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, Parlanto 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.
"I had 78 RPM recordings by Diz in college in the 40s, but first saw him live in the early 50s at the Midway Lounge on Penn Avenue. The Deuces Wild with Reid Jaynes, Flo Cassinelli, et.al. alternated with Dizzy's group that night …"
"Great comment, Bob, thanks for your input. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1971 to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I used to go to Sonny Day's Stage Door in Oakland where I heard Eric play with Spider Rondinelli on Drums and Vince Genova on…"
"Eric Kloss's father, who headed up the Pittsburgh Institute for the Blind, used to take this blind 12-year-old white kid to the Crawdord Grill which was a favorite hangout of mine . He was so far advanced that it was not unlike the…"
Worked in PGH for 38 years and lived on Mt. Washington for 10 years. Friend of many jazz performers---Frank Cunimondo, Michelle Bensen, Virgil Walters, Roger Humphries, Kenny Blake. Was a regular visitor to the Crawford Grill 2, Balcony, MCG, Zebra Lounge, etc.
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Great comment, Bob, thanks for your input. I moved to Pittsburgh in 1971 to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I used to go to Sonny Day's Stage Door in Oakland where I heard Eric play with Spider Rondinelli on Drums and Vince Genova on piano. I don't remember who played bass. I read where Spider passed in 2017, and I believe Vince passed years ago, from cancer, if I am not mistaken. I loved Eric's interpretation (including his vocal) of "Bye Bye Blackbird." Also, that combo did a fantastic cover of Sonny Rollin's "St. Thomas." I have the album "Life Force" (which includes "Nocturno") on vinyl, but nothing to play it on. I have been looking for "Nocturno" in digital form for about 25 years, and when I found it, I just had to make a video around it. I repaired a piece of furniture for Vince back in the 1970's. He was one of the kindest and most humble human beings I ever met. Everyone in Spider's combo were great people and loved what they did. A lot of great musicians would sit in with them here and there. Those were great days.
Michele with one L here! It's just by chance that I logged onto this site and you saw what I posted about my dear friend. Thank you so much for your very kind words. It's been a sad week so far. Chris and I had worked together for over 20 years here in Pittsburgh. I haven't been singing much. 2017 was very slow and I don't have any gigs for 2018 yet. I'm still writing and creating and hoping to feel better health wise. Would love to catch up with you at some point. Wishing you all the best, Michele Bensen