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 used to go to Eubie Blakes house. He was 95 at that time. I would go to his house and listen to him tell stories about African American life in Baltimore. He'd tell me stories about those piano battles because our…"
Born raised and embedded in Pittsburgh. Crescent Elementary, Baxter Jr. High, Westinghouse High and University of Pittsburgh.
Favorite Pittsburgh musicians/performers
Pittsburgh musicians are the best in the world. There are too many to name especially since I have played here for 50+ years. I have had the honor and privilege of playing with a few of the legends of Pittsburgh, e.g., Billy Eckstine, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Stanley Turrentine, Sam Johnson, Joe Harris, J.C. Moses, Dakota Staton, Lena Horne, Grover Mitchell and Walt Harper.. My mentoring came from Warren Watson, Joe Westray, Carl Arter, Eddie "Rabbit" Barnes, Sam Hurt, Harold & Jerry Betters, Jerry Elliot, Bobby Jones, Art Nance, Cecil Brooks II, Bobby Boswell and Ahmad Jamal. My teachers were Fanetta Gordon, Carl McVicker, Sr. and Matty Shiner. My favorite pianist of all is Ahmad Jamal. If I went further to include my peer group down through the young lions of today I would run out of space.
Favorite Jazz Radio or media station
WDUQ, WYEP (blues), WRCT
Favorite Pittsburgh Jazz Venue
The Crawford Grill #2 is my favorite stage to play in the entire world. There was also the Midway Lounge, the Hurricane, the Diplomat, the Ebony Lounge, the Crescendo, the Rendevous, the Florentine, the Loendi Club, the Local #471 Musicians' Club in S'Liberty, Horseley's, the Loft, Ramseys II, the Pirate Inn, the Copa, the Encore I & II, the Pink Cloud, the Pitt Pot, the Black Magic, the Tiger's Tail, the Zebra Room, etc. to bring back a few memories of the erstwhile clubs.
Ph. D. in clinical psychology, educator, composer, archivist, lyricist, arranger, ASCAP, playwright, speaker, photographer; veteran trombonist of the Count Basie Orchestra featuring Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Helen Humes, Joe Turner, Eddie Vinson, Dennis Rowland (‘78-80 incl. Japan tour); played with Dionne Warwicke, The Supremesm The Spinners, Eddie kendricks, and The Temptations (’64), Joe Westray, Brooke Benton, Earl Grant, Mary Wells (1962 – 72); Sonny and the Premiers (1963 – 67); Walt Harper (1967-70); Brook Benton, Earl Grant, James Brown (’67-68); Nathan Davis (1970-75); Lena Horne and Tony Bennett (‘74), Don Byas, Billy Eckstine and Earl "Fatha" Hines (1975), Barry White ('76), Kenny Clarke (‘79), Liberace (’77), Nancy Wilson and Melba Moore (’78), Sammy Davis, Jr. and Aretha Franklin (’79 & 2015), Perry Como and Johnny Mathis (‘80), Bobby Vinton (’81), Ginger Rogers, Jerry Butler, Teddy Pendergrass, George Gobel, Joan Rivers, Lola Falana, Donna Summer, Engelbert Humperdinck and Glenn Campbell (’82), Jay McShann (‘87), Slide Hampton (‘86), Nelson Riddle (’84) Marvin Hamlisch (’97) and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans (’98) also Jimmy Owens, Joe Lastie, Gerald French,John Clayton, Cleveland Eaton, Gerald Wilson, Slide Hampton, David Baker, Butch Miles, Duffy Jackson, Arnett Cobb,Geri Allen, Jothan Callins, Donald Byrd, Freddie Redd, Larry Ridley, Andy Bey to name only a few; inventor of the "Trombetto," a compact brass instrument with four valves that plays a chromatic range of six octaves with a trombone mouthpiece; played at festivals in New Orleans, London, Edinburg, Sacramento, New York City, Seattle; clinics and lectures in Santa Cruz and San Jose, CA, Quebec City and Montreal, Canada, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York and Toronto; scores written to movies by Georg Sanford Brown and John Russo and plays by Richard Wright, August Wilson and Rob Penny; lyricist of 125 bop standards; featured horn soloist avec vocalese with the Pittsburgh Connection Big Band at the 2007 IAJE Convention in NYC; nationally recognized expert on Pittsburgh jazz history.
Currently active in Pittsburgh with The Blues Orphans, Wee Jams, and my own The World According to Bop, Jazz ‘N Jive, Dr. Jazz and the Salty Dawgs, Blue to the Bone, and Nelson Harrison and Associates.
