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

David Amram Is Still Grooving to His Own Beat

        April 22, 2014

Composer David Amram Talks About His Life and the Acquisition of His Papers by the New York Public Library

By Ralph Gardner Jr.
April 22, 2014 10:38 p.m. ET

Composer David Amram savors spring outside the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which has acquired his papers.Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

On my way over to meet David Amram, I contemplated what a wonderful thing it would be if you were accomplished enough that some library, but especially the New York Public Library, thought enough of your career to acquire your archives.

Mr. Amram is a composer, a conductor and a musician who is often called a pioneer of the Beat movement. And the library will be celebrating the acquisition of Mr. Amram's lifework over the next few days, starting on Saturday with the screening of the documentary "David Amram: The First 80 Years."

Later that afternoon, Mr. Amram will lead a free walking tour of some of the Manhattan locations that have played a role in his biography. And on Tuesday, the festivities conclude at Lincoln Center's New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where his papers will reside, with a performance of Mr. Amram's chamber music compositions.

Apart from the honor of being asked for your musical scores, written musings and doodles, there's undoubtedly the sense of well-being—especially if you're something of a hoarder as I am, and I suspect Mr. Amram is—in knowing that once you're gone your files will be stored in climate-controlled perpetuity rather than being deposited directly into a dumpster. 

So the first thing I wanted to know when I met Mr. Amram—he was dressed somewhat like a hippie college professor with multiple necklaces and trinkets hanging from his neck, including a deputy sheriff's badge from Pitkin County, Colo., and another one that said "London England" (I neglected to ask whether the neckwear will ultimately be joining Mr. Amram's papers)—is if it's a load off his mind knowing a lifetime's worth of work will be in safekeeping.

"For all of us," Mr. Amram acknowledged, referring not just to himself but also to his three grown children. "They call me up and say, 'Daddy, you should be on that show 'The Hoarders.'"

Unfortunately, I'll be out of town Saturday. So Mr. Amram gave me a thumbnail version of his walking tour. It lasted over an hour and we barely scratched the surface of his career. The official tour is scheduled for two hours but, due to Mr. Amram's longevity, sociability, and most of all spryness at 83 years old, I suspect it will go well beyond that.

Just to offer a brief synopsis of his career: He has conducted more than 75 of the world's orchestras, composed more than 100 chamber and orchestral works and two operas, been mentored by Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, written several books, film scores—including for "Splendor in the Grass" and "The Manchurian Candidate"—played jazz French horn among other instruments alongside Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie as well as with Willie Nelson, James Galway and Wynton Marsalis ; and counted among his friends and collaborators everybody from Jack Kerouac, with whom he presented the first jazz-poetry concerts in New York City in the '50s, to Pete Seeger and Hunter S. Thompson.

An assortment of Mr. Amram's many necklaces and trinkets (Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal)

The Pitkin County shield was a token of appreciation from Sheriff Bob Braudis after Mr. Amram played at Mr. Thompson's 2005 funeral, with Johnny Depp on guitar.

Our tour began opposite La Guardia High School, conveniently located directly across the street from the Library for the Performing Arts, though shrouded in scaffolding. That is where Mr. Amram collaborated with the dancer and choreographer Jacques d'Amboise in the early '90s.

"He'd get thousands of school kids and create a ballet they could do even if they didn't dance," Mr. Amram recalled. "I was the composer. He got Judy Collins and Phil Donahue and he'd put them into the ballet story."

Judy Collins I could understand. But Phil Donahue?

"Phil Donahue was an excellent tap dancer," Mr. Amram explained.

Our next stop was 243 W. 63rd St., where Thelonious Monk lived when Mr. Amram, all of 24 years old, was summoned in the fall of 1955.

"'Monk wants to meet you. He digs your playing,'" Mr. Amram said he was told.

The musician went on: "I almost passed out. But he was so nice. He said, 'Give me your number and I'll call you.' And sure enough he did."

Our next stop was Avery Fisher Hall, where—in 1966—Leonard Bernstein selected Mr. Amram as the New York Philharmonic's first composer in residence. In a biographical aside that should offer hope to anyone who feels his or her career is stalled, Mr. Amram said that just before landing that most prestigious of gigs, his finances were sufficiently precarious that he was considering another career, or at least moonlighting.

"I was about to go to bartending school," he remembered, "and I got an announcement saying I'd been chosen as the first composer in residence for the New York Philharmonic. I was staggered."

Mr. Amram's children seem to be following in his footsteps, and now they have more time on their hands since they won't be responsible by themselves for preserving his legacy.

"I thought they'd become stockbrokers," he said. "They all have their own bands and their own genres of music. Sometimes I sit in with them.

"They're loving what they do, and that's my greatest pride," he added. "And if they can put up with you, that's huge."


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Comment by Roberta Windle on June 20, 2014 at 10:26pm

Wonderful & amazing stuff!

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