Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sculptures and Statues of Pittsburgh Jazz Legends Look Out Along the Allegheny River

A first in a series of : Daydreaming About Pittsburgh Art from Rick Byerly

aka Daydreaming with sidecars of cynicism and plugs:

February 20, 2008: This is when the daydream about jazz musician statues and sculptures started, actually it was around 3 in the morning on February 21 after the total lunar eclipse had come and gone. I was doing long exposure photography on the shore of the Allegheny River near the Law Enforcement Memorial across from Heinz Field. Looking across the river to the fountain at Point State Park I imagined myself standing amidst all the immense jazz musician legends who have hailed from Pittsburgh, PA.

I guess if I was a huge sports fan I would be thinking about more sports legends from the region but we already have a decent number in that category in the Pittsburgh area with Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner, Franco Harris and The Chief. And in other genres and contexts we have statues/sculptures of (the first two being controversial to many) Stephen Foster, Christopher Columbus, Johann Sebastian Bach, William Shakespeare, Gene Kelly, Richard Caliguiri, George Washington, the Doughboy, Beethoven, Panthers and others I can't think of right now...

But can you believe that there are no major statues or sculptures of a Pittsburgh jazz musician? Unbelievable, I think. I found a link at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh here which listed as a starting point over 57 jazz musician legends from Pittsburgh and below that hundreds more jazz musicians and composers from Pittsburgh. And the ones I know as a big jazz fan being Ray Brown, Roy Eldridge, Roger Humphries, Slide Hampton, Stanley Turrentine, Erroll Garner, Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstein, Lena Horne, Earl Hines, Henry Mancini and one of my personal all time favorites, the great Art Blakey. And many others I'm sure I've heard but don't recognize by name ( the 57 the Carnegie Library list I have below after this post).

With their instruments in hand I can visualize them along the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, bringing attention to the rich musical history in the Pittsburgh area, making the area around it more personal amidst all the concrete we currently find. I was lucky enough to see and hear the great Ray Brown at Manchester Craftsmen Guild before he passed away in 2002 with my father and it's a great memory to have, for many reasons, as well as seeing Stanley Turrentine at MCG. This daydream of seeing Pittsburgh jazz legends is an ongoing one and one I hope to see step into reality...

I don't mean one or two large sculptures of pgh jazz legends I'm talking about 30 or so. All created by Pittsburgh artists.

As a cynical person I assume this type of large scale project would never actually happen but the daydreamer in me persists. Apparently there's good reason to be cynical. According to this February 5, 2008 article a moratorium has been placed by the Sports & Exhibition Authority as far as the total number of memorials which can exist in the North Shore Riverfront Park. In fact two 13-by-37-foot sculptures which used to be with the former Manchester Bridge now stand in limbo as far as a future home. I've never seen them but they supposedly commemorate steel and coal workers, explorers and American Indians.

So we will be seeing monuments to World War II veterans and the late children’s television host Fred Rogers but apparently it's kaput after that.

The reason for the moratorium? It appears that in the name of green space the Sports & Exhibition Authority feels it necessary to limit the memorials in the park. That brings up a compelling argument or discourse of sorts. The first thing which it brings to mind to me is what does green space have to do with the walkway which extends along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers? I suppose the zoning board would rear it's ugly head and prohibit statues from being placed there. And then I think of the uneccessary amount of concrete wasteland which exists on the North Side along the stadiums and wonder how different it would be with a more logical and efficient use of parking space. Maybe then I could really stand among Pittsburgh Jazz Legends looking out towards the Point?

Let's hope that there's enough philanthropy, money, desire, and optimism to make it happen and reasonable public officials who could let it happen...

Rick Byerly is a cynic, daydreamer, writer, and photographer who loves and lives in Pittsburgh, PA.

Image above photographed, edited and for sale from Rick Byerly here. Credit to the creator of the Roberto Clemente statue, which is an incredible sculpture, goes to Artist Susan Wagner, website here .

Note to self: Make sure to do a blog about all the Pittsburgh area statues, sculptures, and monuments along with their creators because googling for comprehensive info wasn't too productive. These are the things I personally want to know. History is important and very much subject to the angle it's being looked at and from.

Here are the 57 plus named as jazz legends from the Carnegie Library

Internationally Known* Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians

Accordion: Guy Klucevsek

Bass: Mickey Bass, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Sonny Dallas, Dwayne Dolphin, John Heard, David Izenzon, Carl Pruitt, Wyatt Ruther, Eddie Safranski

Composers/Arrangers: Henry Mancini, Billy May, Sammy Nestico, Billy Strayhorn

Drums: Allen Blairman, Art Blakey, Cecil Brooks III, Kenny Clarke, Vinnie Colaiuta, Beaver Harris, Joe Harris, Roger Humphries, J. C. Moses, Jeff "Tain" Watts

Guitar: George Benson, Ray Crawford, Barry Galbraith, Jimmy Ponder, James "Blood" Ulmer

Piano/Organ/Keyboards: Geri Allen, Sonny Clark, Johnny Costa, Erroll Garner, Darrell Grant, Earl Hines, Ahmad Jamal, Dodo Marmarosa, Horace Parlan, Shirley Scott, Mary Lou Williams

Reeds (oboe, Eng. horn, clarinet, etc.)
Paul McCandless

Saxophone: Bob Cooper, Nathan Davis, Joe Eldridge, Steve Grossman, Eric Kloss, Babe Russin, Stanley Turrentine

Trombone: Slide Hampton, Grover Mitchell

Trumpet: Al Aarons, Roy Eldridge, Tommy Turrentine

Vibraphone: Steve Nelson

Vocals: Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne, Eddie Jefferson, Dakota Staton, Maxine Sullivan

Many more Pittsburgh native jazz musicians listed here

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  1. This dream is very interesting and something this artist could get behind...perhaps a self fulfilling prophesy.

  2. thanks for posting! appreciate it