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

Great article on Squirrel, along with 2 great videos.

Views: 322


You need to be a member of Pittsburgh Jazz Network to add comments!

Join Pittsburgh Jazz Network

Comment by WaltSimsJr on November 12, 2010 at 2:30pm
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on November 6, 2009 at 5:58am
Jazz sideman John Mosley survived addiction and hard touring life to play his horn for the Lord

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 By Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette John "Squirrel" Mosley, a local jazz musician, plays the trumpet at the Union Baptist Church in Swissvale. On the first Sunday in November, John "Squirrel" Mosley sat in the brass section of the Union Baptist Church of Swissvale cradling his trumpet and listening as other musicians in the choir reached for syncopated glory. Dressed in a white shirt and black pants, the 59-year-old Pittsburgh native could pass for a diminutive version of actor Samuel L. Jackson, minus his menacing glare and tendency to shout. Mosley discreetly dabbed the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief. He couldn't help smiling while listening to his colleagues. As one of the most acclaimed jazz sidemen of the 1970s, he was always considered a nice guy but not particularly self-effacing. He didn't get to record and tour with Roy Haynes and, later, Roy Ayers by being a wallflower. In the jazz vernacular, Mosley used to "cut heads" with his sensuous, intuitive playing. But that was a lifetime ago. These days, Mosley plays gospel music with equal passion but more discipline. Instead of trying to cut heads, Mosley wants to serve the songs with the sobriety that characterizes most aspects of his life these days. When he finally jumps into the glorious cacophony that is the Union Baptist Church service, you can't always hear his trumpet. Still, he's happy providing accents while other members of the 11-piece ensemble -- particularly the organist, the drummer and the guitarist -- contribute the main color. "It moves me inside," Mosley said when asked why he would prefer to play gospel rather than the straight-ahead jazz, R&B or Nu jazz he was once so royally paid for mastering. If someone could snap a finger and make his old life with all of its access to money and temptations magically reappear, he wouldn't be interested, he insisted. "The road wore me out," he said with a laugh and a touch of understatement. The road stomped him into the dust, leaving him broke and addicted to what he euphemistically refers to as "The Get High." He left behind several marriages and children during his descent. It was Baptism Sunday at the church Mosley has called home since he returned to Pittsburgh from his "wilderness wanderings" in the late 1990s. It is the kind of church where ushers of both sexes wear white gloves and personally escort visitors to their seats. On Sunday, the Rev. Robert Tedder, the church's senior pastor, conducted full immersion baptism of three members behind an altar window that gave the congregants a view of the ritual. Mosley watched intently as the three women, dressed in white robes, allowed themselves to be gently dunked in the waters of baptism backstage. He had undergone the ritual himself. Many years before that, he had so many dollars in his pockets that it ceased to mean anything to him. By his account, Mosley had nice homes in New York, Houston and Los Angeles. He owned three Saabs at one time, too. "I blew through well over a million," he said with a hunch of his shoulders. "I was making about $2,000 a week for about 10 years solid." He had come a long way from his working-class roots in Belmar Gardens. Like many musical prodigies, Mosley started playing at a young age and hanging out with musicians at clubs such as The Hurricane and Hank and Dawn's on Herron Avenue. The Crawford Grill wouldn't let him in because of his age, but he managed to catch enough of John Coltrane's final Pittsburgh performance by listening outside. It confirmed his decision to pursue music at the highest level possible. Mosley spent a year at the Manhattan School of Music from 1968-69 and summer classes at Juilliard where he joined the school's jazz band. In 1969, he transferred to Mannes College, The New School for Music, for the remainder of his three years of undergraduate studies. While in New York, Mosley met fellow Pittsburgher Art Blakey and studied with Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan. He also crossed paths with the great Yusef Lateef. Mosley married flutist Francine Wess, the daughter of Frank Wess, Woody Shaw's saxophonist. He began his years on the road with Haynes shortly after that. Mosley didn't enjoy the fruits of his labors, though. He spent more days on the road than living with Francine or the other women who would eventually join