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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
Sale of WDUQ raises concerns that the format could change
Sunday, March 06, 2011

What would Pittsburgh sound like without jazz on the radio?

"It shoots a hole in the soul of Pittsburgh," said local jazz musician Nelson Harrison. "You knock WDUQ off and we have nothing."

Pittsburgh has given the world more than its fair share of jazz talent over the years -- Art Blakey, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Strayhorn, Ahmad Jamal and too many others to name. For a city of its size, it has maintained a solid local jazz scene over the years, along with a jazz station -- something many places don't have.

Now the pending sale of Duquesne University station WDUQ-FM raises the question of how much jazz will be part of the new format, or whether it will be part of it at all.

Two Facebook pages have launched in the past weeks -- Save Our WDUQ and Keep Jazz on Pittsburgh Radio -- as lobbying efforts to keep jazz intensify across the region.

While myriad options exist today to hear jazz over the airwaves -- on Sirius-XM Satellite radio or streamed over the Internet -- only local jazz programming can support and promote musicians, live jazz and nonprofit jazz organizations across the city, supporters say.

"Jazz is a part of Pittsburgh's heritage," said Shirley Tucker of Oakland, a WDUQ sustaining member who said she won't continue her support if the current mix of news and jazz doesn't continue.

"Along with New Orleans and Chicago, it's the birthplace of jazz," she said, adding that she values having local hosts "who know what they're talking about and have insight into what they're playing."

Duquesne University board of directors in January announced that they had agreed to sell the license to Essential Public Media, a joint venture of WYEP-FM (91.3) and Colorado-based Public Radio Co., a nonprofit formed by Public Radio Capital.

The prospective buyers are poised to preserve the 90.5 frequency as a public radio station and have expressed a strong commitment to sustaining news and information in the tradition of WDUQ's current National Public Radio and local news coverage. But they have yet to give specifics on jazz programming.

"We plan to continue jazz" on the new station, WYEP board president Marco Cardamone said last week. The buyers are raising funds to put together the $6 million sale price, along with other required processes related to the sale. This phase of the deal is expected to be completed by mid-April.

Once the prospective owners send to the Federal Communications Commission their application to purchase the license, the FCC will set a 30-day period to accept comments from the public before ruling on the license transfer.

Keeping jazz on the new station could mean many things. It could be a weekend jazz show instead of the current daily schedule. It could mean turning to alternatives to mainstream broadcasting -- like online streams or HD radio.

But many local jazz fans fear the current amount of local jazz programming won't be preserved.

Audiences for news and jazz on WDUQ are evenly divided, leaning a little heavier toward the news programming, according to station ratings.

During the latest pledge drive last month, about 40 percent of the pledges came in during weekday news programming, while weekday jazz programming netted 20 percent, said Duquesne University assistant vice president for public affairs Bridget Fare. That pattern is consistent with past pledge drives.

The money pledged for jazz programming helps to fund expensive syndicated public radio news and information programming like "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." The station spends about 70 percent of its programming budget on news and around 20 percent on jazz.

WDUQ also produces the syndicated JazzWorks programming, which features WDUQ jazz hosts and is carried on around 60 stations.

Nationally, jazz on public radio is losing ground to news formats, according to a December 2010 NPR survey of 500 public stations.

In 2006, public stations that carried jazz programming devoted an average of 13 percent of their weekly hours to it. In 2010, that had shrunk to 11 percent of weekly hours. Classical music on public stations across the country also saw a decline: 27 percent of weekly hours in 2006, down to 24 percent in 2010. News and information programming showed a 2 percent increase in the same four-year period.

Supporters say a local radio jazz presence has a direct impact on the viability of the city's live jazz scene, which has steadily eroded over the past decades.

Mr. Harrison, who also is a composer, teacher and clinical psychologist, remembers when there were scores of crowded clubs to play in, and radio hosts, including late jazz pianist Walt Harper on the former WHOD. Mr. Harper gave listeners rich background on what they were playing -- band personnel, history and context.

"It was on the airwaves. It was in the air. It was coming out of every door," Mr. Harrison said. "Now we've boiled it down to one radio station. If you take that away, you have nothing."

Except for a handful of clubs such as C.J.'s in the Strip and Ava Lounge in East Liberty, and presenting organizations such as the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, there's little live jazz left, he said.

The local jazz scene experienced a major blow in February 2003 when Mellon Financial Corp. withdrew its support for the Mellon Jazz Festival, an annual event in June that began as the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival in 1964.

WDUQ evening jazz host Tony Mowod has been hosting jazz shows on the local airwaves for more than two decades -- most of them at WDUQ. He founded the Pittsburgh Jazz Society in 1987, which is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of jazz through education, performance and community outreach.

"There has to be some place here in Pittsburgh where jazz can be heard," Mr. Mowod said. "Once jazz [on the radio] is removed from a city, it will never come back."

