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 our musical icons are graduating into the higher realms we want to keep them fresh in our memories.  Please join this group where you can post any obituaries of the ancestors of our tradition for all to read and learn more about them.

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Members: 106
Latest Activity: yesterday


Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. ---Lao Tzu

O Death, Thou shalt not
Break my pride!
As thou art fame to do
With thy icy hands
As I am living here
With all my awakened soul
Being not connected 
To the worldly greed
I have my feet
Measured into three steps
Permanent ground 
For my celestial grave
To whom shalt thou 
Mitigate even an inch?
The space where my tombstone
Wilt be eracted with pride
Though all thy world
Whose senses work under limit
Of time and space
Feels jealous of my lot
O Death, Thou shalt greet me
As a military troop to their leader
Laughing under suppressed voice
At my crowded depature


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling! And I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity...of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness.


yes, You...
this part of myself
that i lost with your death.
an ever wailing in my heart
and an ever rejoicing in your freed-OM.
no whispers or glaring sounds can fill. yes...
i continue to learn in your absence...
a fullness of Spirit informs me.
today, the Ancestral realm is singing.
and i, both witness and altar boy
stand in awe and in wonderment;
the exquisite dance of sounds and lights
raining down through and upon me.
and, i bathe in this holiness
where tears wash this
heart and my soul.

---Vandorn  Hinnant


Garden of Memory

There comes to me from out of the past...

a recollection true...

a living glimpse of bygone days...

dear memories of you...

I have within my deepest heart...

a picture of your face...

and though the years may come and go...

time never can erase...

still gently stealing through the night...

are dreams that passed me by...

and I will ever reminisce...

'til stars fall from the sky...

the things we did I live again...

like it was yesterday...

and I am  filled with thrills divine...

by what my thoughts portray...

oh voice that echoes through the years...

you bring the happy hours...

in the garden of my memory...

bloom the eternal flowers.

---Ben Burroughs


Are we as afraid of being born as we are of dying?


The Divine Order we cannot see 
is yet the Divine Order that we be. 
The invisible indivisible incarnates 
and takes leave again. 
A great mystery... mobile 
in times’ trackless sands. 
We witness, we wonder, we revel, we dare 
Behold the Great Mystery 
now laid bare. 
30 January 2021

Discussion Forum

Civil Rights Leader Alma Speed Fox passes at 98.

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison. Last reply by Dr. Nelson Harrison yesterday. 1 Reply

Announcement of the Passing of Civil Right’s Leader and Activists, Alma Speed Fox…Continue

Tags: network, jazz, naacp, hill, district

Sidney Poitier Dies at 94

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison Jan 10. 0 Replies

Sidney Poitier, Who Paved the Way for Black Actors in Film, Dies at 94The first Black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor, for “Lilies of the Field,” he once said he felt “as if I were…Continue

Tags: 94, pittsburgh, jaz, network, at

Praise song for a newly minted ancestor Paul Carter Harrison (1936-2021)

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison. Last reply by Dr. Nelson Harrison Jan 10. 2 Replies

Praise song for a newly minted ancestor Paul Carter Harrison (1936-2021)By Kym Moore | Special for The St. Louis AmerPaul Carter Harrison reading his work in 2015Photo courtesy of Mark Harrison and…Continue

Tags: Harrison, Carter, (1936-2021), pittsburgh, network

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu died today 12/26/21

Started by Dr. Nelson Harrison. Last reply by Dr. Nelson Harrison Jan 5. 3 Replies

Desmond TutuThe Most Rev Desmond Tutu obituaryAnglican archbishop who fought against apartheid in South Africa and led the subsequent…Continue

Tags: pittsburgh, jazz, network, guardian, africa

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of OBITUARIES to add comments!

Comment by Shawn Cohen on September 14, 2015 at 6:00pm

Hi Dr. Nelson,  would be delighted to share those memories here. I was referencing Michele and I connecting on FB just yesterday. If I think back, there was always a line out the door when big acts came to the Encore downtown. I am speaking of people like Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespe. It was my job as a waitress to make sure all the tables were served well, keep their libations flowing and not have Art or Bobby give me a talking to because I missed someone or the food in the kitchen was waiting for me! I wore high heels as this was all part of the penguin suit back then and I have walked a million waitress miles in them with the feet today to show for it! But the money was good when the getting was good! Art was particularly over protective of his staff and me as I was the youngest and he would make sure that any male customer who thought I was "dessert" would be swiftly and gladly upthrown from his bar seat or table and wisked out the front door by the scruff of his shirt collar with Art's big ex boxer hand and in his notorious put on "gruff" voice say, "Hit the road Jack and don't ya come back no more!"  LOL To which he would turn back to the crowd and say, "Ok, show's over...!" And back the band would play and me and the other penguins (white shirts, black pants or skirts) would go back to work!  Just another day/night at the Encore!

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on September 14, 2015 at 5:46pm

It would be appreciated if you would share them here. That's primarily what this network is for. ok?

