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PITTSBURGH JAZZ

 

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.

 

WELCOME!

 

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Duke Ellington is first African-American and the first musician to solo on U.S. circulating coin

    MARY LOU WILLIAMS     

            INTERVIEW

       In Her Own Words
 

WDUQ sold, for much less than its owner sought

BY CHRIS POTTER

 

Well, it could have been a worse. A lot worse. Duquesne University could have sold WDUQ-FM -- which it put on the block last year -- to a bunch of religious nuts, as some people feared.

Instead, the school announced today that the station will be sold -- for $6 million -- to a joint venture consisting of another local public station, WYEP, and a spin-off from a Colorado-based non-profit, Public Radio Capital. Parties to the sale held a press conference this afternoon, and here's what we know:

At least some of WDUQ's jazz format seems likely to survive, for better or worse. And the station's would-be owners -- they hope to acquire the station within the next six months, pending FCC approval -- are signalling that they will preserve, and even ramp up, the station's commitment to local journalism.

If the sale goes through, WDUQ will lose its call letters, and the station will be relocated to the South Side, where it will share space with WYEP in that station's Community Broadcast Center. NPR programming will remain, assured WYEP board chair Marco Cardamone at the press conference. What's more, he said, "We are committed to honoring the tradition of jazz."

But the buyers said it was "way too soon" to get into specifics. So it remains unclear whether the new station will be as committed to jazz as WDUQ is.

My guess is that the new station won't be. As we've reported before, there's always been some tension between WDUQ's role as a purveyor of mainstream jazz, and its role as a purveyor of local journalism. Local foundations, which early on expressed a great deal of concern about the WDUQ sale, have also gone on record as being especially concerned about the plight of journalism in Pittsburgh.

And tell me if you hear the sound of priorities shifting in this statement, from WYEP General Manager Lee Feraro: 

"While local journalism, reflecting the diversity of voices and issues in our community, is a high priority for EPM, we look forward to working with the community of jazz lovers in Pittsburgh as well."

Cardamone was even more explicit, touting "the amazing opportunity to transform local journalism, offer reliable news and information, spark civic conversation and shed light on important issues." But I dunno. I'm not a huge fan of the jazz format. (Backers of WDUQ programming note that it has a larger audience than WYEP and classical WQED-FM. But so what? 'DVE kicks everyone's ass. I still wouldn't call it a public service.) But if it were easy for public broadcasters to do local journalism, we'd still be watching On Q.

And when you consider Pittsburgh already has two daily papers -- each held by independent owners willing to sacrifice profit margins that corporate owners would insist in -- I'm not sure that the problem with journalism here is insufficient supply. It may be a lack of demand.

But that's a topic for another day. For now I'll just note a minor irony in today's transaction -- which is that while Duquesne is cashing in, the sale it proves the univesrity has been wrong all this time, and everyone else has been right. 

That $6 million Duquesne earned? It's roughly half of what the school expected. When the station was first put on the block, some estimates put the value of WDUQ at as much as $12 million. Others estimated a sum close to half of that -- and they turned out to be exactly right. But as the public-broadcasting trade journal Current reported

Duquesne University is standing firm behind an asking price of $10 million, an amount that far exceeds the value of commercial and noncommercial properties in Pittsburgh ...

"We do not believe it’s worth anywhere near that," Langner said.

"Langer" is Erik Langer, of Public Radio Capital. If that name sounds familiar, it should: That's the non-profit that is helping launch the current effort to buy the station. At the time, though, PRC was advising another bidder -- Pittsburgh Public Media, a group of WDUQ staffers and volunteers interested in buying the station. 

The PPM bid failed. But today, Langner's colleagues closed the deal with another buyer -- at a price in the range they'd been seeking all along. 

In this afternoon's press conference, Duquesne University President Charles Dougherty was asked about why the station had come down so far from its initial asking price. Dougherty acknowledged it was "a market issue." Like any would-be seller, he said, "We started on the high side." In the end, though, "It turned out after a year of conversation, the $6 million number is [a] reasonable price."

Actually, it turns out you didn't even need the year of conversation. 


-- E-mail Chris Potter about this post.

