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Jazz History

It's known among jazz aficionados that Pittsburgh has an extraordinary jazz scene. There are as many theories as to why as there are jazz styles. But one thing is for certain. You can't find the breadth and quality of jazz happening in Pittsburgh in any city this size, anywhere.

The legacy is real. 

Back in the day, jazz greats all passed through the 'Burgh on their way between New York and Chicago. Kids grew up in the 30s, 40s and 50s seeing their heroes in the flesh practically every night of the week. And they learned from them, they watched and listened and picked up those great vibes and sounds and moves that you still see and hear today in Pittsburgh's jazz joints, its theaters, clubs and pubs, including CJs in the Strip District, Little E's Jazz and Blues Club,James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy and Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's MCG Jazz Series on the North Side. Also, don't miss, the annual Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival every June in downtown Pittsburgh.

The legends are many; the talent could fill any Jazz Hall of Fame. Some are no longer with us but left an indelible imprint on Pittsburgh's jazz sound.

In jazz heaven this band of Pittsburgh greats entertains the saints:

Bass: Ray Brown, Paul Chambers
Drums: Art Blakey, Kenny Clark
Guitar: Joe Pass
Keyboards: Erroll Garner, Walt Harper, Earl "Fatha" Hines, Dodo Marmarosa, Mary Lou Williams
Sax: Stanley Turrentine
Trombone: Randy Purcell, Tommy Turk
Trumpet: Roy Eldridge
Written by: Billy Strayhorn
And sung by: Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne, Eddie Jefferson, Dakota Staton, Maxine Sullivan

And the baton has been passed to today's performers who carry on the tradition. Many of today's performers have jazz genes passed from father to son and daughter, brother to sister, brother to brother, uncle to nephew, grandfather to grandson. That's how jazz is in Pittsburgh, family, a way of life.

Aliquo, Don Sr. and Jr. on sax
Ashby, Jay and Marty on trombone and guitar, respectively
Benack, Benny Sr., Jr., and III on trumpet and sax, respectively
Betters, Harold and Jerry on trombone and drums/vocals, respectively
Brooks, Cecil I and II also on drums
Budway, David and Maureen on piano and vocals, respectively
Cardillo, Bobby and Harry on piano
DePaolis, Don and Tony, on piano and base, respectively
Heid, George and Bill, drums and keyboards, respectively
Humphries, Roger and Greg on drums

Other Pittsburghers heard around town and around include:
Bass: Dwayne Dolphin, Paul Thompson, Virgil Walters
Drums: "Tain" Watts
Guitar: George Benson, Joe Negri, James "Blood" Ulmer
Keyboards: Howie Alexander, David Budway, Frank Cunimondo, Craig Davis, Ahmad Jamal, Max Leake
Sax: Kenny Blake, Nathan Davis, Robbie Klein, Eric Kloss, Lew Stellute
Trombone: Jay Ashby, Harold Betters, Al Dowe, Slide Hampton
Trumpet: Sean Jones, John Wilson
Written by: Sammy Nestico
Sung by: Maureen Budway, Etta Cox, Jessica Lee, Tim Stevens

Many of these performers are part of these stellar Jazz ensembles touring Pittsburgh and the region:
Pittsburgh Jazz Society  | Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra  | Roger Humphries and RH Factor Jazz Quintet  | Boilermaker Jazz Band