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

Trombone Shorty Interview: “New Orleans All Over the World”

Ahead of Jazz Fest’s historic return, the NOLA powerhouse talks new music, pays tribute to his late mother, recalls his hip-hop beginnings and reflects on how his beloved city handled the pandemic. 

April 27, 2022 by 640w, 320w, 160w" data-loaded="true" />
Credit: Justen Williams.

“I make it a point to represent New Orleans all over the world,” Trombone Shorty tells me over the phone from Buckjump Studio, which he bought five years ago in his hometown and named for the glorious tradition of dancing at second-line parades there. He’s one in a long line of celebrated musicians born and raised in the Tremé neighborhood, steeped in brass-band processions and traditional jazz. At 36, he’s also a bona fide crossover star, having hit the road and recorded in Lenny Kravitz’s band, guested with Foo Fighters, opened tours for Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jeff Beck, among others, and appeared at the White House, the NBA All-Star Game and festivals including Coachella and Bonnaroo.

On the cover of his new album, Lifted, out April 29 on Blue Note Records, he’s just Troy Andrews, going on 2, brandishing a plastic saxophone as the Olympia Brass Band passes by, circa 1987. Here he is, in fact, lifted — by his mother, Lois Nelson Andrews, whose significance to New Orleans culture was such that her funeral, in November, was held at the city’s Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts (and followed by a large street procession, of course).   

“My music bleeds out in lots of directions,” Shorty tells me. On “Come Back,” the new album’s opening track, brief horn-and-sax bursts evoke the funk heyday of Earth, Wind & Fire; seconds later, the chiming keyboard and declarative beats sound like a Dr. Dre production. On “Lie to Me,” soaring horns (Shorty, overdubbed, on trumpet and trombone) and rumbling drums (courtesy of his alma mater, Warren Easton High School, buttressed by more from Shorty, on tuba) suggest a parade. On “I’m Standing Here,” a high-powered electric blues, his impassioned trombone solo gets answered by an equally searing one from guitarist Gary Clark Jr. Throughout, Shorty sings mostly about lost and found love, while hinting at deeper truths (“Forgiveness is easy/Forgetting takes a long, long time”). At the center of it all is Orleans Avenue, the powerhouse band he assembled while still a teenager.

At the 1990 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Bo Diddley pulled a 4-year-old Troy Andrews onstage to play trombone. On May 8, Shorty will close the festival’s main stage, a position of pride he inherited from the Neville Brothers. During Jazz Fest’s opening weekend, the diverse cast of his “Treme Threauxdown,” at his hometown’s Saenger Theatre, includes Clark, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Joan Jett. It’s a precursor to his star-studded summer Voodoo Threauxdown tour.

Shorty can’t wait for Jazz Fest — the first in three years, owing to a pandemic that kept him off the road and created a “terrible, eerie feeling” in his hometown. We talked about fresh uplift — from the new music, a return to touring, his mom, his band and his city.

That’s your mom lifting you up on the cover of your new album. How would you explain her role in your city?

My mom was a culture bearer. When I was little, she would tap rhythms out on the bass drum to me. She had so much music in her that it was sometimes hard to believe she didn’t play an instrument. The amount of knowledge and experience she had made her an important person to just hang around. She was also a person in the community who saw potential in younger musicians, who helped them develop their craft. She helped start two Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, including the Dumaine St. Gang, named for the street I grew up on. She let us know how special and magical this city is, and made sure we knew that we are a part of that.

Your band, Orleans Avenue, seems as close-knit and like-minded as a Social Aid & Pleasure Club. Is there a connection?

Definitely. This is my tribe. I put the band together in 1999, and the next day we had a gig at the Maple Leaf [a historic NOLA venue]. We’ve grown up together. It’s a blessing to be able to still play with those guys, because a lot of bands get new people for every tour. They might tour for two years and then go through auditions again. But these are my guys. With us, there’s a language we’ve developed. We can’t speak it in words, but we can feel it.

Years ago, as I watched you rehearse in the studio, you turned off the lights at one point. Do you still do that?

Yes. The reason is I don’t want us to have to rely on looking at each other to know where we are in an arrangement. Our ears become our eyes. That’s how we get tight.

For the new track “Lie to Me,” you recruited drummers from your old high school, Warren Easton High. What led to that?

On the original track, I played a tuba part. Then I thought, “This is missing a drum line.” I actually took a drum set apart, and I tried to play like a marching band myself. Then I figured, “Let me just get a real marching-band drum section.” I reached out to my old school. Some of those kids actually go to my Foundation, to the academy that I have. You can hear them underneath, especially the big bass drums. For me, it’s marching-band power mixed with pop sensibility.

I recall seeing pictures of you playing tuba when you were only 9 or 10…

Whenever I can, I pull one out. But that’s not often anymore. Back in those days — at 9, 10, 11 — I played it all the time until we got a tuba player.

When did you pick up the trumpet?

Once again, in my brass band, before Travis [Hill, a.k.a. Trumpet Black], may he rest in peace, was around, I had to play that too. I was just put in these situations where I had to learn on the spot. For a while I had to switch to snare drum. I always took on the challenge to play whatever we needed. Of course, on trumpet, I had the example of my older brother James. I wanted to be like James. On “What It Takes,” at the end, I’m just tailgating on the trumpet, going naturally into certain things from James’ vocabulary. He was my first influence. He is an ultimate entertainer with this natural ability to light up any room.

