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Jazz - Early Years

Fate brings Jazz to Pittsburgh
Jazz was introduced to Pittsburgh in the early 20th Century.  In the period from the 1920s to the early 1940s several musicians who greatly influenced jazz history emerged from Pittsburgh.

Jazz originated around 1895 in New Orleans.  It blended  Ragtime, Blues, marching band music and improvisation.  Jazz was first played by African-American and Creole musicians.  Cornet player Buddy Bolden is sited as one of the first Jazz musicians. He was followed by the "Hot Jazz" wave of musicians like Joe "King" Oliver, Kid Ory, and Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong.  

Jazz was introduced to Pittsburgh by pianist Fate Marable who brought it upriver on the riverboats from New Orleans with the first African American jazz band to travel North.  The 18 year old Louis Armstrong was a member of Marable's band.  Fate and his family settled in Pittsburgh and Fate played piano in the clubs of the Hill District.  Fate is credited in the book "Jazz on the River" as being the founding father of the Pittsburgh school of Jazz piano.   

Singer and pianist Lois Deppe established the first African American swing band in Pittsburgh around 1917.  His pianist Earl Hines originated the trumpet style of piano while playing river boat cruises and dance halls in Pittsburgh.  Earl Hines founded his own band and hired Pittsburgh singer Billy Eckstine who became the leader of the first big Bop band and the first African American singing idol.  Trumpeter Roy Eldridge who began his career in the late 1920s became the most influential trumpeter of the swing era.  Babe Russin who also began his career in the late 1920's with Red Nichols band, played tenor sax with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and many other stars. Babe is the most recorded sax player in history.

Kenny Clark, having defined the standard for modern jazz drumming, became one the most influential drummers in music history.  He invented a new style of drumming and is one of the founded of Be-Bop. 

Two pianists / composer- arrangers made their mark on jazz history.  Billy Strayhorn writing for Duke Ellington wrote the theme song of the big band era the "Take the A Train" and many other of the Duke's classic songs.  Mary Lou Williams performed with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy and wrote arrangements for a half-dozen other swing bands including Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Gus Arnheim, Glen Gray, Tommy Dorsey and more. 

Pianist Dodo Mararoso toured with the big bands in the early 1940s and became a pioneering Bebop master in late 1940’s   He touried and recording with the elite bands of Johnny Davis. Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet, and Artie Shaw. is recordings with Charlie Parker: “Charlie Parker Septet" (1946) and “Charlie Parker's New Stars” (1947) are considered by some critics as among the greatest jazz records ever made.  Dodo’s piano is heard on the all time classic tunes’ Ornithology” and “Night in Tunisia”.

Maxine Sullivan was one of the most influential singers of jazz and popular music in the 20th century. Maxine originated an innovative graceful soft swing style with precise diction and timing that influenced generations of female jazz singers including Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee.  

Fate Marable's Band