Pitt’s Jazz Week focuses on local music legend Erroll Garner

The 51st Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert will feature a local jazz legend, the late Erroll Garner.

Monday through January 29, the event will feature performances by Pitt jazz students and faculty, a musicians’ rights symposium, a virtual tour of the Erroll Garner Archives housed at the University of Pittsburgh, and a concert featuring critically acclaimed pianist Orrin Evans performing with Pittsburgh-based Musicians.

Due to the pandemic, all performances will be streamed from Bellefield Hall on the University of Pitt’s [email protected] YouTube channel. The educational components will take place via Zoom.

Born in 1921 in Pittsburgh, Garner wrote the popular jazz standard “Misty.” After performances on riverboats and at The Hurricane in the Hill District, Garner left Pittsburgh in his twenties for a career in New York.

“Featured artist Geri Allen, our former director of Pitt Jazz and my predecessor, was instrumental in acquiring the Erroll Garner Archive,” said Pitt Jazz Studies program director Nicole Mitchell Gantt. “Erroll Garner is one of the most legendary pianists in jazz history and Pittsburgh is very proud to call him its own.

“Archives are of immense value and we have barely scratched the surface of what they contain. More importantly, it documents the incredible victory of Erroll Garner and his legal team in securing ownership of his music from a major record label,” she said. “In addition to Garner’s legal travels, the archive contains many scores of his incredible music, some of which we will be playing at concerts on Monday, Friday and Saturday.”

Music and more

Pitt Jazz Week 2022 events include:

• To start up performances, 8 p.m. Jan. 24 — Musicians will include the student-based Pitt Jazz Ensemble and Pitt’s graduate student pianists Samuel Boateng and Irene Monteverde.

• “Jazz talk” podcast, 7 p.m. Jan. 26 — Mitchell’s podcast on Garner will include commentary from Evans and Monteverde, a Pitt jazz graduate pianist whose thesis focuses on Garner. There will also be a 15-minute virtual tour of the Erroll Garner Archives in Pitt, which the University Library System acquired in 2015.

• Rights of musicians Symposium, January 27

Part 1: 1:00-2:30 p.m. — A panel discussion on the rights of musicians, including the difficult terrain musicians must navigate to secure ownership of their own music. Panelists will include members of Pitt’s music and law school, art historian Tina Rivers Ryan and jazz bassist Matthew Garrison.

Part 2: 3-4 p.m. — Keynote presentation, “Erroll Garner’s Liberation: A Conversation About Music, Money, and Power,” by Robin DG Kelley, Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at the ‘UCLA. Kelley will discuss Garner’s 1950s lawsuit against Columbia Records stemming from his attempts to start his own record label, virtually unknown at the time. The suit ultimately succeeded.

• Faculty of Jazz Showcase, 7 p.m. Jan. 28 — Faculty members of the Pitt Jazz Studies Program will perform compositions by Garner.

• Pitt Jazz Collaboration 2022 Concert, 7 p.m. Jan. 29 – Live performance by Evans, Jeff Grubbs, James Johnson III and Mitchell.

“Orrin Evans and I will be playing with Pittsburgh greats James Johnson III on drums and Jeff Grubbs on bass at Bellefield Hall,” Gantt said. “We wanted it to be live for the public, but unfortunately due to covid the concert will be streamed. Orrin Evans is an accomplished musician who handles any terrain with class and soul.

Philadelphia-based Yamaha pianist and composer Evans has over 25 albums to his name without ever counting on major label support. He topped the “Rising Star Pianist” category in the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll and has two Grammy nominations.

He leads the Captain Black Big Band and collaborates on projects such as the collective trio Tarbaby, the guitar/piano duo project Eubanks-Evans-Experience and the Brazilian project Terreno Comum.

The Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert, founded by the late director of the Jazz Studies program Nathan Davis, was the first college jazz seminar in the nation to feature international artists connecting with budding student musicians through a a conference, then performing together as an ensemble.

On the event’s more than half-century history, Gantt said, “It’s been a long time for this to continue and we’re grateful to still be here.”

For more information on Jazz Week performances and to sign up for the podcast and symposium, visit jazz.pitt.edu.

Shirley McMarlin is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Corina C. Butler