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

Bellhop notes William Penn's history and grandeur

\July 6, 2014 12:00 AM

The chandeliers in the Omni William Penn hotel lobby glittered as bellman Darryl Cann pointed at the multimillion dollar ceiling. “Isn‘‍t it beautiful?” he beamed. Without missing a beat, he stepped forward and proceeded to the elevator. 

East Liberty resident Darryl Cann, 54, isn’‍t a tour guide, although he often acts like one -- as well as a waiter and a music historian. 

While rattling off the names of jazz greats who have passed through the hotel‘‍s revolving doors, Mr. Cann paused. “Can I get you anything?” he asked. “Would you like a glass of water?”

Bellman adds clarinet to tools of the trade ;


Darryl Cann, the clarinet-playing bell man at Omni William Penn Hotel, has made a name for himself by way of news accounts and even a Tokyo radio program. (Video by Ye Zhu; 7/1/2014)

Mr. Cann has perfected this pitch over his 10 years at the Downtown hotel. In one breath, he can recite a brief history of both the hotel and the city. His service has been recognized with three Omni Service Champion awards, a letter from former Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and more than 150 guest recommendations in the past year alone. 

Among those accolades are a few with star-studded signatures. When President Barack Obama stayed in the hotel for the G20 summit in 2009, Mr. Cann met him in the lobby and shook his hand. A Secret Service agent presented him with a pair of presidential cuff links. Another time, he encountered Lady Gaga wearing “normal clothes.”

Meet Pittsburgh's ambassadors
With Pittsburgh's rising popularity as a tourist destination -- the Travel Channel just named the Steel City one of the top 10 “All-American Vacations” of 2014 -- the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profiles a dozen people who help shape visitors' views of the city.

Leading a group through the building’‍s ornate halls, Mr. Cann sighed contentedly, “This whole hotel is my home. The lobby is my living room.”

Before he donned his Omni uniform, Mr. Cann‘‍s home was a mobile one. For four years he worked as a cab driver-turned-entertainer, serenading his passengers with his clarinet during traffic jams and long red lights. The music brightened the busy roads, and not a single customer complained of the danger. 

He used to play his clarinet in the hotel lobby, too, but that tradition retired with the old management. Now he finds empty ballrooms for fulfilling special performance requests. 

Inside the Bob and Dolores Hope room -- named after the prolific performing pair -- Mr. Cann ran one hand across the top of his clarinet case. “I can‘‍t wait to play for you!” he said with a grin. 

“Music for me is like breathing air,” he explained. “It keeps me grounded.” Mr. Cann can play five instruments, but the clarinet is his favorite because “it’‍s the closest to the human voice.”

Standing beside a podium with the inscription “Omni William Penn,” Mr. Cann performed a diverse selection: “Misty” by Erroll Garner, “The Flintstones” theme, the Steelers fight song. 

Almost every week, he also plays on Walnut Street, across from the Apple store in Shadyside, 

For all his attachment to the Omni William Penn, Mr. Cann doesn‘‍t think he’ll be working there forever. When he arrived in Pittsburgh from Philadelphia as a college student in 1977, he set out to explore the city. When the opportunity arises, he’ll be ready for the next job.  

“This is a big world,” Mr. Cann said. “There‘‍s a lot that I could give to and benefit from.” 

The last notes of Ella Fitzgerald’‍s “How High the Moon” lingered in the air as he packed his clarinet away. With a spring in his step, Mr. Cann rode the elevator back down to the lobby. 

Yanan Wang:, 412-263-1949 or on Twitter @yananw.

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Comment by Roberta Windle on July 6, 2014 at 11:14pm

Lovely story. Thank you for sharing.

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