You mentioned your Foundation, now more than a decade old. What’s your intent there?

We’re passing on knowledge through music and just helping the children of New Orleans. They don’t get a grade for this. They don’t get any extracurricular credit. The kids that show up are very serious about it. I want to give them tools, if they want to be a professional musician. Some kids might not continue to play music, but they may become managers or booking agents or songwriters or whatever. Ultimately, the goal is, through music, to change lives. We’re going to save some of these kids’ lives.

Did music save your life?

I was never in danger because I started so early. At 4 years old, I never had the option to go down a dangerous path. I never did drugs. I don’t drink. And some of those things, if I were to partake, I don’t know where my career would be. I’ve seen so many people crash. Music has guided me and taken me around the world. I don’t know if it saved my life or not. I just know that my life is music. I’m a vessel. And I don’t want to mess that gift up.

There are so many influences packed into each track of this new album. Do you consider this New Orleans music?

My music is New Orleans music. It’s my interpretation of what I grew up playing and my different influences — sharing stages with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John, playing with brass bands. It’s also my experiences outside of New Orleans that I was able to bring back. And it has to do with working with people like Mannie Fresh and Juvenile. When I was coming up, I never ran from the music that was happening during my time. Some of my peers at NOCCA [New Orleans Center for Creative Arts] blocked all that out, but I was listening. I was buying that music and hoping that I’d get a chance to work with these guys. Just because I play trombone, that doesn’t mean I can’t go be with some rappers and create music with them. And it happened when I was about 16. Mannie Fresh called, and I played on one of the Big Tymers albums. I’m on “Pimpin’,” on the Hood Rich album, from 2002. I don’t think I’m listed, but you can hear me. 640w, 320w, 160w" data-loaded="true" />
“My music is New Orleans music,” says Trombone Shorty, seen here at Jazz Fest in 2016. “It’s my interpretation of what I grew up playing — sharing stages with the Neville Brothers and Dr. John, playing with brass bands.” Credit: Josh Brasted/WireImage.

On “Everybody in the World,” did you cop those opening lines from Louis Armstrong?

Yes, you heard right. That introduction was inspired by his version of “(I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You” [recorded with Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five]. I mixed that sound with the New Orleans street vibe, which is why I got the New Breed Brass Band on there, too.

On “What It Takes,” that opening drum roll sounds like the beginning of a parade…

That’s what I grew up with. Like we’re about to hit the streets. But it’s also Lenny Kravitz. He did a roll like that on “It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over.”

What did you draw from your experiences with Lenny?

I always knew that I would be a musician. I was en route when I joined his band at around 18. I just didn’t know how I would get there. I had gone to one kind of school, and then I went to the school of rock, with him. In my mind, I had always looked at the trombone like a lead guitar in a funk-rock band. He taught me tremendous discipline. Plus, with Lenny, here was a Black man standing out there, being strong and standing tall, doing what he felt was connected to his soul. I mean, how could you not be inspired by that?

New Orleans is famous for its musician-educators. Which ones marked you the most?

Three educators are very important to me: Kidd Jordan; his son Kent Jordan; and [the late] Clyde Kerr Jr. They all saw something in me. They said, “We know you can play, but we want to make sure that you have the fundamentals to be able to go around the world and play with whoever you want.” The lessons I got from those three, I still use today.

As an already rising star, was it hard to study fundamentals?

No, because whenever I learn something, I feel stronger as a human being. I had parallel experiences. On one hand, I’m playing with James and the brass bands, playing around the Neville Brothers. And then I had this other side, strictly education. The challenge, as I learned later, is that some of my friends had a lot of passion and fire going into school. And about that second to third year, that was gone. It was all technical for them. There was no feeling anymore. I was able to have both.

How long were you off the road due to Covid?

About two years — the longest I’ve ever been off the road in my life, since childhood. I couldn’t work with my band. It was hard.

Nothing compares with the devastation from the levee failures following Hurricane Katrina. Yet the pandemic shut your city’s culture down for even longer.

You know, we got a little PTSD here in New Orleans. When we speak about Covid, we often find ourselves saying “during the storm.” Because the feeling was very familiar. Even though we were able to be home this time, there was the same emptiness. It was a terrible, eerie feeling. I could hear the streetcar but nothing else. All the sounds I grew up with were missing. It reminded me of after the hurricane.

Some celebrate rapid development in New Orleans, yet others worry. Can your culture retain its power and vitality?

I think the resilience of New Orleans culture is unstoppable, no matter how much the infrastructure of the city changes. This moment, with gentrification and other changes, is similar to after Katrina: We realize we can’t take this culture for granted, that we should cherish it. There’s nothing more beautiful than when I’m out in the street watching the second line. I see these 8- and 9-year-old kids, second-lining as if they’re a hundred years old and they’ve been around. I’m like, “Where did he get that move from?” I still get chills even just thinking about it. 

writes regularly about music for the Wall Street Journal. His culture reporting has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, Salon, Chamber Music magazine and the Village Voice, among other publications and websites.

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