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

Wayne Shorter, Jazz’s Abstruse Elder, Isn’t Done Innovating Yet



Giovanni Russonello

Wayne Shorter is not only one of jazz’s greatest composers but its angel of esotericism, an enlightened and arcane elder. He reminds us that good improvising is about chance-taking and suspending disbelief as much as it’s about mastery. The saxophonist, 85, is also one of the genre’s last remaining figures to have come of age in the 1950s, when jazz was a popular music as well as an intellectual one.

Since 2000, Mr. Shorter, a National Endowment for the Arts jazz master, has held together a fabulous quartet that plays an inimitable style of flared-up chamber jazz with the pianist Danilo Pérez, the bassist John Patitucci and the drummer Brian Blade. This band lives onstage: It doesn’t do rehearsals, and almost none of its recorded output has been made in a studio. “Emanon,” which Blue Note will release Friday, is an exception — the first of its three discs was done in studio.

The album, Mr. Shorter’s first in five years, comes with a 74-page graphic novel telling the story of a “rogue philosopher” named Emanon, who takes up arms against the powers of evil. (Mr. Shorter created the book alongside the writer Monica Sly and the artist Randy DuBurke.) On Disc 1, the quartet embeds itself within the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, doing Mr. Shorter’s soaring, relentless scores. The other two discs feature only the quartet, playing some of its best music yet.

Speaking on the phone from Los Angeles, Mr. Shorter waxed plenty abstruse as he discussed the quartet, the opera he’s working on with Esperanza Spalding and his reaction upon first hearing “Both Directions at Once,” a recently discovered recording by his old friend John Coltrane. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Your quartet has become so comfortable with each other while preserving an intense feeling of risk. How have you kept the mystery in the music?

We never rehearse anything. There’s one piece we play named “Unidentified Flying Objects.” Those are the notes. We don’t know where the hell they’re going. It’s a little thing we call trust and faith. To me, the definition of faith is to fear nothing. And here’s a funny line: Trust don’t throw anybody under the bus.

When we get together, we don’t fight. We don’t argue over who’s going to do what when someone’s playing. Say someone’s playing a line and then someone else cuts across the line and takes over. We don’t think of it as an interruption. Matter of fact, we don’t think. We just use it as an opportunity.

It makes sense that you’ve always loved comics, because to me your music is visual. When you compose, do you think of images or films?

Yeah, it’s visual stuff, but it’s also things unenvisioned. It’s like something needing encounter — an encounter that’s hard to imagine, and you cannot put any color, weight, dimension to it. It’s something even more than a what-if.

When we played in San Francisco, we were invited to Stanford, and they were showing us this stuff that they have related to the CERN in Switzerland, the collider. And we saw two baby galaxies playing. It takes millions of years for them to play. But you can say that they are playing. And the scientists are into the music, too. Every time we go to San Francisco to play, there they are.

You’re working on an opera with Esperanza Spalding. Is it close to done?

No, it’s not close to done. [Laughs.] But we’re having a lot of fun with it. Because we are in charge of everything ourselves. The first opera was done by Monteverdi — they actually had fun. Then it turned into something else; it turned into divas and arias and all these arrogant conductors. And you can’t get in unless you have the money for a bow tie and a tuxedo. That’s bull.

I liked that the protagonist in “Emanon” is a “rogue philosopher,” because that’s how I think of you. How did music become a canvas for such broad philosophical inquiry for you?

I think that music opens portals and doorways into unknown sectors that it takes courage to leap into. I always think that there’s a potential that we all have, and we can emerge, rise up to this potential, when necessary. We have to be fearless, courageous, and draw upon wisdom that we think we don’t have.

You’re fond of talking about eternity, and the need to recognize how fleeting and comparatively inconsequential our current moment is. How do you use music to connect with what’s beyond the moment?

To me, a song is not finished. To me, there’s no such thing as a finished anything. All of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, to me, are one. I think of it as having no beginning and no end. Do you know that it took Beethoven eight years to get the first several notes of the second movement of his Fifth Symphony together? So it was no deity that went through him and said, “O.K., genius!” You’ve got to challenge inspiration not yet begun to come out. There’s all kinds of closets, you know.

You hear about people saying, “You gotta get things fast because you only live once.” I think that’s a misnomer right there. Words like “only,” “never,” and all that, they’re crutches. We have to have people who are willing to — I don’t want to say it like this but — go down with the ship. Don’t worry about wealth and fame and all that stuff. It’s up to the person who’s being creative to find ways to emerge and shake up the world of wealth. And we have to do it ourselves. Want to change this stuff? Let’s change it ourselves. It’s like Miles Davis said: “Don’t you ask nobody for nothin’.”

Did you listen to the new John Coltrane album that came out?

Oh yeah, I knew about it. When I heard the first three notes, I knew it was “Nature Boy.”

Did you have any thoughts on the record?

No, it just confirmed my thought that nothing’s finished! [Laughs.]

Correction: September 13, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of pages in the graphic novel that comes with Wayne Shorter’s new album. It is 74 pages, not 36.

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Comment by E Van D on January 6, 2019 at 1:51pm
Not surprised to read Shorter is a Buddhist. Not a lot of room for ego or "arrogant conductors" in his fantastic music. Thanks for the interview.

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