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

National Negro Opera Company House in Homewood. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. National Negro Opera House — once the center of Black cultural life in Pittsburgh — receives $500K grant Michael Machosky …

National Negro Opera Company House in Homewood. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
National Negro Opera House — once the center of Black cultural life in Pittsburgh — receives $500K grant
Michael Machosky April 14, 2021 City Design, Current Features, Homewood
For 20 years, Jonnet Solomon has made it her mission to preserve, protect and ultimately restore a national landmark, the National Negro Opera House in Homewood, named one of the 11 most endangered historic sites in the country.

But the Queen Anne-style building, constructed in 1894, is now in imminent danger of collapse. Solomon estimates it will cost up to $2.6 million to fix the house, and this week the Richard King Mellon Foundation contributed $500,000 to help stabilize it.

“This property once was the center of Black cultural life in Pittsburgh and a national artistic destination,” says R.K. Mellon Foundation Director Sam Reiman.

The house at 7101 Apple St. was home to the National Negro Opera Company — the first permanent African-American opera company in the nation.

It also served as a safe house. Despite their celebrity, many Black stars of the day were not welcome at hotels and apartments in much of Pittsburgh due to rampant housing discrimination. Great musicians, such as Cab Calloway, Lena Horne and Duke Ellington, and visiting athletes, such as heavyweight champion Joe Louis, and Pittsburgh’s own Roberto Clemente, found refuge there.

National Negro Opera House in Homewood. Photo courtesy of Architectural Afterlife.

Mary Cardwell Dawson founded the National Negro Opera Company in 1941, providing talented African-American singers with opportunities unavailable elsewhere in a segregated country. For 21 years, she trained students in voice and classical music, including jazz piano giant Ahmad Jamal and Broadway performer Napoleon Reed.

The home was owned at one point by Pittsburgh legend William A. “Woogie” Harris, who ran the numbers racket in the city, with his Crystal Barbershop on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District as a front for this lucrative operation.

“The uniqueness is really the events that happened in the house, but the house itself is a magnificent structure,” says Solomon, an accountant by profession who purchased the home with the late Miriam White in 2000.

R. K. Mellon Foundation leaders hope the gift will inspire other donations, and the restoration has been a draw for other philanthropic efforts in the past. Grammy- and Emmy-winning mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves formed a foundation to raise funds and awareness for the Opera House as its first philanthropic project, and has been instrumental in bringing attention to the plight of this neglected building.

Solomon plans to not only save the building but also to make it into a self-guided museum, with programming showcasing disadvantaged young artists of today.

“This has been a 20-year, life-altering labor of love,” says Solomon. “And I’m more hopeful now than ever that we can preserve this historic house and make it an artistic hub for the community once again. This gift is the catalyst that will inspire others to do the same.”

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