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

Local choir wins national prize - New Pittsburgh Courier Article

Written by Genea Webb
Wednesday, 27 July 2011 12:17

Last month, the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir won first place at the National Boys Choir Convention in Louisville, Ky., beating out three other choirs from Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, winning a trophy and medal.

“I am so happy and proud of my boys,” Pamela Johnson said. “This was a wonderful opportunity for the choir. They have the opportunity to become great Black men.”

According to Executive Director of the National Boys Choir Convention, McDaniel “Brother” Bluitt, the competition’s goal is to “create a greater awareness among choristers and establish a mutual network of choristers who have common interest and create a network to provide on-going annual competition nationwide.”

During the competition, the young participants learned the value of their God-given talents and established a national network of friends and colleagues. Brother Bluitt said the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir was chosen to compete in the competition because, “Their performance level of artistry had been consistently demonstrated over the past 20 years.”

Muhammad Ali Nasir loves being a part of the Afro American Music Institute’s Boys Choir.

“I love the choir. I can’t imagine my life without it. This is like a big, bright light. The choir opens us up to a lot of different music genres,” said the 22-year-old Pitcairn resident who has been a member of the choir since he was six years old. “It has taught me etiquette, chivalry, personal hygiene. It has taught me how to be a gentleman and we can in turn teach younger boys how to be men. This choir is a beautiful thing.”

Choir member Dorian Gooden agreed with Nasir.

“This choir has matured me,” said Gooden, an 18-year-old North Versailles resident who has been a member of the choir for two years. “Most African-American guys are doing something in the streets. This choir taught me discipline. I have learned how to listen to other people.”

The Afro American Music Institute Boys Choir was founded by Pamela J. Johnson in 1990 as a musical tribute to fathers on Father’s Day. Under the direction of her husband, James T.


Johnson, the ensemble has grown to about 30 members and is renowned for its interpretation of gospel, jazz, blues, pop, and spiritual music.

“I want to build the kids’ confidence and self-esteem,” said James Johnson. “There’s a lot of love between everyone that is involved with the choir. We’re just one big happy family.”

The choir has performed at local churches and festivals throughout the Pittsburgh area. It has sung outside of the Golden Triangle at Spellman College, the Civil Rights Museum and Canada, among other venues..

Choir member James Royce Robertson has fond memories of the choir’s trip to Canada.

“It was a great experience. It gave me a taste of what the choir offered,” explained Robertson, a 21-year-old Pitcairn resident who has been a member of the boys choir for two years. “The choir gives me the opportunity to be around more African-American men and it shows the positive impact to kids and that is great.”

Auditions are open to boys ages 8 and up. Participants must possess energy and a strong desire to perform.

(For more information on the Afro-American Music Institute or its boys choir, visit or call 412-241-6775.)

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Comment by Rev. Dr. Bobby Fulton, Ph.D. on July 28, 2011 at 6:13am
Congratulations to the African-American Music Institute, Dr. James and Pamela Johnson, staff, and all of the fine young men who participated in the Institute's Boys Choir, past and presently, for your excellent and great achievement.  

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