The city has produced as many world renowned jazz musicians as any other city in the country.
Some of the world famous musicians that started the scene were:
Bill Eckstine – one of the country’s first true singing stars was from Pittsburgh
Billy Strayhorn – was an important member of Duke Ellington’s band
and currently carrying the torch are…
Roger Humphries – he grew up as one of ten children in a Pittsburgh family. He started playing drums at the age of four! He has played with the likes of Ray Charles. If this isn’t Pittsburgh awesomeness and greatness, I don’t know what is.
Tony Campbell – the saxophonist still has the same instrument he bought when he was 16, has been learning from Roger Humphries for the last 22 years and has played with Branford Marsalis. He has his own jam night in the West End of the city.
Dwayne Dolphin – bassist extraordinaire born and raised in the Hill District. He left Pittsburgh at 18 and was chosen to play with Wynton Marsalis.
along with many…many…more
To celebrate Pittsburgh jazz innovation both past and present, James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy in the North Side (a short walk or T Ride from downtown) has started hosting a Thursday night Roger Humphries Jam Session. So much talent shows up at these sessions that the musicians have started affectionately calling it “the church.”
Here is the website for James Street
Here is the website for Steeltown jazz Storytellers – You can see information for current and future events here
My wife and I attended one of the recent sessions at James Street (I LOVE jazz!!) and Steeltown Jazz gave me the opportunity to interview Mr. Humphries, Mr. Campbell and Mr. Dolphin.
The only audio that came out well was Dwayne Dolphin. It’s great audio because you can hear him talk about Pittsburgh and the love he has for his music and colleagues:
The next big event at James street Gastropub is this Saturday! On the 21st, Pittsburgh Jazz Storytellers hosts:
Roger Humphries, Tony Campbell, Howie Alexander, Tim Stevens,
Joe Badaczewski, Ron Horton, Lou Stellute, Bobby Jones Jr. and Eva Lintz
The event also showcases the music of Billy Eckstine with musicians sharing their stories about
jazz in Pittsburgh. The event also includes an hour talk by the “Voice of Jazz in Pittsburgh” – Mr. Bob Studebaker!
What’s important about this is the carrying of the music tradition in Pittsburgh. The events – and everyone involved – work to keep music in the city through arts support and education. I was also introduced to local drummer – and one time student of Roger Humphries – Thomas Wendt. He is working on an event later this month – hosted by voice of the Steelers ( and HUGE jazz fan) Bill Hillgrove! – with Lighthouse Arts, Inc. According to their website, the group:
“Lighthouse Arts, Inc. was established to improve the quality of jazz education by making accessible the opportunities for students and the community at large to learn and experience the many dimensions of jazz music and the creative artists who play it. We shall incorporate partnerships with the community, schools and arts organizations that will recapture, teach and preserve the music’s history and culture, in an accessible environment that promotes awareness and appreciation.”
You can buy tickets for a fund raiser they are holding on March 28th here. This is the official flyer information too: