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 was just returning to 'The Village', walking over to my friend Matt to say hello and he informed me a few minutes ago that Derrick Finch was lost to us in a car accident. My breath literally leapt from my chest. I knew Derrick Finch quite well here in Los Angeles. I called him Dr. He stumbled over the correct pronunciation of my name... it was an inside joke we shared - and we shared it about a week ago here in Leimert Park.
Dr. Finch was a brilliant man. He loved Jazz. HE LOVED JAZZ. His musicality was singular - one could tell in a very few notes when Dr. Finch was playing. He was full of life, happy and always smiling. His music was like that too. Matt and I were just musing about him 2 weeks ago, because we hadn't seen him since the new year had begun... smiling at the growth in character and musicianship and scholarship we had been so honored to witness and share with him. And happy to that we are all a part of this tremendous and brilliant musical family... how nice it is to know him. And to have had the absolute honor to play with him is an ever-evolving gift. I learned something new each and every time I sang with him. His gift of accompaniment is so dear and special for a vocalist. I still remember certain sets we played as next level - type experiences.
From Leimert Park in Los Angeles, we send love and condolences to his family and loved ones.
He will be missed immensely.
Below, is a bit of video of Dr. Finch at the Benefit/Healing Gathering for Nate Morgan, December 26, 2008 @ The World Stage, Leimert Park... he comes in @ about 2:26
Remember to tell those your love that you love them.