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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: 385

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Comment by Kevin Amos on March 9, 2011 at 7:53pm

I am currently working on an article to adress this current state of radio. All of radio is changing due to many factors that the consumer is not aware of. 

I constantly do research on the Jazz scene as well as other musics and have done so for years. It's part of my background that a lot of folks don't respect or want to ignore.  I am more than a DJ or a MC.

Despite my years in non-comercial radio and on the air at WYEP and WDUQ I do know the history and how this whole mess has evolved. The other media folks who have been doing these stories will not interview me because I will not gloss over things but tell it like it is.

I have marketed the music sucessfully to the masses as well and continue to do so.I have also commented on the current radio wars here in addition to the state of Jazz and on my program. You and I sat on a panel for a national gathering just this past summer.

Posting comments won't encourage anyone to come to the yearly event I do. You come if you are interested in the subject matter and the panels. The schedule and the topics for this year are being developed and people get go to the blogpage for updates and to register.

 

No one here has even approached presenting what I do and how I bring folks together in a non-biased, anti-ego fourm. Who? Tony? Bob? I will say that I will address this whole radio manipulation at the conference. They are invited to take part if they wish. 

I post things constantly but people don't get it until it is too late. I am in favor of saving Jazz on the radio... period. I am very opposed to having someone dictate to me though the airwave to how and what I am to listen to as well as not tell the truth about the history of the music my culture created. Screw that. As you know Doc, this politics of culture is not something to be taken lightly (no pun intended).  This is no game.

 

I was insultted by the statements you made. Go back and look at that article again.

Comment by Phat Man Dee on March 8, 2011 at 7:25pm
I hear what Kevin and Joe are saying..... I think I have heard great jazz on WRCT and WPTS..... and though I am a member of DUQ, have been on and off for years, they haven't once played any of my discs. WRCT has had me and my musicians live on the air in the studio, but I don't know. It is a little concerning that YEP is buying it, I hadn't heard that. I still cry when I think of all those jazz records and tapes that used to line their walls that are now just gone gone gone.
Comment by Kevin Hurst, Sr. on March 8, 2011 at 3:02am
WDUQ was the jazz radio station that really helped me tie up loose ends and fill in the holes back at my days at PITT in 1975-1979! 4 hrs of jazz in the morning and 4 hrs in the evening and a jazz Alive concert was 'responsible' jazz radio. Different DJs who gave historical , contemporary as well as current perspectives in their offerings. When I came back to Harrisburg i missed it and frequently visited Pgh and listened. DUQ was a godsend . Hbg got the Temple jazz station in the late 80s and it was jazz 24/7 since 1965! Well a classical station frequency was bought, they donated their recordings to Temple. A resulting membership drive some said to withhold donating to keep it jazz and the classical listeners kicked in more money! Noe Hbg has 3 classical stations in the day and jazz is played on Temple at night! I joined the local pbs WITF that played mostly classical and a little jazz in appreciation to DUQ, Sesame Street etc.all are important and need support. I joined temple also but stopped as priorities and relocation warranted joining DUQ. Now the station will be a different format, when the frequency is sold the commitment to jazz will change!- kev
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on March 8, 2011 at 12:39am

Kevin,

 

As one who has been playing jazz on the air for well over 30 years through many of the programming changes at WDUQ, WYEP (which you used to manage) and now WCXJ where you still hold the blood-stained banner high, you probably know more about the state of jazz radio locally and nationally than me or anyone.  Rather than be insulted, why don't you add some comments that will educate us more so we can get up to speed.  Doing so may inform many to come to your Forum that you host and perhaps get some increased coverage for the Forum.  Why waste your energy being insulted when your experienced opinion is needed most?

Comment by Boomer The Dog on March 7, 2011 at 8:19pm
The niche is back..

Public Radio does want to put more focus on news, it's a trend because commercial media news has gone to more opinion based stories, and away from hard news and in-depth reporting, and so public radio sees an opportunity to fill the gap in news programming. It's not to just create a need and then fill it, the stats say that people are going to public media for news more these days.

I'm hoping that WDUQ could continue with jazz, I don't want to be pessimistic about it, but most times when a radio station changes hands, there's a format change not far behind. That's part of the economics of the radio business, what formats that a market will support, and how valuable the properties (radio stations) are at any given time.

Radio is like a living thing that constantly evolves, and right now it doesn't have the lock on music programming that it once did. I see it as in decline, waiting for the next big innovation in programming to come along.

Radio was king of all broadcast media until TV came along. It had everything, music, news, public affairs, comedy, drama and quiz shows. It was a shock to the system when TV came around, because then most of the programs and personalities moved to the new medium.

There was disillusionment in the radio space for a while, but then came the rise of the DJ and music formats. A few decades later, music started to move to FM, and by the 80s, AM had gone to talk formats. I see what happened at WQEX channel 16, WAMO, and now WDUQ as just another adjustment, as times are tough in radio, and all of the traditional media really. Stations can no longer rest on their history, everyone is scrambling more now.

I would think an opportunity would be for some smaller station to dedicate itself to jazz full time, with an owner/leader who lives local jazz, is in touch with everything, and hits the streets doing interviews, doing remotes from live shows (not at all costly with today's technology). It would be all local, which is where Sirius/XM and iplayers, and to an extent internet streaming are failing at the moment.

Being a 'category killer' with passion, knowledge, and dedication is a good place to start to reinvent and build again, in my opinion.

Boomer
Comment by karla Gilchrist on March 7, 2011 at 8:14pm
As a new PGHian,  I was sad when we lost wamo, a station my parents listened to.   We shouldnt have to lose another ,being a person of black culture..  As many of us that are here we have nothing to listen to.  I enjoy jazz also.  Shouldnt we have something to listen too?       Thanks for listening and God bless  Karla
Comment by Joe Briggs on March 7, 2011 at 7:18pm
WYEP's involvement in this deal worries me. I have seen what has happened with their programming over the years. Music that didn't fit into their "Indie Pop" mold, such as jazz, bluegrass, folk,country, Cajun, zydeco,and latin, has been systematically eliminated or marginalized. I'm also afraid they would just as soon not have another public station playing music.
Comment by Kevin Amos on March 7, 2011 at 6:02pm
Nelson...WDUQ is not the only station that programs Jazz. You with your comments have insulted all of us who are still on the air.

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