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

PJN member Kasey Daley Zell brings a NYC spark back home to Pittsburgh.

Steel City Improv groups to take laughs to NYC

June 27, 2012 12:00 am

The suggestion was peaches.

As always, The LuPones, a group based at Steel City Improv Theater that invents songs and scenes on the fly, had opened by asking the audience for "a word or phrase at the top of your intelligence or integrity." At Saturday's show, The LuPones were given the word "peaches" to mine for its associations.

"Peaches made us think of Georgia, which made us think of Southern belles and debutantes," said actor Connor McCanlus, 23. From Southern belles and debutantes they moved to Northern sex fiends, a baby with a face like peach fuzz, and Mr. McCanlus' character, a man who didn't understand women and left his girlfriend for a boy named Chuck.

"Our finale was 'Be Who You Are.' You may not be the smartest person or the most attractive person but you have to be who you are," he said.

The LuPones, along with three other groups from Steel City Improv, are riding that maxim from Pittsburgh to the improv stages of New York City. The LuPones, Blue Stocking Babes, The Union and AKA may not be from a traditional locus of improv comedy talent, but these groups were among 200 chosen out of thousands of applicants to perform this weekend as part of the prestigious Del Close Marathon at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre on Manhattan's West 26th Street. The event allows participants to meet top improvisers from around the world and take master classes taught by renowned New York performers. The weekend honors Del Close, a comedian who mentored legends such as Bill Murray, John Belushi and Amy Poehler.

Mr. McCanlus said there was nowhere to take an improv class when he was an aspiring actor at Winchester Thurston in Shadyside in 2007.

"Then when I came back after graduating [from Clarion University], I discovered this gem of an improv theater," he said. SCIT opened in January 2011 and hosts shows and classes throughout the week. Mr. McCanlus took an introductory musical improv class last fall and was invited to help form The LuPones. Now, Mr. McCanlus said, "I bleed for this theater because it's given me so many opportunities."

The LuPones are one of six musical improv groups to be selected for the marathon, and one of two from outside New York City.

Nicole Antonnucio, 23, had never taken an improv class before she showed up at SCIT in September for a Level 1 class. Before long she found herself performing as part of AKA. Although Pittsburgh's improv scene may not be a launching pad to "Saturday Night Live," Ms. Antonnucio said that there are advantages to training in a small, supportive community.

"In a lot of other cities there's a very systematic structure for improvement where you take classes and get to a certain level and then audition," she said. "It's very much a process. But here you're more comfortable. You can try things out and improve just by getting practice in a more creative and fostering environment."

Ms. Antonnucio said she moved back to Pittsburgh after graduating from Cornell University with the intention of leaving within six months, but she now credits the creative community she found at SCIT for helping convince her to stay.

Kasey Daley, 35, founded SCIT with her husband, Justin Zell, after moving back to her native Pittsburgh from New York. She wanted to stop fighting to pay rent and start paying attention to her craft. She also hoped to spread the life skills that improv teaches -- active listening, saying yes, trusting collaborators -- and debunk the myth that improv is only for the quick-witted.

"It's not just about being funny," she said. "Improv is about reacting truthfully and emotional play."

Benjamin Mueller: or 412-263-4903.

First Published 2012-06-27 00:07:14

Views: 97


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

Join Pittsburgh Jazz Network

Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on August 6, 2012 at 6:28am

Best Addition to Pittsburgh’s Comedy Universe:
Steel City Improv Theater
Baltimore, Philly, Washington, Boston, New York, Chicago, even Buffalo — plenty of neighboring cities have well-established homes for improv comedy. And until early 2011, Pittsburgh could not join them on that list; while we had talented performers, there wasn’t a go-to space hosting off-the-cuff hilarity. Fortunately, Steel City Improv Theater (SCIT) showed up to expand our horizons. In an intimate, tucked-away North Side space, SCIT presents between one and three shows every Friday and Saturday night, along with budget funny in the form of its weekly Totally Free Mondays showcase. SCIT also offers classes for improvisers-to-be. If you’ve only ever seen improv at Chicago’s Second City — or if you’ve never seen live improv before ... period — head to the North Side, where the group is ready to introduce you to some homegrown talent. 

© 2020   Created by Dr. Nelson Harrison.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service