Many listeners are frustrated by the lack of information about the future plans for the station and question why Duquesne University went with a lower bid than the one offered by a group of station employees and supporters who wanted to keep the current format intact.

"Listeners are always told during the pledge drive that it's our station," said Mary Barr of Highland Park. "Then all of a sudden it's not ours at all."

She and S.J. Antonucci of the South Side started the Save Our WDUQ Facebook page, which has more than 340 followers.

"My hope is that the new owners hear what we are saying and consider what stands to be lost. WDUQ has won the loyalty of its listeners because of the jazz and the employees -- they're the heart of the station."

Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.

First published on March 6, 2011 at 12:00 am

Views: 338

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Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on May 5, 2011 at 1:33am

 

Jazz Lives members to meet with EPM tomorrow (5/5/11)

 

Talking Points to Support Jazz on Public Radio in Pittsburgh

  • Pittsburgh has nurtured many greats, including Earl “Fatha” Hines, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Eckstine, Erroll Garner, Dodo Marmarosa, Ray Brown, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Tommy Turrentine, Billy Strayhorn, Ahmad Jamal, Dakota Staton and many others. This legacy as the cradle of jazz greats is a pillar of Pittsburgh’s national reputation as a leader in cultural and artistic diversity.

 

  • Just as important as the roster of jazz greats from Pittsburgh is the extent to which jazz permeates the city’s cultural and artistic scene. It’s played in our neighborhoods and taught in our schools and major universities. Jazz is a significant part of our identity as a region.

 

  • Jazz on public radio in Pittsburgh is the catalyst for the vitality of jazz throughout the region. When listeners hear jazz on the air — and hear jazz events promoted on air — they’re motivated to attend those events and support local musicians. In this way, public radio is the most important local platform for jazz.

 

  • Jazz on public radio is available to all at no cost. Some jazz is accessible via other media, such as expanded cable TV tiers, but these platforms may be available only to those who can afford them.

 

  • A representative on-air presence for jazz would be beneficial for EPM, since a significant percentage of funds raised by WDUQ from individual listeners is pledged during jazz programming. Jazz programming will help assure continuity of listenership and financial support — two key goals for a start-up station.

 

  • While it helps raise funds for the station’s overall efforts, locally hosted jazz programming itself is inexpensive. Beyond on-air personnel, there is little incremental cost associated with jazz programming.

 

  • If EPM embraces jazz programming, it will be viewed as responsive to the community, an immeasurable public relations asset that will serve EPM well in the future.  
Comment by Kevin Amos on April 4, 2011 at 6:43pm
WDUQ and WYEP have additional broadband "sidebands" to utilize. They have not stated how those channels will be used. No one is asking questions about that. I had inquired about three or four years ago to folks at WDUQ about this and they lied to me. One of the questions to be asked is how have both stations really served the community directly? I'm not talking about a Sunday night Jazz club. That's an avenue for something else. I'm not talking about making an appearance at a Jazz event only if you are getting paid for it either. These are things that have existed and these are facts. This is what is going on for those who don't know.
Comment by Kevin Amos on April 4, 2011 at 6:32pm

Frank...no one is bitching. Just stating facts. Perhaps Jazz fans should seek or create an alternative source to keep the music going instead of waiting on anyone to dictate on how the music is to be presented. Now I can organize that.

Creating our own

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on April 3, 2011 at 5:51pm

Kevin,

Of course I didn't know that.  How would anyone know it unless someone made them aware of it like you have finally done? You have an opportunity on this network to promote your show on WRCT and to share your decades of experience in radio for the benefit of all concerned.  Your comments are always informative and we all need to be better informed by those who know what's going on and what has happened historically.

Comment by Frank B. Greenlee on April 3, 2011 at 11:07am
Why all the bitching about what was and who did what. The real question is about what next?
Comment by Kevin Amos on April 3, 2011 at 9:39am

Nelson...three of the entities you mentioned are on WRCT-FM, the station where I have programmed Jazz on my program for nearly 20 years. It's on every Sunday morning beginning at 6AM. The first three hours I play Jazz.

 

The statement from WYEP that surrounds their mission was changed from the original. Ask to see their public file or look at any old program guide prior to 1985. Their Board of Directors changed their mission statement and the by-laws. The original frequency was 91.5 and I was one of the individuals  instrumental in the power increase from 840 watts to 18,200 watts. Did you know that?

 

WMNF station members supported their station unlike what happened at WYEP. It's well documented.

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on April 3, 2011 at 3:27am

WYEP rating

WYEP, Pittsburgh first signed on the air in 1974. An independent and innovative, listener-supported public media organization, WYEP gives voice to quality music and provocative ideas, fostering an increasingly more vibrant, artistic, diverse and caring community. Broadcasting as WYEP - 91.3 FM, WYEP provides a diverse mix of music, news and public affairs programming to Western Pennsylvania and surrounding regions.

