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, Parlanto 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.
The jazz pianist and jazz singer sat side by side, talking softly and exchanging memories. It had been 10 years since they last saw each other, and 15 since they recorded a full-length album together. Occasionally, the singer would break into song, and the pianist would pick up the tune and sing along.
But there was no piano present, nor a recording studio. The only background music was the beeping of a heart monitor machine, and air moving through an artificial respirator down the hall. Their managers and producers were nowhere to be seen - only doctors and nurses, who from afar kept an eye on the pair and the reporter sitting beside them.
It was an unlikely reunion in the most unlikely of places for Hank Jones and Abbey Lincoln Moseka, two jazz legends whose paths crossed again last Tuesday at St. Luke's Hospital.
Jones, 88, has been playing the piano for over 60 years. He recorded with Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, and played for "The Ed Sullivan Show" for many years.
The 77-year-old Lincoln Moseka grew up in Chicago as Anna Marie Wooldridge (a former manager gave her the stage name Abbey Lincoln). She came to New York in her 20s and sang at the Village Vanguard, later marrying jazz and bebop composer Max Roach (they divorced in the 1960s) and starring in several films.
Producer Jean-Philippe Allard jump-started Lincoln Moseka's career in the early 1990s, culminating with the 1992 album "When There Is Love" - recorded with none other than jazz pianist Hank Jones over three or four days. The duo have also performed on tracks for other albums.
Jones came to New York City in February after a few months in Japan, where he performed "a few concerts in Kobe" and spent time relaxing. Two weeks after arriving here, the problems began.
"It felt like indigestion," he recalled last Tuesday, seated in Lincoln Moseka's hospital room at St. Luke's, wrapped in a thick bathrobe. "I didn't feel any pain."
In reality, Jones had suffered a massive heart attack. St. Luke's cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Sandhya Balaram performed bypass surgery on Jones on Feb. 28, and he's recovering well.
"He said the only thing wrong with his room was there was no piano," said Balaram.
Lincoln Moseka was rushed to St. Luke's on March 3, not breathing and suffering heart failure and pulmonary edema (during which the lungs fill with fluid). St. Luke's cardiothoracic surgery chief, Dr. Daniel Swistel performed aortic valve replacement and bypass surgery and Lincoln Moseka has been in the ICU since.
"Her recuperation will be a bit slower. She's got more to recover," said Swistel.
Jones and Lincoln Moseka had no idea they were in the same hospital at the same time, but while Googling their respective album histories, Balaram and Swistel realized their patients' connection and arranged for the reunion.
Jones is expected to be at St. Luke's a couple more weeks, continuing physical therapy after being discharged. Lincoln Moseka's recovery is more unsure; she may still be in the hospital when her new album, "Abbey Sings Abbey," is released later this year.
Regardless, within minutes of seeing each other again, Jones, Lincoln Moseka and their healing hearts seemed to relax.
"Old friends should never get separated. A lot of years have gone by," said Jones, adding to Lincoln Moseka, "We should record together!"
"He always makes me feel special,"said Lincoln Moseka, visibly weak but smiling nonetheless. "It's wonderful to see him." u