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
SmallsLIVE/Mezzrow Newsletter
May 28th, 2018
Dear Friends:

There is a Zen koan which asks; "how do you step forward from atop a 100 foot pole?".  This koan always makes me think about jazz and particularly my beloved teacher Harry Whitaker.  Harry never prepared for a gig - didn't pass out charts with complex arrangements.  He always hired a group that he knew could empathize with him directly - mind to mind.   He'd click his fingers on a tempo and GO!   The tunes he played would be familiar - blues, Woody n' You, but the tune didn't matter.  That was just his framework, it was the spontaneous moment that Harry embraced - the place where anything's possible.  He was free.  This kind of spontaneous, no-thought jazz is a rare style these days.  It's rare that I hear a band that comes into Smalls and just blows, but there are a few.  I never want to be the one who says one style is more significant than another but in my heart, I just want to shimmy up the top of that pole then look out at the vista before me and then...jump into the unknown!   You never know, you may wind up flat on the sidewalk, a real mess.  Or, to your surprise, you may discover that you can fly.  Then you can soar with the great dragons, catching the vapors and riding them with grace and confidence.  True jazz mastery.  It's hard work to get to the top of that pole, no doubt.  It may take years and years of climbing and let's say you actually  get there - you made it to the top.  Well, now what?  I hear many musicians who have climbed that pole quite well but then got stuck up at the top and now cling desperate and terrified.  I want to be like my man Harry, smile like the Cheshire Cat, close my eyes and just lay back - what happens happens and that's jazz.


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Comment by E Van D on May 29, 2018 at 8:37pm
Agree both. Spontaneity creates surprises and a language that needs no words. Melody, harmony, rhythm, and anything else thrown into the mix like abstract painting or sculpture. Space, color, structure. No words required.
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on May 29, 2018 at 8:15pm

Yes, yes to both comments! Take one more jump off the pole.  It is not really necessary to name the key or count of the tempo outside of the tune actually.  Everything that needs to be said can be said with your instrument without any verbal set-up at all.  Music is it's own language and is completely able to communicate among others who undestand the language.  That's why the great players are great storytellers. Need no more be said.

Comment by E Van D on May 29, 2018 at 8:03pm
Spike might as well be describing my old friend and tenor sax player Scott Hamilton. Check out Scott Hamilton Live at Smalls 2013 CD. Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Rosanno Sportiello piano, Hassan Shakur bass, Chuck Riggs drums. Scott "just blows." Band "flies" off the top of the pole. Live at Smalls series.
Comment by Bob Garvin on May 29, 2018 at 7:51pm

One of the explanations I have given to friends who don't understand the appeal jazz has for me is this; If 6 jazz musicians (piano, bass, drums, guitar, tenor, horn) who never met each other  show up in a club and are asked to play, one names a tune, another calls out the key, another sets the tempo, and away they go. Each one solos, improvising on the chord structure. They're able to  harmonize together, with no discordant notes, providing a musical interlude that has never been heard before and will never be played exactly that way again. Listeners have just had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Contrast this with an assembly of a large group of the most expert classical musicians and ask them to play anything by Mozart or Beethoven. After blank stares, they'd ask who was going to conduct and where the sheets of music were. Without them, they couldn't perform. As wonderful as classical music is, the aim of most conductors and moat orchestras is to perform music on each occasion exactly as written by the composer. The tympanist and oboist are not allowed to add anything extra. The spontaneity of jazz is what adds so much to the excitement of live performances.. 

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