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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

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.

 

WELCOME!

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

There are two excellent pieces about Dr. Taylor. I had written a piece about him in the Courier but can't locate it at the moment. I'm also very surprised that no one up to this point has written anything about him on this Jazz Network. Shame on you all.

 

**

This following article was sent to me today by my friends Mr. Fred Logan and Mensah Wali. It is by Stanley Crouch who I usually don't agree with but I'm in agreement here.

 

Billy Taylor and the death of black culture

Stanley Crouch

Monday, January 3rd 2011, 4:00 AM 

 

 

When the jazz pianist Dr. Billy Taylor died last week at 89, he took with him something now symbolized by few black people in mass media or the academy.

Taylor was not a sellout to popular trends: He did not use the uninformed bad tastes of young people against them in order to become a famous musician or a prestigious scholar whose supposed importance is based on irresponsible hot air. Taylor was old school: He sustained a serious belief in quality as the best weapon a group can ever use against stereotypes.

As a black man raised in Washington, he grew up in the middle class. He picked Duke Ellington as a model because Ellington was always melting down the kinds of stereotypes of black people that BET and the imbecilic rappers it celebrates have been reestablishing in the name of "being real."

As an elegant, eloquent man, Taylor fought his battles by bringing the best that he could to his craft, his teaching and his public persona.

It was easier back then: When Taylor was a young man, the sort of compulsive vulgarity central to much of popular black culture was detested by blacks themselves most of all. That is why people like Ellington, Marian Anderson and Lena Horne were so important to black identity.

Taylor was a player of jazz piano who had a deep intellectual commitment to the art form, eventually attaining a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts. And, yes, once upon a time, there were actually black people who could play instruments on a virtuoso level.

One of the things that jazz musicians learned when Taylor was coming up during the '40s was that when one is in the presence of real talent, artistic or otherwise, one has to absorb and nurture it, not exploit it as quickly as possible with videos full of writhing women and faked machismo.

Taylor moved to New York from Washington in the mid-'40s and was soon being hired by players across a range of styles. He was called to work by so many because of his professionalism and ongoing willingness to learn the nuances of different styles. And he consorted with Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday - icons of American culture who, like Taylor, could never thrive in a crass age like ours - at least not in the way they actually did.

Taylor was the first black person who had a serious presence in the arts on television. On the radio program "Jazz Alive" and elsewhere, he presented jazz tradition and jazz experimentation with lucid authority, never stooping to the intellectual lows displayed by "commentators" on MTV, BET and VH1 today.

As a longtime teacher, Taylor believed in the promotion of the very best of the idiom he loved. He was not the kind of academic who peddled popular ideas just because they would get him on television.

Out of the American tradition of innovation and dignity that produced Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire and Duke Ellingon, Dr. Billy Taylor rose to make his mark on our nation's identity. Unlike today's culture of shallow and decadent vulgarity, what he presented and helped make many aware of will remain with us as long as our culture maintains any actual vitality.

  

crouch.stanley@gmail.com

  

 

Stanley Crouch's column appears in the Daily News every Monday. Stanley, who has written for the paper since 1995, has received many awards for his writing, including a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. His books have been widely praised and he was recently inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences.

 

 

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