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

Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration kicks off a big week of music at Heinz Hall

Ramsey Lewis Productions
Ramsey Lewis

Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration

When: 8 p.m. June 16

Admission: $24.75-$79.95, or $250 including to gala reception at 6 p.m.

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown

Details: 412-392-4900 or for tickets to concert; 412-322-0800 or for tickets to reception

Daily Photo Galleries

Music Photo Galleries

Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Ramsey Lewis and Marty Ashby know celebrating jazz sometimes requires a big cast.

“There have been times I have done eight or nine symphony dates a year and being on the stage with 100 people is a great thing,” says Lewis, a pianist who bridged the gap between pop and jazz in the '60s with hits “The In Crowd” and “Hang On, Sloopy.”

He knows how music can require small groups and even bands as big as symphony orchestras. It is a demand Ashby had to meet when he put together the “Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration” set for June 16 at Heinz Hall, Downtown.

“Any music lover can tell you about the amazing music legacy in Pittsburgh,” says the executive producer of MCG Jazz at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.

The event includes a fundraising gala for the guild before a concert put together to explore the jazz that has been a cornerstone of cultural life here.

The concert will be the kickoff to a busy week of jazz in the city. Trumpet player Sean Jones, who will be part of this concert, will perform June 18 at a concert in East Liberty sponsored by Chamber Music Pittsburgh. Then, the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival will begin June 19.

The celebration concert is a bit of a festival of its own, including:

• Lewis playing the music of great Pittsburgh pianists such as Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal

• A small group with trumpeter Jones and pianist David Budway, among others, doing original works

• Budway will be doing Billy Strayhorn's virtuosic, lesser-known “Tonk,” which is far from the harmonically rich ballads for which he is known;

• Singer Kurt Elling doing some of the classic Strayhorn pieces

• The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra backing up one of its bassists, Jeff Grubbs, doing Pittsburgh native Ray Brown's “Afterthoughts,” which is a kind of concerto-for-jazz bass

Lewis seems to like the direction of the concert.

“It is going to be a grand night in Pittsburgh,” he says. “Music is multidirectional, and my life has been multidirectional. My high school was very racially mixed, and I heard all sorts of music.”

For Grubbs, the concert, in some ways, represents the trip he has made in developing his appreciation of jazz — and Ray Brown.

As he developed his talents on the bass at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University, he started exploring the work of bassists such as Eddie Gomez and Scott LaFaro.

That journey of discovery led him to Brown, and when the chance emerged to play “Afterthoughts,” he jumped at it.

“It is not a work that is well-known,” he says. “I found one European recording of it.”

He says the work displays Brown's abilities as a bassist and a composer.

Jones also sees great benefits in the shape of the show. Besides the little-known Brown work and the performances by Elling and Lewis, the small-group section will present new works, which sometimes are passed over by standards-focused performers.

“You have to give people their money's worth,” he says. “You just can't give them ‘Straight No Chaser' another time.”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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