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Comment by Dr. Nelson Harrison on April 21, 2011 at 5:00am
Comment by Felicia on January 24, 2011 at 4:53am
I hope their format doesn't change, that would suck if it does.
Comment by Kevin Hurst, Sr. on January 19, 2011 at 1:18am

I grew up in Harrisburg playing funk and soul out of grade school. I was offered to sub for a jazz group because I could sightread but really did not stay long enough to walk the changes. I also played bass with a gospel group that only did originals. Basically I played jazz for money and the funk/soul groups had high overheads,played for underage folks where liquor was not the medium of getting paid. We were exploited when we did play for adults! When I attended PIT WDUQ was 4 hrs jazz in the AM and 4 hrs PM and Jazz alive concert/interview saturday morning. This along with Nathan Davis' jazz 84 which I chose to take following the historical outline tied up a lot of loose ends. As far as opure or straight -ahead jazz when i came home to visit my friends would bring me along to play the 'funky jazz' so the  folks could dance. If you could not play straight-ahead, blues etc. you did not get paid! Someone ifs fooling themselves by saying musicians contributed to Pgh jazz and were not considered straight -ahead! Sanborn, Breckers, Grover all did the same thing as 'smooth jazz' before the name. Zawinul said Cannonball played 'fusion' before Miles and the powers wanted mahavishnu(John McLaughlin) to be the father of it.Maybe the word 'acoustic' should be mentioned! It never bothered me when some do not consider me a 'jazz' or straight-ahead sax man. They never call me for gigs anyway! The people should get to hear everybody and anyone who puts the time in being an artist. Roy Ayers made some great musioc in the 70s, did he really further the jazz vibes lineage? Sting choose a band of UPCOMING jazzers and folks tried to say it was 'progressive' jazz. But Sting is not a jazz musician. WDUQ played an important part in my development as a listener and player and when I visited after I left (because everywhere does not have jazz programming) always looked forward to listening . No matter what has happened to funk/RnB /soul, folks do miss WAMO.- kev

 

Comment by Michael Mykita on January 18, 2011 at 3:54pm

I'm certainly skeptical when WYEP talks about local journalism and programming.  For many years YEP had The Saturday Light Brigade, which has been dedicated to local events, interviewing local personalities, and showcasing live music.  As that show tried to grow YEP couldn't get rid of it quickly enough.  WRCT picked it up, and now it has grown and is syndicated to half-a-dozen other stations in PA and Ohio.  Why didn't WYEP do that?  Because they had no interest in radio that showcases the local area and celebrates live music.

 

So why the change of heart?  Are they suddenly realizing that local radio should focus on local interest?  I hope so, but I doubt it.

 

I've always loved the jazz on DUQ.  I never got the sense that they were elitist or classical, as some have accused them.  I have a satellite radio in my home, with 3 or 4 jazz channels.  I listen to many of the offerings on satellite, but for jazz I turn to WDUQ because the jazz programming there is better.  Of course being "good" is hard to define.  I'll fall back on the old expression that has been attributed to many jazz artists "if you like it...it's good."

Comment by The Brian Edwards Excursion on January 18, 2011 at 2:31pm
For the people who "only" listen to straight ahead jazz I am sure this is sad information, But the reality is that WDUQ and most "jazz" purist in this town have helped to polarize the jazz public. As I was coming up here I would hear some jazz musicians talking about classical musicians and how they play the same music written how many ever years ago and that classical music hasn't evolved. Well folks, the fact is that jazz has become what "classical" music has become...a cliche', music of yesterday, my grandparents music.

This is the reality of the jazz situation and that's a shame! Before we worry about another jazz radio station the jazz community needs recognize the fact that there are players here that have contributed to the Pgh jazz legacy that are not considered straight ahead players. It is said art imitates life and life IS constant change so if this is the case we need to seriously accept where our beloved art form stands, open our minds to where the young players are coming from and try to catch a glimpse of their vision.

Unfortunately, the powers that be bought WDUQ and have no intention of putting another jazz station back on the air so time shouldn't be wasted talking about that. There are satellite and internet stations that play straight ahead, fusion, and smooth jazz all over the world and here we are PITTSBURGH THE GREAT JAZZ CITY...........without a jazz radio station. this is a wake up call to the jazz community here and everywhere, open your minds and ears to some of the new jazz sounds....to each their own.

As for community jazz radio in Pgh, it won't work. Anyone who thinks the same people that brag about our jazz culture here but won't come out to support live jazz is going to take part in community radio is delusional. Our jazz community reminds me of a church with diminishing attendance and no one can figure out why. The answer is not a fleeting one the answer is simple,

JAZZ IS NOT DEAD, IT IS EVOLVING!!!! Will there be jazz radio in Pgh in the future?..................
Comment by Boomer The Dog on January 18, 2011 at 11:22am
Well, why don't 'we' as a music community look into acquiring a radio station of our own? I'm a #1 fan of community radio, I think that's what local radio is for, to be as connected as possible with the community, back and forth, give and take. Big or small, your signal's coverage area is your community.

