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

NYT - Letter of Recommendation: Jazz on European TV - Thelonius Monk in Os;o

Letter of Recommendation: Jazz on European TV

Thelonious Monk in Oslo with the bassist Larry Gales in 1966, in a video preserved on YouTube. 1024w, 2048w" sizes="((min-width: 600px) and (max-width: 1004px)) 84vw, (min-width: 1005px) 60vw, 100vw" decoding="async" itemprop="url" itemid="" />
Thelonious Monk in Oslo with the bassist Larry Gales in 1966, in a video preserved on YouTube.


The language of jazz can be so lofty — so full of chord changes, musical virtuosity, “feel” and “pocket” and other ineffables — that it can seem, to the uninitiated, like homework. There’s a sense of responsibility that attends many attempts to become a jazz listener: Am I getting it? Am I hearing everything?

Here is a piece of advice for newcomers: Forget about getting. Forget, even, about hearing. Watch.

Jazz entrepreneurs have always understood the genre’s visual appeal. Celebrated labels like Blue Note, Verve and Prestige all developed signature graphical styles, and certain album covers — from Norman Granz’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” series to Charles Mingus’s “Mingus Ah Um” — have achieved the status of modern art. But with a few notable exceptions (the 1944 short “Jammin’ the Blues,” the 1958 documentary “Jazz on a Summer’s Day”), American film and television studios spent surprisingly little energy capturing the atmosphere and physicality of live midcentury jazz. The genre may be “America’s classical music,” but it’s been Europeans — all the way back to Gjon Mili, the Albanian-American who directed “Jammin’ the Blues” — who created the best record of these musicians at work.

In the late ’50s and 1960s, television was spreading rapidly throughout Europe. Producers needed content, and it happened that American jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong had been touring the Continent for decades, often playing to audiences better prepared to celebrate black artistry than those in the United States. The new stations — most of them state-owned — would present performances by jazz’s defining greats as major cultural events. Collectively they created a documentary record like no other: dozens of expertly staged and photographed concerts by heroic figures, captured at close range.

Many of these documents can be found in the DVD series “Jazz Icons,” though there are plenty of other riches on YouTube. On film, the players’ balance of intellectual and physical gifts can be even more stunning than on record. A jazz stage is always so visibly alive with communication and reaction: Watch Art Blakey perform in Paris in 1959, and you will see the sly enjoyment in his face as his latest protégé, Lee Morgan, vaults through a blazing chorus. And you will see Morgan, barely in his 20s, finish his brilliant run and step away from the mic, strolling over to his mentor for approval.

Likewise, individual jazz musicians always have a way of showing their audiences how to appreciate the music they’re making, acting it out through their manners and tics onstage. John Coltrane exhibits the fuguelike concentration that his music demands, just as Erroll Garner’s permanent smile and bouncing fingers underscore his music’s elegant playfulness. I struggled for years to love Thelonious Monk, but watching him lead his classic quartet through Scandinavia in 1966 did the trick: Monk’s wild physicality is on full display, from his scruffy hat to his jumpy dancing on the piano bench, his stabbing the keys as if trying to surprise himself with the noise.

  • Subscribers make this story possible.
Support the journalists of The Times.

Even the staging can be revealing. Monk’s performance in Norway takes place at the University of Oslo, with the musicians arranged in front of an immense Edvard Munch canvas. American concert films of the time were full of psychedelic effects and focused on audiences, but the continental approach was reverential, positioning these players as highbrow artworks unto themselves, their improvisations ready to be studied like a painter’s brush strokes. It’s particularly stirring when you consider that the stars of these films are almost entirely black men, being greeted with the utmost high-culture respect during the apex of the civil rights movement. These austere, reverent dispatches from Europe are like scenes from an alternate timeline, one in which a generation of irrefutable musical geniuses was granted the respect it deserved, instead of fighting for life and livelihood.

In the late ’90s, when I was a teenage aspiring drummer, I would comb the jazz racks of my local CD store, searching through the latest remastered albums. Each came plastered with black-and-white archival photos of sharply dressed musicians, deliberating and composing. I couldn’t yet articulate why the music was so alluring to me, but part of it was those images, the atmosphere and intimacy they conjured. And no musician conjured more than Miles Davis: He surrounded himself with young visionaries, summoned an entire ecosystem of sound into being and then sat in its center, an inscrutable Buddha.

I watch him onstage now — perhaps at the Teatro dell’Arte in Milan, on Oct. 11, 1964, with his second quintet. Head down, he is almost in prayer. His subtly ballooning cheeks reveal the huge respiratory power behind that simmering, sneaky tone. His clothes are shadow-tight, his legendary band in thrall to his every movement. As a teenager, I was entranced by his intellectual power, the way he seemed to bend the air around him to fit his ever-growing vision. Now the man is more interesting to me than the god: I watch him and see someone who styled his hair and wore fine suits and took great care, like all his peers, to present himself exactly as he intended, exactly as he saw himself. His physicality completes the music, grounds it and makes it even more urgent. Thanks to a few European producers, he is alive again.

John Lingan is the author of “Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk.”

Views: 13


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

Join Pittsburgh Jazz Network

© 2021   Created by Dr. Nelson Harrison.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service