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

Paying Tribute to One of Pittsburgh’s Female Jazz Pioneers

University of Pittsburgh to Host Cyber Symposium on Mary Lou Williams

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Pittsburgh pianist and jazz legend Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) will be the focus of a cyber symposium hosted by the University of Pittsburgh—which will use Internet2 and PittNet to engage musicians and scholars around the country—from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 12.
The national symposium, which will be streamed live at, was conceived by Geri Allen, associate professor of music and director of Pitt’s Jazz Studies Program. It will feature improvised piano duets by pianists in studios hundreds of miles apart, a portion of a work-in-progress film on Williams, and panel discussions with university scholars. Participants at five venues will partake in the online event simultaneously. This is one of the first times Pitt has used the Internet2 Network for an arts-related event.
Williams, who grew up in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements for Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and many others at a time when there were few female arrangers. Allen researched Williams as an ethnomusicology student here at Pitt in 1982.
“I met Father Peter O’Brien at the Mary Lou Williams Foundation around that time,” said Allen, who will be a symposium participant. “He generously shared her scores and recordings with me over the years, and Mary Lou’s sisters and other family members in Pittsburgh have also been very generous and supportive, sharing stories about one of our pivotal American musicians.

My brother, Mount Allen, of San Francisco Jazz, told me about the Internet2 technology and inspired the idea to engage a specialized group of Mary Lou Williams scholars and artists to further explore her important contributions,” she added. 

Williams donated her piano to Pitt’s Jazz Studies Program, and it is currently on loan to the Senator John Heinz History Center.
The cyber symposium will feature music and/or commentary by: 
  • Geri Allen;
  • Jason Moran, musical adviser for jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts;
  • Harvard University Professor of Music Vijay Iyer;
  • Columbia University Professor of English and African American Studies Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of Harlem Nocturne (Basic Civitas Books, 2013);
  • Emory University Associate Professor of Music Theory and African American Music Dwight Andrews, who will deliver a talk titled “Mary Lou Williams: One Sister’s Spiritual Quest”;
  • Malcolm X Dean, a former piano student of Allen’s at the University of Michigan;
  • Rev. Peter F. O’Brien, executive director of Mary Lou Williams Foundation, Inc.;
  • Jazz vocalist Carmen Lundy;
  • Renowned tenor opera singer George Shirley;
  • University of Michigan Associate Director of Choirs and Assistant Professor of Conducting Eugene Rogers; and
  • Excerpts of a film by Carrie Mae Weems.
The symposium is being hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Additional support comes from the San Francisco Jazz Organization, Emory University, the University of Michigan, Columbia University, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, and the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. Technical assistance for the symposium is being provided by staff at all venues. The live event will be recorded and later be made available for viewing online.
The symposium will lead up to a Mary Lou Williams tribute event that will run March 13-15 at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse in New York City. “A Conversation with Mary Lou: Geri Allen Celebrates Mary Lou Williams” will feature Allen playing original music of her own and of Williams and vocalist Carmen Lundy bringing Williams’ words to life through song and dialogue scripted by author Farah Jasmine Griffin, all under the direction of Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor S. Epatha Merkerson.

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