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

As a child, Mr. Weston took classical piano lessons, but did not fall in love with the instrument until he started studying with a teacher who encouraged his love for the jazz protagonists of the day, particularly Ellington, Count Basie and Coleman Hawkins.

Mr. Weston was drafted into the Army in 1944, serving three years and rising to the rank of staff sergeant. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he was in charge of managing supplies, and frequently tried to share leftover materials and food with local residents, many of whom had lost their homes in World War II.

Upon returning to Brooklyn, he took over managing his father’s restaurant, Trios, which became a hub of intellectuals and artists. Mr. Weston began playing jazz and R&B gigs in the borough, seeking wisdom from older musicians. He became particularly close to Monk.

“When I heard Monk play, his sound, his direction, I just fell in love with it,” Mr. Weston told All About Jazz in 2003. “I would pick him up in the car and bring him to Brooklyn and he was a great master because, for me, he put the magic back into the music.”

Heroin use was rampant on the jazz scene then, and Mr. Weston developed a habit. In 1951 he left New York to get clean, moving to Lenox, Mass. He made frequent trips to the Music Inn, a venue in nearby Stockbridge, and while working there met Marshall Stearns, a leading jazz scholar with strong beliefs about jazz’s West African roots, who was giving lectures and leading workshops at the venue.

Mr. Weston started to perform regularly, and he and Mr. Stearns collaborated on a series of round tables about the history of jazz. Mr. Weston met a range of musicians from across the African diaspora, including the Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, the Cuban percussionist Cándido Camero, and the Sierra Leonean drummer Asadata Dafora.

When he retur

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The pics...its always the pics of the Gril that just take hold.  IThey bring me back to "THE HILL"...AND THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH.  The street where I lived..Congress St; my wife's digs, just up the street from The Rhumba theatre. on  Crawford...and the many nights at The Grill...just diggin' the greats of jazz.

   Downtown, it was the Midway Lounge.  On the Hill, it was the Grill.  All in the past now...never to be re-lived...but...I was so lucky to have experienced  it once!

  Nelson...I was particularly struck by the alliteration in the names of musicians from afar.  Leave it to Nelson...who else?

  Keep up the fine work there anyone around who can pick up the mantel...and continue to..."educate"??..................Donny C

Thanks, again, Nelson, for all the news, your example and all of your labor of love.

The New York Times 
July 8, 2001
By  Robin D.G. Kelley


Finding Jazz’s Soul in Africa’s Music
Randy Weston Archives a synthesis of African
and African-American, of Benin and Brooklyn


IN 1934, Paul Robeson wrote of his desire to study West African "folk song and folklore." Already a legend of stage and screen, Robeson was less interested in celebrity than in introducing the world to the beauty and power of African art. "I am convinced that there lies a wealth of unchartered musical material in that source which I hope, one day, will evoke the response in English and American audiences which my Negro spirituals have done." Robeson's unfulfilled dream of collecting and interpreting the "un-chartered musical material" of Africa has been taken up by the pianist and composer Randy Weston.

Mr. Weston, 75, uncannily embodies Robeson's spirit. A towering presence possessed of eloquence, dignity and a scholar's intellect, Mr. Weston studied African culture for nearly half a century. And like Robeson, Mr. Weston draws from the musical well of the entire black world without losing his distinctive voice.

There have been countless efforts to fuse "authentic" African music with Western popular or concert music, usually by incorporating African rhythms (most commonly playing 6/4 over 4/4 time), instrumentation or background vocalists. In most instances, African music serves as an exotic backdrop for pop vocals, lush string arrangements or a swinging saxophone solo.

Mr. Weston's approach has been exactly the opposite; he pushes the African rhythms to the foreground and always tries to work within a framework true to the source, whether it's the West African dance music called highlife or sacred songs from Morocco. These forms fit seamlessly in a jazz context precisely because, in Mr. Weston's words, "the music that is called jazz ... for me is really an extension of African culture. "

Mr. Weston did not come to this conclusion lightly. He devoted his life to the study of African cultures. For what connects African and African-American music is not just the formal qualities of rhythm and timbre but also a common spirituality. "Music is the voice of God for me." he explained on his most recent release, 'Spirit! The Power of Music," "and wherever you find the spirit of sacred music, people are uplifted." 

