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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.

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words

(Native Pittsburgher) Marpessa Dawn, Eurydice in the Film ‘Black Orpheus,’ Dies at 74

September 27, 2008

By DENNIS HEVESI

Marpessa Dawn, who played the beautiful, melancholic and doomed Eurydice in the classic 1959 Brazilian movie “Black Orpheus,” died on Aug. 25 at her home in Paris. She was 74.

The cause was a heart attack, her daughter Dhyana Kluth said.

Ms. Dawn’s death followed by 41 days that of her “Black Orpheus” co-star, Breno Mello, who played the title role. The family did not publicly announce the death until this week.

Directed by Marcel Camus and based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, “Orfeu Negro,” as it is called in Portuguese, brings together an innocent country girl, played by Ms. Dawn, and a trolley car motorman and gifted guitarist, portrayed by Mr. Mello. They meet amid the frenzy of Rio’s carnival and are soon swaying to a provocative samba among the crowds. But Eurydice is stalked by a man in a skeleton costume. Eventually, Orpheus finds her in the morgue. In the end, bearing her body in his arms, he falls to his death from a cliff.

Reviewing the film for The New York Times in 1959, Bosley Crowther wrote that Ms. Dawn conveys “forthright emotion.”

“A pretty, frank face and a gentle manner that suggest absolute innocence,” the review continued, “gather an aura of wistfulness about her that filters down into a melancholy mood.”

“Black Orpheus” became renowned for its soundtrack by the bossa nova legends Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá, with songs like “Manhã de Carnaval” and “A Felicidade.” It won the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for best foreign film in 1960.

Gypsy Marpessa Dawn Menor was born near Pittsburgh on Jan. 3, 1934. As a teenager, she moved to England, where she had bit parts on television, and later to France, where she worked as a governess and danced and sang in nightclubs.

After her role in “Black Orpheus,” Ms. Dawn appeared in several less successful movies and on French television. She also starred in several plays, including “Chérie Noire,” a comedy that toured France, Belgium, Switzerland, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

Ms. Dawn was married twice. Besides her daughter Ms. Kluth, she is survived by four other children and four grandchildren.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 30, 2008
An obituary on Saturday about Marpessa Dawn, who played Eurydice in the classic 1959 movie “Black Orpheus,” misspelled the given name of her co-star in the film. He was Breno Mello, not Bruno.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 2, 2008
An obituary on Saturday about Marpessa Dawn, who played Eurydice in the classic 1959 movie “Black Orpheus,” misspelled the given name and the surname of her co-star in the film. He was Breno Mello, not Bruno Melo. (A correction in this space on Tuesday, which dealt only with the obituary’s misspelling of Breno, spelled Mello correctly.)

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Comment by Janie Gust on March 19, 2009 at 6:27am
Nelson, thank you for posting this and I'll share a few thoughts because I always felt a deep connection with this movie:

I first saw this movie as a kid growing up in the Chicago area back in the old days on Ch. 9 WGN long before they became a superstation and when they showed quality movies, always at 10:30pm after the news. (It was always the dubbed English version so I never heard the original language until years later.) We always got excited about seeing this movie when I was a kid and I always thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in my life (as so many others did).

In the early 90s I bought the VHS version and for the first time heard and saw it in Portuguese. And just a couple of years ago I bought the DVD with a few extra deleted scenes and both English and Portuguese versions and btw I prefer the Portuguese with the English subtitles. Plus, I purchased the soundtrack, the actual soundtrack that has many of the rhythms, chants and dialogue...even the wails and African sounding hymns from the morgue scene...so as you can see I am an Orfeu Negro afficianado!

When I visited Cannes, France back in 2001, I stayed on La Croisette and walked down to the Palais where the Film Festival is held annually to look around. And in the entrance where they have gigantic photos of selected movie stars, there was a big photo of Marpessa with Sidney Poitier! Her trademark long mane was cropped short and I found myself just gazing at the photo.

I had wondered what happened to her over the years or where she was living. And I do recall reading that she was from Pittsburgh and I found that very curious...like so many others I thought she was Brazilian. I am wondering whether she was of Brazilian heritage since she spoke fluent Portuguese in the movie. BTW, I read Breno Melo was a Brazilian soccer star and you can even see a scene in the movie after he gets off the bus where he kicks a soccer ball around with the kids for a few seconds....

Amazing that Marpessa and Breno died so close together. Please post anything you may hear about Breno's life. And of course the actresses who played Mira and Serafina! I never tire of this movie, sometimes I just play it for the audio while I am doing other things.

Thanks again, Nelson. Love this site...Pittsburgh and the jazz community in Pittsburgh have a lot of heart and history and it really shows.
Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on March 17, 2009 at 10:00pm

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