important, widely recorded and versatile jazz musicians to come roaring out of Detroit during the city’s golden age of bebop in the 1950s, has died at age 80.

Byrd’s death, which had been the subject of rumors for several days, was confirmed by his nephew, pianist Alex Bugnon, who posted on Facebook that his uncle died Monday in Delaware, where he lived. Bugnon also wrote that his funeral will be held in Detroit sometime next week.

Byrd’s career traced a remarkable arc, from jazz stalwart in the 1950s and ’60s to best-selling R&B star in the ’70s to the halls of academia as part of the pioneering first wave of African-Americans to teach black music in universities. He earned numerous advanced degrees, mentored several generations of young musicians and became an outspoken authority on African-American history and music.

Born Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II, on Dec. 9, 1932, he attended Cass Tech, where he studied classical music and was mentored by the legendary band director Harry Begian, a famous disciplinarian. “He’s the one that set the tenor for our lives, for the rest of our lives,” Byrd told the Free Press in 2003.

Byrd played trumpet in military bands during a stint in the Air Force from 1951-53, before graduating from Wayne State University in 1954 with a music degree. Like many of the best young Detroit jazz musicians, he also studied with Detroit’s reigning bebop guru, pianist Barry Harris.

Byrd had a jackrabbit start to his career, landing in New York at age 22 and quickly becoming a ubiquitous presence. He performed and recorded with the cream of the emerging hard bop idiom, including Art Blakey, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Red Garland, George Wallington and countless others.

Byrd’s warmly burnished sound, fluent technique and aggressive-yet-graceful swing was rooted in the style of Clifford Brown, but his gangly, rhythmically loose phrasing was a unique calling card right from the get-go. As Byrd matured in the late ’50s and early ’60s, he tempered his hummingbird flourishes with a cooler sensibility and phrasing that recalled Miles Davis.

Byrd recorded prolifically both as a sideman and a leader, appearing on scores of recordings on the Savoy, Prestige, Riverside and Blue Note labels. He led a feisty quintet with his old pal from Detroit, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, from 1958-61. Byrd also gave a young pianist from Chicago named Herbie Hancock his first major exposure by hiring him in 1960.

As a composer, Byrd was proficient in church-inspired shouts, funky and sophisticated blues forms and structurally interesting originals. He had a wider field of vision than many of his peers, exemplified by his influential 1963 LP, “A New Perspective” (Blue Note), which married his small group with a gospel choir.

Byrd never stopped going to school. He earned a master’s degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music in the late ’50s, studied composition with the famous classical pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in France in the early ’60s, earned a law degree from Howard University in 1976 and a doctorate from Columbia Teachers College in New York in the early ’80s.

Beginning in the ’60s, Byrd taught at many universities, most notably Rutgers, Howard and North Carolina Central.

By the early 1970s, Byrd had begun exploring a danceable fusion of jazz, R&B and soul. In 1973, he teamed with current and former students at Howard, where he was chairman of the black music department, to make the best-selling LP “Black Byrd.” Produced by brothers Larry and Alphonso Mizell, the record and its sequels elevated Byrd into a crossover star.

Byrd’s commercial success made him a controversial figure in the jazz world. Many critics and aficionados considered him a sell-out, but Byrd defended his artistic choices, and saw no reason why he shouldn’t be able to enjoy a good material living as a musician. The funky grooves of Byrd’s fusion albums would later become a favorite source for sampling by hip-hop producers, including the late Detroit artist J Dilla.

In later years, Byrd returned to playing jazz with only mixed success due to a diminished technique. When he last performed in Detroit in 2004 as part of a 70th anniversary celebration at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, his labored breathing made it difficult for him to play. In 2000, Byrd was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the country’s highest honor in jazz.

Contact Mark Stryker: 313-222-6459 or

Views: 402

Replies to This Discussion

RIP master Donald! A trumpet king who also did much to spread knowledge and appreciation for jazz to many including this one. - kev

From percussionist, Cecil Washington:

How ironic.... a few weeks ago I dug up some audio cassettes of performances I did with Donald & the Black Bryds.  And as I sat there listening, I was just wondering how I could get back in touch with him after so many years have past.

I had the honor of performing on several gigs with Donald, years ago.  St. Moritz in Harrisburg on New Years was one of the last ones we did together (way back in late 80's, I believe).

He was one of my mentors and friend.  First time I tried ribs (I am not a rib eater) was when Dr. Nathan Davis and a group of us had went over to a rib place in Kansas City after our performance at a college.  Donald was late getting to the restaurant so by then, the band had eaten all of the ribs.  Donald said "where are the ribs, man!!  We all laughed... boy were those ribs good.

I liked how Donald improvised his tones while I was playing my conga drums.  He taught my daugher a few tips on how to play her trumpet, too. 

So sad to hear about Donald's death.  We had a lot of wonderful memories of playing together.  I will truly miss him.  My condolences to the family.


© 2022   Created by Dr. Nelson Harrison.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service