Jazz in the United States dates back to the late 1800s. A combination of music in the African-American community with that of European immigrants, jazz has evolved a great deal. Jazz comes in many forms, from ragtime to bop, be-bop, swing, fusion and many others. But is it still thriving…particularly in Pittsburgh?
“Jazz in Pittsburgh has, is, and will always thrive due to the nature of the city,” said jazz trumpeter, Sean Jones, who will be appearing at the Theater Square Cabaret along with bassist, Dwayne Dolphin April 13. “The city has a certain fight to it that most cities don’t have. There’s a blistering pride in the city that fuels folks’ fires. We have never been second to anyone. From sports, technology, to the arts, Pittsburgh has always produced individuals who are at the forefront of their professions. This type of spirit energizes the jazz scene, which continues to produce wonderful new talent. From the venues, to the artists, to the audiences, Pittsburgh’s jazz scene is alive and well, offering jazz seven nights a week!”
To celebrate National Jazz Appreciation Month, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Education and Community Engagement Department will present performances from both local and out-of-town musicians. It began with the Brooklyn-based Soul Cycle April 6, and will continue with one performance each week throughout the month. Musicians like Pittsburgh native pianist Ahmad Jamal, the New Jersey-based Orrin Evans and the Orrin Evans Trio and drummer, Jeff “Tain” Watts and the Jeff “Tain” Watts Quartet will showcase their talents at either the Theater Square Cabaret or The Byham Theater Downtown. This month-long series of events is sponsored by, among others, BNY Mellon, the Pittsburgh Jazz Society, and the New Pittsburgh Courier.
Jones, who is currently a professor of trumpet and jazz studies at Duquesne University, sees no indication that Pittsburgh’s jazz scene is waning. On the contrary, he believes that venues like the Cabaret, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, the August Wilson Center, and clubs like Little E’s offer both local and national musicians an almost endless supply of opportunities to perform for audiences that are at once ethnically and generationally diverse.
“Jazz is truly the greatest representation of America and my audiences prove that,” said Jones, who is the newlywed husband of Greer Reed Jones, Pittsburgh Dance Alloy’s new Artistic Director.
There are some who might think the future of jazz, not only in Pittsburgh, but in the United States in general, could become almost obsolete thanks to the growing popularity of modern music genres like hip-hop and rap. Jones, who recorded his first album, “Eternal Journey” in 2004 when he was only 24, thinks it’s unlikely that jazz will become obsolete, though he does feel that more young people should be introduced to it.
“I believe that on a national level people tend to listen to more popular music because it’s what they are exposed to,” said the Ohio native. “People typically won’t like anything until someone tells them to like it. It’s social conditioning. This is why it’s important to expose our youth to the music, not by beating it over their heads, but by simply playing it, taking them to jazz concerts, having jazz musicians in the schools, etc. Most folks tend to follow, so it’s important that people who are in leadership positions take it upon them selves to create a culture that elevates our society’s musical consciousness.”
(Tickets for each performance range in price from $20 to $45.50. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit http:// www.pgharts.org. )