MCG Jazz Event: Celebrating Pittsburgh’s African- American Jazz Legends


By Ed Skirtich

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny County of the 19th Legislative District gained the crowd’s attention by remarking how young people can make it happen at the Celebrating Pittsburgh’s African American Jazz Legends event on February 24th at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Concert Hall.

Former teachers and current professional musicians spoke at the event encouraging youth to pursue music and explaining how Pittsburgh’s sound fits into the jazz genre.  Speakers at this event were Harry Clark, Duane Dolphin, Roger Humphries, and Nelson Harrison.

“What’s in their heart,” said Harry Clark, former principal at CAPA High School and now an advocate for music.

Duane Dolphin, former jazz bass player of Wynton Marsalis, passes down the jazz language to how he learned to play jazz. Dolphin is now one of Pittsburgh’s best bass players.

Dolphin’s mentor, Roger Humphries, taught Dolphin how jazz works.

In addition, Dolphin gave his own view of Pittsburgh jazz.

“Its attitude and work ethic,” said Dolphin.

Then Clark added his outlook on music education.

“Give kids the opportunity,” Clark said. “Be positive.”

Humphries, another former teacher from CAPA, talked about trusting students and encouraging them to be anything they want to

He’s one of Pittsburgh’s best jazz drummers. Then Harrison, a former MCG Jazz teacher and trombonist of the

Count Basie Orchestra, talked about the development and jazz vocabulary and how it has to keep going. He now plays in the Pittsburgh area.

“Pass it on,” said Harrison. “It’s understanding the language of sound.”

Dolphin replied about the emotion of the Pittsburgh jazz sound saying it sounds like “a celebration.”

Then Clark commented on the Pittsburgh jazz sound’s outcome.

“Its laughter and a happy feeling,” said Clark. Harrison continued the conversation of the Pittsburgh jazz sound by remarking about the way Pittsburgh residents talk.

“The environment gets in your ear and comes out of your instrument,” Harrison said.

Humphries mentioned the complexity of Pittsburgh’s jazz sound and how an individual can discover this.

“It’s hard to explain, but listen to Art Blakey’s “Blues March” and “One By One,” said Humphries, to get an ear for it.

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