Discography: Live at the Attic (1969) with the Walt Harper Quintet (Birmingham Label); Makatuka (1970) (Segue Label) and Suite for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1971) (Tomorrow International Label) with Nathan Davis; Kansas City Shout (1980) with the Count Basie Orchestra (Pablo Label); On A Coconut Island( 1993), Don't Give Up the Ship (1995), Burgundy Street Blues (1996) and Honky Tonk Town (1997) with the Boilermaker Jazz Band (Biograph Label); Tuesday Night at James Street (2002) with the RH Factor, Don’t Give Up (2003) with the Roger Humphries Big Band; Moonlit River (2003) songs by Fred Moolten, (MGO Media Label); 21st-Century Musicism (2005) compositions by Karlton E. Hester (Hesteria Records); If I Can’t Dance, It’s Not My Revolution (2006) Anne Feeney; Schism ‘n Blues (2005) & Root Rot (2007) with the Blues Orphans (Staggerin’ Fitz Label) which are the first commercial recordings of the trombetto, Not from Concentrate (2007) Genie Walker & Harmonique (Hip Tip Label).
He is is cited in the Marquis publication Who’s Who in the East (1979) and received the Renaissance Too Magazine Professional Men in Jazz Award (1989) and the East Liberty Hall of Fame (1991), the Westinghouse High School Hall of Fame (1995), Evolution of Jazz: Bridging the Gap Mentors Award (2006), the Walt Harper All That Jazz Award (2008), the Legacy Arts Project Keepers of the Flame Award (2008), the Build the Hill Award (2008) and the MCG Jazz Pittsburgh Legends of Jazz Award (2008), African American Council on the Arts Rob Penny Lifetime Achievement Award (2009), Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) Jazz Heroes Award (2015).
NOTE: The following was received via email on August 19, 2008 from Ahmad Jamal
Salamo Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatoho!
For all those who think they know all the history about fellow Pittsburghers please note that Tommy Turrentine and Ahmad Jamal were room mates on the road with George Hudson.
I got him the trumpet chair with George and also got Jimmy Royal (one of my favorite bassists) in the band as well!!
Tommy taught me my first flatted fifth chord and we shared the stage at the Musician's Club (Local 471 on Wylie Avenue during many jam sessions there).
George Hudson was also from Pittsburgh originally and this was the band that housed me, Ernie Wilkins, Clark Terry and other well known musicians. This was perhaps Tommy's first big band hiring, the rest came later.
He and I were with George at the Apollo Theatre which was a first for both of us!!
Thank you for the fine information you have let me now about. i wish it could be broadcast on network tv and AM radio!!
The music (and your poem about Johnny Griffin and all your writings) are really fine and a breath of fresh air as well as blow for mental health!! I hope to get back to Pittsburgh again and look forward to meeting you (and playing with you) when I do.
I'm back from a week in Denver, hiding out again at the farm working around the clock on my new piano concerto for its upcoming premiere. My series of concerts for the Democratic National Convention took place August 22-28, where I was designated as the composer-in-residence. It was a real honor to have been a small part of the historic week in Denver.
My opening concert at the convention Sunday, August 24th was called....
"Outside of Convention- From Fanny Lou Hamer to Martin Luther King to Barack Obama: How the Civil Rights Movement changed American politics"
This gala event (free to the public in Denver as well as to the delegates and their families) was sponsored by Nation Magazine, the Democratic National Convention, the Denver Public Library and PBS, (both the English and Spanish speaking stations) who taped my opening concert as well as other events, including the August 24th program at Convention Center, which took place at the Convention Center the night before the opening of the convention. Over a thousand people came, and it couldn't have been any better!!
My musical contributions included my Three Songs for America, settings of speeches by John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy for bass voice and orchestra, written 40 years ago for PBS. The singer, operatic bass Steven Taylor was really exceptional. It was the best performance that the piece has ever received.
For the second piece on the program, I conducted the Colorado Children's Chorale (a killer 100 voice prize winning choir) in three pieces for children's chorus for which I composed both the words and the music, dedicated to three great musicians I have played with over the years. They are Native American master musician and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, jazz innovator Thelonious Monk and ambassador of Afro-Cuban music, band leader Machito. I conducted the chorus, accompanied by my Denver-based trio.
We also performed the premiere of a new piece "You Are Somebody Too" for which I composed both the words and music, based on the "I am somebody" statement of Rev. Jesse Jackson in a version which I conducted with the children's choir, based in part on the use of phrases by the people of Denver who were interviewed on the street by sociologist Dr Audrey Sprenger, for a film she created for the convention as well as for the Denver Public Library, documenting their statements ("I am a cabdriver,
I am a student, *I am a Bronco's fan, I am a future doctor, I am a proud father....etc)
All of these statements were sung and chanted, with audience participation, as a call and response, accompanied by my jazz trio, with special guest Jose Madera, leader of the Latin Giants of Jazz.
Congressman John Conyers was honored for his work in civil rights, interviewed in a discussion with John Nichols, editor of Nation Magazine, about the progress over the past sixty years of everyone's civil rights in America. Congressman Conyers is also a lifetime supporter of jazz as a national treasure (as well as his being someone who truly appreciates the symphonic masterpieces of European culture and how they relate to jazz as music which endures)
We ended the evening with my "Theme and Variations on Amazing Grace" which I performed on my Irish double D penny whistle, followed by the grand finale with my trio playing Now's the Time by Charlie Parker, honoring the early civil rights slogan "Our moment is Now," with audience participation.