To experience Mr. Weston and the group of musicians he has assembled as African Rhythms - Talib Kibwe on alto, soprano and flute, Benny Powell on trombone, Alex Blake on bass and Neil Clark on percussion is like witnessing a joyous, sacred ceremony. Anyone who has seen their performances with the Gnawa M'Alem (Master Musicians) of Morocco knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's like getting hit with the Holy Ghost; they make you want to dance and shout and yet they bring a peaceful, solemn’dignity to the space.

African music was moving people this way long before the West invented it self. 
Mr. Weston's journey, however, begins in the Pan-African township of Brooklyn, under the roof of his Virginia-born mother, Vivian, and his Panamanian father, Frank Weston, an admirer of Marcus Garvey who taught his son to appreciate African history. Initially a reluctant piano student, Mr. Weston fell in love with the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Thelonious Monk and other masters of black music. Mr. Weston's childhood friend, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, who was of Sudanese descent, became an early bridge to Africa. An outstanding bassist, he also played the oud, a Middle Eastern lute, and together they began a lifelong exploration of North African music.

Dizzy Gillespie, the dancer and choreographer Asadata Dafora and the historian Marshall Stearns, each contributed to Mr. Weston's knowledge of African music. Stirred by the African independence movement, Mr. Weston composed works celebrating African freedom. In 1960 he put together a truly Pan-African big band and recorded his four-part suite, "Uhuru Afrika" (Swahili for "Freedom, Africa"). 
Arranged by his long-time collaborator, the trombonist and composer Melba Liston, with poetry and lyrics by Langston Hughes, " Uhuru Afrika" acknowledged Africa's cultural ties to its descendants, honored African womanhood and promoted the idea of a modern Africa, a beacon for a new future.

In 1961 and again in 1963 Mr. Weston traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to learn all he could about the culture, sitting in with local musicians, collecting folk music and lecturing on jazz in the universities. He befriended the Nigerian musician and club owner Bobby Benson, whose band built a huge following playing highlife. Inspired by its dynamic rhythms, Mr. Weston independently produced the album "Music From the New African Nations Featuring Highlife" in 1963 (it was re-released on CD as "Uhuru Afrika/Highlife"), which included a rendition of Mr. Benson's "Niger Mambo" and a lively adaptation of a Bashai folk song called "Congolese Children."

Mr. Weston returned to Africa in 1967, this time for a 14-country tour sponsored by the State Department. By the tour's end, he knew he could not return to the United States, a country short on spiritual values and long on racial tension, so he moved to Morocco - first to Rabat and later to Tangier, where he opened the African Rhythms Cultural Center. He gave up commercial opportunities to study with masters of traditional music, primarily the Gnawa. Descendants of slaves taken from sub-Saharan West Africa, the Gnawa are known for their sacred healing songs. Using instruments like karkaba (metal clappers, forerunners of castanets) and the hag'houge (a three-stringed box "guitar"), Gnawa M'Alem play complex poly-rhythms with shifting tempos and greater tonal variation than one finds in the Western 12-tone scale. They believe that everyone has a color and a note to which one vibrates.

MR. WESTON'S engagement with African cultures has profoundly influenced his compositions and playing. Following his Moroccan sojourn, albums like "Blue Moses," "Tanjah" and "The Healers," among others, beautifully synthesize North African music and African-American blues while retaining the spiritual core central to both. It is fair to say that Mr. Weston has created "new spirituals," sacred music grown from the soil of traditions from Benin to Brooklyn to Beijing, transformed by his own spirit and imagination. Listening to his albums of the last decade - notably "The Spirits of Our Ancestors," "Saga," "Earth Birth" and "Khepera" - inspires dance and prayer all at once. His recordings with the Gnawa M'Alem reveal not only a keen knowledge of the music but also a willingness to submerge his own voice for the integrity of the traditional form. On "The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco," a recording he made with nine M'Alem, arranged by his friend Abdelia El-Gourd, a master hag'houge player, Mr. Weston appears on only one song, "Chalabati," and he plays sparse phrases that blend subtly into the overall sound.