Comment by Shawn Cohen on September 14, 2015 at 5:16pm

Thank you Michele Bensen. :-) I am the one who recently connected with you on FB. It would be fun to share some Encore memories. All the best, Shawn Cohen 

Comment by Anthony (Tony) Janflone on September 13, 2015 at 4:19am

Even though I haven't seen Jerry in quite a while I'll never forget the gigs we had and the friendship. Rest in peace my friend in the Arms of our Lord. Love you Jerry.

Comment by Richy Muckle on September 13, 2015 at 4:00am

Sorry to hear of Jerry Melega's passing. Great, great memories, both musically, and personally. I will miss him, as he passes on....Thanks, my brother.

Comment by Michele Bensen on September 12, 2015 at 11:04pm

I have just learned of the passing of pianist Jerry Melega, from Brownsville, PA who worked throughout the Pittsburgh tri-state area with many local musicians. Funeral / Memorial services and arrangements will be forthcoming. Will will miss Jerry who was in his late 70's.

Comment by Shawn Cohen on August 27, 2015 at 12:19am

I know Art told me he met "Little Georgie Benson" when he was just a boy coming into the Encore and playing his guitar! They knew he would be a star one day because he was a child prodigy! Now look at him, not so little and in fact he recently played The Royal Albert Hall, here in London! That is stardom! lol but he played the Encore too, plenty and I remember him coming in to play while I was on shift there one night...he had just released, "Breezin'" and it was rising in the charts and he came in and played his main song, "Breezin'" which the house went crazy over. Very nice guy. I also remember Jimmy McGriff's band playing at the Encore Downtown and Kenny Karsh went out on tour with him later on.  There are so many...if I can recall anymore, will let you know but if you go to the Pgh Press or Pgh Post Gazette archived newspapers, you will find plenty of articles about the Encore and who is playing there. Lenny Litman wrote plenty of reviews too so look for his articles. I remember when Lenny would come in, Art would go crazy, to make sure he was well seen to and that Lenny would write a great review! Haha he always did anyway! But Art wanted to make sure! Ok, that is all for now. Nice chatting with you both , Michele and Dr. Harrison. :-) Let's keep Jazz alive and well in Pgh!  And all over the world! 

Comment by Shawn Cohen on August 27, 2015 at 12:10am

Art managed the Encore for well over 20 years. Bobby probably the same downtown or near enough and Harold, well they called The Encore, "The House that Betters Built" because he was their nightly act! Harold made the Encore. And he left and came back and so on. The place was always packed when the bands or singers were in. And absolutely everyone who was anyone came to see them! It was THE Place to be...and then after they closed at 2:00am, there was the Gaslight around the corner on Copeland and The Hollywood Social Club or go and get an early breakfast or something at Ritter's Diner! lol we all had fun, the musicians, the staff and the customers! :-) 

Comment by Shawn Cohen on August 27, 2015 at 12:03am

 This is Art Swiden from a newspaper article when he was managing the Encore. He started about 1960 ish and went on to manage it until he moved to the Encore in Florida which only lasted 2 more years. The one on Liberty Ave. known as The Encore II, which Bobby Davis usually managed but Art and he would switch once in a while so you could see either at one or the other.  I was only 20 years old in 1976 when I began working there and I was underage because really it was a bar and so you had to be 21 to work there but....I did anyway! So I know the history from being there for those 3 years and then working in Shadyside too at the Balcony after that. It was a wonderful time for music of all kinds but yes, when I was working downtown, they lined up to get into to see Sonny Stit and  Buddy Rich and so many! It was an amazing and rough place to be because there could be fights breaking out but Art being the strong hold there always made sure we were ok, his staff and the musicians! Thanks Michele Bensen. I know you sang on Harold's album. I have it. I have been in touch with his family and Harold's grandson came to stay with me and my daughter here in London. They are a great family and Harold is a true icon of Jazz! I also grew up with Kenny Karsh, his sister was my best friend so now you know and my Aunt Betty who ran the coffee houses in New York during the 1960's (The Bitter End and the Gaslight) was also shipping talent down to the Encore downtown from New York. I was surrounded! lol Jazz is so important for so many reasons.  I could talk all day about my memories but I am working on a book about it all.  One day we can hope Pittsburgh gets the true recognition and clubs like The Encore, I and II and the Balcony and what about Walt Harper's downtown and of course, the Crowford Grill all get their recognition. I think we should start that blue plaque sign like they do in England. They have a little ceremony and dedicate the plaque to those who lived there or whatever. In fact, I was in Carnaby Street not long ago and happened to look up and there on the building was a blue round plaque that read: "Here the Beatle's manager Brian Epstein lived from .... and it gave the dates. " Pretty cool! So Dr. Harrison, why don't we start doing this to mark Pittsburgh Cool Jazz History!? :-) 

Comment by Michele Bensen on August 26, 2015 at 5:27pm

Enjoyed your comments  Shawn Cohen about Art and the Encore. I have many memories of that place, of Art and especially Bobby Davis. The history needs to be spoken and written about for preservation for all of us and the young musicians coming up. Thank you for posting the video. Dr. Harrison's passion is shown on this Pittsburgh Jazz Network throughout. We are fortunate the he started this site for all of us.


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