his ex-wives club. Although his children always had roofs over their heads, he was more of a rumor than an active presence in their lives. In the mid-'70s, Mosley was also regularly gigging with the Isley Brothers and playing with the house band at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Cheetah Club on 52nd and Eighth Avenue in midtown. He began his very lucrative collaboration with Ayers during this time, but things with Francine had disintegrated. In one of the great ironies of his life, the trumpeter recalls playing a club in August 1973 when a New York Times photographer took his picture and splashed it across the cover of the Times' entertainment section. The photo captured Mosley in a happy mood because he was celebrating the birth of his daughter Nicole, who had been born to Francine earlier that day. He no longer has the photo, but he still has fond memories of an era when he was an ambitious but happy family man. In 1980, Mosley moved back to Pittsburgh after separating from Francine. After a short time here to collect his thoughts, he moved to Houston, got married, had a son and started his own band called Reflections before changing its name to The Jazz Merchants. The bulk of his money continued to come from playing with Ayers. It was during this period that the women the road offered and "The Get High" began getting to Mosley. "It never interfered with my playing," he insisted, "but it did have me running late on occasion." Despite his acclaim and the many albums he has played on during his career, Mosley never recorded his own solo album because he was too busy being everyone else's in-demand sideman. Eventually, the steady paychecks with Ayers began to dry up, and Mosley found himself scrambling for other paying gigs. He returned to Pittsburgh for a short spell in the late 1980s to play with Roger Humphries, Nelson Harrison, Kenny Blake and Tony Campbell. He also had a small role in "The Temptations" movie that filmed here before heading out to San Francisco and later to Philadelphia, where he got a job with the Department of Health and Human Services inputting data. There was now a trail of heartbreak behind him. Along with a daughter in New York, he had a son in Detroit, two kids in San Francisco and a string of broken relationships across the country. He was no longer playing at the highest levels of the industry or pulling down top dollar, but he was still forming alliances with important musicians like saxophonist Byard Lancaster in Philadelphia. Still, Mosley knew he wouldn't be any use to himself or others until he dealt with "The Get High" that had consumed so much of his income and free time over the years. He moved back to Pittsburgh in 1995. In 1997 he decided that it was time to rid himself of the cocaine and heroin addiction that he admitted was close to wrecking his talent. "I've been clean for a while," he said. "I wish I hadn't spent so much time with that 'Get High,' though. I was also a little too loose with the ladies." Besides getting help at the former St. Francis Hospital, part of coming to sobriety was hooking up with a church with a reputation for helping people with addictions integrate back into the community. "I've known [Mosley] for over 50 years," said Raynard Ford, the alto saxophonist, flutist and founder of the Union Baptist Church ensemble. "He was the first to inspire me musically. He gave me my first flute lesson." When Ford started the workshop that became the Union Baptist choir, he recruited Mosley to help. "We're blessed to have [Mosley]," said Clement Payne, the group's conga player and percussionist. "His joy and exuberance shows the light of God that reflects from all who share their gifts." Mosley lives on disability in a house in Wilkinsburg that will never be mistaken for the homes he once lived in on both coasts. He's still in touch with many of the musicians he once recorded and toured with. He's in touch with only two of his four children, a situation he would like to rectify. But "The Get High" is a thing of the past. His only concession to non-Baptist behavior is a fondness for beer and cigarettes. At the church Sunday, Mosley watched intently as the three women were baptized. He discreetly dabbed at his eyes, perhaps remembering his own public declaration of redemption. When the music resumed, he played beautiful, melodious lines. He has found a good spot to stand in the world. He isn't looking back. Tony Norman can be reached at or 412-263-1631. "Listen Up With Andrew Druckenbrod" and "The Beat With Scott Mervis" are available exclusively at PG+, a members-only web site of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Our introduction to PG+ gives you all the details. First published on November 4, 2009 at 12:00 am Read more:

© 2024   Created by Dr. Nelson Harrison.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service