Think about why people have gone to the internet and sites like this, Facebook, Youtube, and many others, it's because they want to communicate, the two way street.

Over the past decade, radio has gone the opposite way, to almost totally abandoning local flavor. Most stations are now run from a network broadcast center in another city. That Pittsburgh announcement you hear? That could be recorded by someone in Dallas, with a script sent to them, and it might even be a digital voice you're hearing.

That's the way it is with the major broadcasters, and in fact only a dwindling few of the local stations even have live DJs behind the microphones. I'd estimate that less than half of the stations have live personnel most of the time, and none of the HD channels do, as far as I have heard.

They sound like radio jukeboxes, and in my opinion, listeners don't want to hear that. It may be the greatest music, to their ears, but they will turn off the radio after a while and they don't know why, because it's missing something, like personality. Even most college stations sound like someone plugged in their iPod and hit play and just left the studio.

SiriusXM is an inexpensive subscription satellite radio service with mostly music channels, and they are struggling big time, even though they have a hundred commercial free music stations, catering to every taste. That sounds like a utopia for any much lover, doesn't it? Is it really though, when Howard Stern is basically keeping that whole network alive.. and what is he? A real radio personality.

I think it's for the same reasons we go to live shows when we can get every song ever recorded on the net, or get SiriusXM, or go to Youtube and fill our need to see and hear the music forever.

WYEP used to do real community radio. It might not have been the tightest or most professional sound in the world, but it was radio that hit the streets, and when you heard it, you heard a real live DJ, one to one.

The problem was, FM properties increased in value so much, that they couldn't keep the all volunteer, free-form loose format, and in order to grow and compete, they had to tighten up, and go NPR as every other high power educational station did.

Now on the other side, as FM has gone up in monetary value, AM has gone down, to where, I think, to where it could afford to host community radio once again.

It might only be a 1000 watt station, but it could do every valuable thing that the other guys have forgotten, like local community connections, have live DJs much of the time, jazz and other artists coming into the studio for interviews and to perform, and connections with college radio broadcasting programs as a learning tool, though it wouldn't be a station run by a college.

I think it would be heard, because it would be the opposite of what every other station is doing.

This is nothing against what WDUQ is doing, because in my opinion they are just too big to do real community radio, whatever the outcome of the sale is.

Boomer The Dog
Comment by Michele Bensen on January 18, 2011 at 6:45am
Thanks for posting this information. I think Kevin Amos has asked the right questions for sure and they all need to be answered. We have so much history here in Pittsburgh and a rich variety of excellent world class musicians. Having an equal opportunity based format to present and share the musical hertiage that is so present here would be a wonderful asset to our city. Time will only tell if the powers that be will choose to support and promote our jazz hertitage here. Kevin Amos would be someone that should be consulted for discussions for that forum.
Comment by Dietrich on January 18, 2011 at 6:10am
Well, I may not have to listen to Bob Stutebacker anymore, a step in the right direction
Comment by Kevin Amos on January 18, 2011 at 4:34am

Here is a question for everyone...what is going to be done with the new studios just constructed at WDUQ? What's going to happen with the HD sideband they utilize? Will WYEP now utilize their sidebands and what will they use them for? Will there be a frequency change? Will there be opportunities for volunteers to continue to do selected programming? What is going to happen to the management structure? Will both stations practice diversity instead of saying they practice it and hire people of color? Follow the history. DUQ did absolutely nothing when Anderson Little  passed away. Evelyn Hawkins was forced out of town. And what happened to Jonas Chaney?

And finally for now...Is WYEP truly going to ressurect Jazz in it's format after yanking it off the air years ago supposedly because of lack of listener support when so many stations oare removing Jazz from their AAA formats and "Smooth Jazz" stations are dropping like flies?

 

There are still a lot of unanswered questions and also a lack of information to the "public".  As many people should comment as possible when the FCC opens up this partnership/change for discussion. Something just is not right here. Don't you find it interesting that two stations that were at one time far apart in philosophy now become bedfellows less that 20 years later?

Forget the programming issue right now....that's the least to worry about. The i's must be dotted and the t's crossed. Lot's of technical issues to address as well. Don't be fooled. Keep your eyes wide open, do your research and follow the money. Don't let your musical and cultural legacy be sold down the river for thirty pieces of silver.

 

I would be happy to be part of a public fourm to discuss these many issues intead of keeping folks in the dark. All of the questions I posed must be asked and even more.

Comment by Anthony (Tony) Janflone on January 18, 2011 at 3:56am
I pray that the music (jazz) survives!!!!

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