I performed at a series of concerts for radio station KUVO in Denver with some outstanding musicians which was simultaneously broadcast by WWOZ in New Orleans, and at one of the late night jam sessions afterwards played with Hugh Masekela, whom I hadn't seen in forty years.
I also appeared at Red Rocks (a gorgeous amphitheater which holds 14,000 people). i was a guest artist with the bands of Jerry Jeff Walker and Willie Nelson. Earlier that day I presented a program for teachers and students at the Denver Academy, showing how the principles of musical construction in countries around the world could be used to teach geography, linguistics, social studies, history and developmental skills in all disciplines, and how a no more walls approach towards music (and life) helps us all in adapting to a global culture.
And between all the hectic activities, I worked in my motel room on my piano concerto. Composing into the wee hours every night kept me from getting into trouble!!!
I am now in relative hibernation, except for playing with Willie Nelson and his band for Farm Aid September 20, a few local engagements, and going to Iceland to perform for the world premiere of the film for which I composed and conducted the score "The Frontier Ghandi," created by Teri McCluhan, (Marshall McCluhan's daughter). The film will then be screened at the Lincoln Center in NY.
Other than this, I have a stretch of five weeks to work around the clock on my piano concerto, which will be premiered January of '09 in San Jose California.
I wish you extra energy in all you do, as well as joy and inspiration.
Best cheers always.
THEY CAN'T STOMP US OUT!!! Creative music and those who make it are here to stay!!!
Here is a copy of the opening program for the Democratic National Convention. I wish you could have been there, it was standing room only and a real thrill to do. Eventually it will be on PBS and You Tube
The National Democratic Convention, Nation Magazine, Rocky Mountain PBS and the Denver Public Library present
FROM FANNY LOU HAMER TO BARACK OBAMA A CELEBRATION IN WORDS AND MUSIC OF CIVIL RIGHTS In AMERICA
Representative John Conyers
Composer/conductor/multi-instrumenallst David Amram
Nation Magazine Editor John Nichols
The Colorado Children's Chorale
l. Three Songs For America for Baritone and Orchestra......................................David Amram
(Composed for National Educational Television 1968)
a. John F. Kennedy
b. Dr. Martin Luther King
c. Robert F. Kennedy
Steven Taylor vocalist
ll. Three songs for Young People. (1996) .........................................David Amram
a. Rabbit Song For Floyd Red Crow Westerman (based on traditional Lakota round dance melody Mastinchila Wachipi Olwan)
b. Summer Song For Thelonious Monk
c. Son Montuno For Machito
The Colorado Children's Chorale, Deborah DeSantis Artistic Director
Conducted by the composer with the Amram jazz trio.
Interview with Representative John Conyers and John Nichols
Music Honoring Jesse Jackson's Legacy
Variations on Amazing Grace- (2002) .................Amram (based on Traditional Spiritual)
David Amram Irish double D whistle
I am Somebody for chorus and jazz ensemble (2008).............Amram
(Based on Jesse Jackson's words and statements recorded by people from Denver. Composed for the Democratic National Convention 2008 )
Now's the Time (1945)---------------------Charlie Parker
Honoring the civil rights motto "The time is Now," The music by Parker and his colleagues, who were at the vanguard of the civil rights movement.
The David Amram Trio
Tony Black drums
Artie Moore bass
David Amram piano, French horn, flutes, percussion and scat vocals
Special guest Jose Madera, leader of the Latin Giants of Jazz, congas and Latin percussion
Hello my brother. Hope you are doing well and staying safe. I have not talked to you in so very long because I lost my phone and don't have all my contacts. Give me a call sometime man. Take care, Cecilia Valdez Washington
Hello Brother Nelson, thank you for the re-adding of me to this wonderful Pittsburgh site. It's been a long time and I needed to rejoin. Coming down this Saturday to play with Tony, hope and pray it's not so far and long that I'm invited to come back.
Dr. Harrison -- I'm a little challenged by this website where I see I inadvertently liked my own page (⊙＿⊙) Would like to say I was moved to read about Fred Staton and inspired to checkout his sister's obituary in the Times where the writer described Staton's voice as a "bright, trumpet like sound." What a legacy brother and sister Staton have left Pittsburgh and the world! Thank you.
Dr. Nelson, Days away from my 89th birthday, I have added a goal for my remaining time on this earth---to last long enough to buy and read your book on jazz in Pittsburgh. Will it include a mention of August Wilson who was so influenced by his 78 rpm record of Bessie Smith? What an ear he had for dialogue! I met him after a talk he gave somewhere in the Pittsburgh area and have seen several of his plays. I have a favor to ask sometime. Bob Garvin
Dr Harrison it has been quite a while but I am back and looking forward to meeting new friends here. I did send you an email today at the events email address. I hope to hear from you soon and hope that we can possibly work together this year at some point. Thank you for your support here...