Mr. Weston's insistence that jazz is essentially African music, that African music is at its core sacred and that African culture has shaped world history has not won many adherents among mainstream critics. But it really doesn't matter because Mr. Weston is not in this for fame, fortune or good reviews. Again, like Paul Robeson, Mr. Weston is a truth seeker who sees a power in music much greater than all of us. Besides, those who have experienced Mr. Weston and African Rhythms know he is right by how the music makes us feel.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Reprinted with the authorization of Robin D.G. Kelley

Pianist Randy Weston Dies at 92



Randy Weston at the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival

(Photo: Michael Jackson)

Pianist Randy Weston, an NEA Jazz Master, Doris Duke Impact Award recipient, United States Artist Fellow and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, died Sept. 1 in Brooklyn. He was 92.

A DownBeat Hall of Fame inductee, Weston remained active in recent years, performing live and issuing 2016’s The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms), a two-CD recording of a 2012 concert performance at New York University featuring an international cast of musicians, and 2017’s Sound (African Rhythms), a two-CD solo piano recording from a 2001 engagement at Montreux Palace in Switzerland.

Throughout his lengthy recording career, which began with his 1954 debut, Cole Porter In A Modern Mood(Riverside), Weston drew connections between the jazz and blues that surrounded him while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and the music of Africa, his ancestral homeland.

Africa became the theme of numerous Weston albums, many with arrangements by Melba Liston. They include Uhuru Africa (1960), Highlife (1963), African Cookbook (1969) and Blue Moses (1972). He first visited Africa in 1961 and then again in 1963 as a part of The American Society of African Culture. Weston traveled throughout the continent in 1967 for the U.S State Department and settled in Tangiers, Morocco, where he remained for five years and operated a venue called the African Rhythms Club.

Weston held honorary doctor of music degrees from Colby College, Brooklyn College and New England Conservatory of Music. He served as artist-in-residence at New York University, the New School and Medgar Evers College at City University of New York.

In 2010, Duke University Press published African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, written by Weston and arranged by Willard Jenkins. His decades of work are archived at Harvard University. DB

I was on the Dizzy Gillespie Diamond Jubilee Jazz Cruise in 1991 thru the Caribbean thanks to old friend Jackie McLean.

There were great many luminaries from the jazz world but I remember  one night that will always be in my fondest memory bank.

It was after 3 AM and I couldn't sleep as we sailed between St Martaan and another island paradise so I walked down to the club below decks expecting nothing to be open and I was right.

The bar was closed and the room was dark except for one light over a piano. The door was open and I saw that it was Randy Weston and he had just begun a deeeply sombre and poly rhythmic CARAVAN with a Moroccan mode in place.

I moved in quietly to a seat in a dark corner so I would not disturb him.

He played exquisitely till dawn! A private performance!

I slipped away towards the door just as the sun peeked thru a porthole window. He caught my eye as I left and smiled.

Many years later at Jackie's school in Hartford I was part of an homage to Jackie after his passing and saw Randy in the elevator with Dolly, Jackie's wife. She waved me in as the door was about to close and asked if I'd like to meet Randy Weston who was standing next to her and  stood well over six feet tall next to me!

He looked at me, smiled and said to dolly, "We've already met!".

And I said, "In a Caravan."

Fist bump and the beginning of a wonderful evening recalling Jackie's gift to us all.

Also remember another night in Harlem at a saxophone player's apartment where you walked up the stairs and tried to find a place to sit as Randy and Bill Easley played well into the night and once again found my self just exactly where I wanted to be.

He will be missed assuredly but thank God for the records of his music that will be with us for all time.

R.I.P Dear man!


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