AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
BACK IN THE DAY—The Kenny Fisher Quintet, from left: Jesse Kemp, pianist; Wade Powell, trumpet; Tony Fountain, drummer, percussionist; Howard Russell, bassist, deceased; and Kenny Fisher. A renowned tenor sax player, who took his quartet to Europe, the Caribbean, and New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fisher grew up in the Hill District, attending Weil Elementary School and Schenley High School. As a teen he would hang outside the Crawford Grill, listening to the greats like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Later, he honed his craft from musicians playing on the street, and by studying with seasoned players at the Musicians Club in the Lower Hill. Long-time friend Fred Logan recalled seeing Fisher play with Max Roach at the old Diplomat Lounge in East Liberty in the early 1970s. Afterwards, he left Pittsburgh and performed with Roach’s ensemble in Washington, D.C. “Fish was ‘folks.’ He was for real,” said Logan. “In 2000, Fish gave a birthday party for himself at the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum and invited everyone to come—it looked like almost everyone did. The party was great. Fish was for real, and that’s the truth.” And the man who played with style, went out in style—with a full New Orleans jazz funeral procession at Mt. Gilead Church in Wilkinsburg, Nov. 2. Psychologist and musician Nelson Harrison was among those who sang Fisher to his rest.
KENNY FISHER “We gave him a tribute fitting a great musician and a great friend,” he said. “Walls can’t stop music, it reaches beyond. I know Fish was smiling at us. He’s up there now playing with Coltrane, playing with the angels. So, it was a wonderful day.” Joining Harrison, who played his trombetto, were tenor sax players Calvin Stemley, Carl Jackson, Lou Stellute, Walt Lowry, trumpeters Ed Skirtich and David Blane, trombonist Carl King, bassist Don Wasson, keyboard player Spencer Bey, vocalist Brian Wright and drummers Roger Humphries, Other performers included Dr. Kenan Foley, Harold Lee, George Heid, Sr., Richard Taylor and Tim Stevens, who played piano and sang “Amazing Grace” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Pitt professor, friend and fellow sax player Nathan Davis did not attend the funeral, preferring to remember Fisher “the way I saw him, to remember him as happy.” “It’s a real blow. We were close,” said Davis. “He was one of the first guys to befriend me when I came here. He was a great player and just a beautiful guy.” Davis and Fisher played together in the Pitt Jazz Band and later the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and Davis said Fisher always made time to attend his jazz seminars and help out students. “He was a great musician, I mean he could play. And he was always helpful and open to anything I was doing,” said Davis. “He was just a quiet dignified guy. I never heard him say anything negative about anyone. This year’s seminar just won’t be the same because he was always there. He’ll be missed.” One of those who’ll miss him is disc jockey and event producer Kevin Amos, who first met Fisher as a youth in Homewood. “I have known Kenny since I was a teenager. I have always looked to him as one of our Jazz Messengers and I don’t think he ever got the recognition he deserved,” said Amos. “He had a sound of his own, you knew it was him playing. He was an elder statesman, an outstanding musician, a good friend and I’m going to miss him and that smile he would always have.” Following the service, Fisher was interred at Greenwood Cemetery in O’Hara Township. (Send comments to cmorrow @newpittsburghcourier.com.)