Jazz in Pittsburgh

It's 80 degrees in Pittsburgh right now. The Pittsburgh Jazz Live Festival is going on this weekend, but I'll let you in on a little secret - this humble steel city has world class, jaw-dropping jazz year round. And I'm so fortunate to study and pursue jazz in a city where such is the case.

I recently received a book about Pittsburgh's history of jazz as a gift. I appreciated it so much that I went out and bought a copy to give to my pianist after a gig. It is an important catalogue of history although it does have a few errors, according to a trusted source who happens to be a fine jazz drummer. Still, this book is especially important because it documents the lineage of musicians and the music that has come from (and through) this city.

I'm lucky that when I want to, I can stroll into some amazing jazz jam sessions at the remaining few venues here. Drummer Roger Humphries has his session every Thursday at the James Street Gastropub and that in and of itself is an education. The best players go there and just by listening to them, I have learned so much about the music. What to know, what to listen to and for, how to approach the music, how to stay open, and how to be truly disciplined. Mostly I have learned that the learning never ends. The journey's infinite.

Lately, I try to sit in at a regular Saturday afternoon jam session led by saxophonist Tony Campbell. It's been fruitful and Tony's a true mentor. The guys that hang with him in the house band are also very humble, very talented musicians who are there to make good music.

I'm forever grateful that Pittsburgh jazz still exists. I am grateful that there are people who want to continue the legacy of beautiful art in the spirit of community.

Hanging with Tony Campbell at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy