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

Comments on an exciting, young, entertaining music group: the Blue-hots

What's jazz? It's an innocent enough question.  Get together a dozen 
aficionados who think they know and ask them.  You'll likely end 
up with a dozen different answers.  Is jazz just something made up
on the spot? Can anyone play it? How is it different from pop? 
Can you play it wrong?  Is it for dancing? If the Blue-hots have 
anything to say about it, jazz is an ingredient in a much larger dish. 
But it's the main ingredient.  And the dish swings.

To understand the Blue-hots you would need to be reading this
from newsprint while sitting in a darkened leather booth 
waiting for the show to start in a Las Vegas
cabaret, with your second martini in hand.  Or you 
need to be clicking fingers to the second set of a smoky hard 
bop act in the Village where the beatniks are practicing prosody 
to the rhythmic cacophony, and the singer is putting away another 
gin and tonic before the tenor player reaches the bridge.  Or you could
just be where you are right now with a longing to be back in a time 
when live music was real and everywhere.  Maybe that is jazz.

The Blue-hots are based out of Pittsburgh with roots in Brooklyn,
New York. They are led by local pianist and songwriter, Ian Kane,
who skillfully guides listeners down stirring nostalgia trips. His songs
are sophisticated yet effortless, moody, hip, memorable.   Vocally, Kane punches
out the angular harmonies with Justin Macuga, a consummate 
professional baritone who looks like he just walked out of a Madison
Avenue advertising agency circa 1962.  Adding the third voice around
the microphone is Cierra Tyler, an alto with a dusty vocal quality
and the subtle grace of someone from the pictures.  

The Blue-hots are the backing band for several regional notables.
Ronni Weiss, the diminutive alto with a monumental voice, 
Marti Aggazzio, a kittenish singer who can 
captivate an audience, and Brayd, the simply-named native of State College, 
who commands the stage with a reedy, sonorous tone.

The band's repertoire reads like a random sampling of 20th century
American tunes.  Starting at 1950 and stretching thirty years in either direction
will give you the width of its umbrella.  They mix eras with ease.  A bebop
head may give way to a 1920s romp which then returns to the bebop head.
Time signatures and key changes are routine. Tempos and moods shift
on a dime.  Originals blend with standards.  Pre-1960 jazz influences are 
everywhere, like confetti in the air. Yet there is a clarity among these elements; a
sensibly designed presentation.  And it is to the credit of the rhythm section, 
some of Pittsburgh's finest, unheralded cats, that the Blue-hots are able to 
present the collage of musical brands that they do.  

In 1931 Duke Ellington said "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."  To most people he's talking about a certain kind of rhythm or maybe the importance of playing with passion.  But these readings tend to miss the full beauty of the words. Swing means the presence of something special, the click factor. It is the switch that goes on when the stimulus somehow connects us with the universe, or at least the cat sitting next to us.  It is the undefinable "it" factor that makes us tune in and keeps us there. It is beauty first and novelty second. It's the exhilaration we feel when we are made to run on all cylinders.  The Blue-hots aspire to reach that level of swinging-ness.  Like all of us, they sometimes hit and sometimes miss. But the Blue-hots listener is better for having joined them on their sentimental yet swinging journey.

So if you are afraid that so-called jazz has lost its traction among the youth of today, this group will at least plant a seed of doubt in your mind about that conclusion and at best will get our toes tapping, fingers snapping or your feet dancing with their shows and you will be glad you spent the time and the dime to check them out.

Jazz lives,


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Comment by Roberta Jean Windle on August 8, 2014 at 9:16pm

Wow. Kudos to the Blue-hots. Will have to share some ear time with the band.

Comment by ian kane on August 7, 2014 at 10:02pm

Time and the dime!

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