Comment by Boomer The Dog on March 24, 2011 at 1:33am
I read some on the WMNF station, and it's cool that they have been able to keep a community station going since 1979, and a high power station too.

I think going with an AM station could be an idea, because jazz generally has a sound that comes through well with the limitations on the receivers' fidelity. It's traditional instruments in the lower frequency range, with a good dynamic range. For those who think that AM is all for talk, you might be surprised how good jazz can sound on that band.

The problem in Pittsburgh is finding an AM signal with good night time coverage. If AM could be done, I think it would be less likely to be run off with by someone wanting the money out of it, and an AM station might do well as a non-commercial jazz outlet here. Daytime only though, I don't know if that would really cut it.

My thought is that WDUQ is going to drastically cut back on jazz, and there's no other station that can really pick it up to the level that WDUQ has established as the standard for jazz programming here.

It might be interesting if WYEP would switch their programming over to the WDUQ facility at 90.5, since YEP is an established brand, and I believe that the 90.5 signal has better coverage. That would leave 91.3, a lower power signal as an incubator for a news format that they might want to try. It's radio, don't be surprised..

Boomer

boomerthedog.net
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on March 23, 2011 at 11:57pm
Comment by Boomer The Dog on March 12, 2011 at 10:54pm
I'll remember the original WYEP forever, freeform, hippie and great, the type of radio I feel in my heart, street level, uncut radio. WAMO FM was actually the first station I got into when I found my passion for music, meaning actually sitting in my bedroom between tower speakers and listening to the sounds, trying to hear what the music world had to say to me.

I knew about some of the history, like their connection to Porky Chedwick and how he broke ground and also made his own alternative waves by playing B-sides of some records because he thought that they were better for his audience, and he made hits out of them.

In the late 60s WAMO had those progressive rock DJs who played heavy music, and they are among the first examples of that "Stereo FM" format I can find here, though I think the format really started on WZUM AM 1590 around the same time. I don't go that far back as a listener, but progressive rock was important in my history, and I found the sounds of jazz through it.

WAMO broke records into the market at times, and sometimes nationally. I think they were the first to play Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express, and also Champaign's How 'Bout Us, and possibly Tom Tom Club's Genius Of Love.

I didn't listen to WYEP and WYDD right away, because I couldn't tune them in very well, I had terrible interference here in the West Hills from strong city stations. I knew that they were on the air through friends who listened, but my radios were all cheap teen style pocket radios and stereos.

When I finally did get a good stereo I started to explore and could listen to WYDD and WYEP, and I could even hear WRCT just barely when they were only 10 watts!

WYDD was mostly album rock by then, but they had Jazz Impressions that I heard. 'YEP was perfect for me at the time, because WAMO was tightening their sound up, moving on to disco and more, and WYEP was the next step for me, with the loose format and wide variety of music.

It wasn't college freeform either, it was hosts from the community who were music fans themselves who did the shows. It was all local, they had a performance studio, and did interviews with local bands all of the time, like the Cardboards and The Five. I heard the sounds of what they were calling the 'new British invasion' at the time, totally new sound that made me go wow! Well, Bow Wow Wow was one of their bands.. :)

One thing that was so cool is that my high school class went on a field trip to WYEP's studios at 4 Cable Place, because my teacher was a big fan and supporter of YEP, so he gave us a funky field trip over there, while other classes were doing things like going to the Planetarium or zoo.

I don't know who was on the air that day, but I remember the host asking what kind of music the class liked, and he asked a student who they liked in blues, and someone said Blues Brothers.. :) Well they were a 'BB' but another kind, I would have gone for Howlin' Wolf. We got program schedules printed on blue paper, and left the basement past the stacks of musty looking records in the corners.

I don't remember much about WDUQ then, that and 'QED escaped me, because they were a mixed bag and quiet. That gave me the wrong impression when I was looking for something that I could 'boogie down' with, super exciting, vibrant lively music that was going places! Come to think of it, I don't really remember jazz on WDUQ in my first times listening, I think it was talk, and I was looking for music.

It just goes to show that radio changes so much, WDUQ and the jazz ecosystem is evolving. WRCT changed over time too. When I listened way back it was college rock with DJ beginners, and no one really talked about the music they were playing, and I couldn't really relate to that so I never gave it a lot of listening time.

I like that the station has more specialty music and public affairs programs now, but I still think it has an image problem, at least among those I've barked with about local radio and music. They seem to think it's 'that electronic music station' and I've heard that a couple of times. At least that means they have listened, that's what I think.

One thing that I don't really dig about WRCT is a disease I call 'iPod radio' where it's total automation, continuous music, and no DJ whatsoever. If more than a couple of people are listening to that, I would be surprised! Actually a lot of college stations do the same thing on their off hours. That kind of radio to me is dead and lifeless, but then you know from my background here what I like.

Long live WDUQ, if not the station, the spirit of it.

Boomer

boomerthedog.net

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