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

The jazz scene at Eileen’s in Homewood

Flip through those images, and it’s almost as if you can hear the soulful melodies reaching you 35 years in the future.

We at The Digs lifted the lid off a box of color negatives in the photo library last week. It’s the first time we’ve really taken a look at decades gone by through color negs, and we wish we had started browsing these much earlier. Amid dozens of envelopes of fall shots around southwest Pennsylvania from the 1970s (expect to see some of that timeless color posted here later this year), there was one of greater interest: “Jazz in Pittsburgh, 10-19-80.”

Pittsburgh’s contribution to American jazz history is not as well documented as one might hope. The city’s two daily newspapers, the Press and the Post-Gazette, did not begin to pay attention to African-American culture in any serious way until the second half of the 20th century.

Cultural spots inside neighborhoods like the Hill District and Homewood were not major destinations for photographers and reporters (except for those who worked at The Pittsburgh Courier). That deficit in the PG’s archive made this single envelope more prized.

It provided a rare look into a scene that — at least in this particular location — no longer exists.

Because there was no other writing on the envelope nor negative sleeves, we must try to imagine what and who these photos showed. (And, please, if you recognize anyone in the frames or know someone who might, let us know in the comments or email

The scene: Eileen’s Bar and Grill, 708 N. Dallas Ave. in Homew  ood. T  hat much we found from old event  lis  tings.

The date: October 19, 1980. But that was a Sunday; that listing said Friday and Saturday nights in the Zebra Room.

I think we found the right place.“Zebra Room”? Looks like we found the right place.

And so maybe it was a special occasion — one worthy enough for a photographer to go check it out? Either way, take a moment to look at those photos.

Really look at them. The faces. The joy. The clothes. The styles.The bowling trophy. The instruments. The lights. That just-about-brand-new Pittsburgh Pirates 1979 World Series champions pennant hanging on the wall. We wonder where that ended up?

Then close your eyes. Hear the smooth and lively jazz notes filling the air. And the laughter. It’s hard to imagine anyone failing to have themselves a good time that night.

Open your eyes, and here’s what you see:

Eileen's Bar and Grill jazz in the Zebra Room

It’s all gone. On the side of the building, there’s a sign for a market that’s no longer there.

County records show it was most recently sold in 2012 to a business named EILLAV MEHCEB NAE, LLC.

The price? $1.

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Replies to This Discussion


Sad times!

Did you notice how well-dressed everyone was then? We didn't have much money but low self-esteem was not a problem then.  It isn't just the building that has been neglected and deteriorated since those times.


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