PITTSBURGH - A JAZZ FOUNDRY
Believe it or not, the old steeltown Pittsburgh has one of the nation’s premier Jazz traditions. Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay to label the intersection of Wylie and Fullerton Avenues the “Crossroads of the World.” He was referring to the great musical and Negro Leagues Baseball crossroads that was Pittsburgh in the 1930s and 40s.
Notables born and nurtured in Pittsburgh include Earl Hines, still considered by many to be the greatest jazz pianist of all time. Billy Strayhorn is a renowned jazz composer and was prolific musical partner to Duke Ellington. Vocalists Lena Horne and Billy Eckstine hail from the area as well. Later, jazz artists Art Blakey and George Benson would join this series of legends and Ray Brown, Nathan Davis, and Stanley Turrentine, are native sons as well.
With changing economics and demographics in the Hill District, Jazz clubs like the original Crawford Grill, Webster Grill, and the Red Onion in the Hill district are but shadows of their heyday. Only the Red Onion is operating at present and it deserves our patronage.
Most visitors today explore Pittsburgh's jazz heritage at events like the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild’s annual jazz concert series and educational programs, the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar held every November, and through the efforts of the Pittsburgh Jazz Society. The university also preserves jazz history at the International Academy of Jazz -- Hall of Fame founded by Jazz musician and music teacher Nathan Davis, enshrining memorabilia and artifacts.
The Jazz club scene, features Dowe’s on 9th and James St. Tavern. These noble institutions continue to provide a venue for talented local and touring Jazz musicians.