50th Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar Celebrates With A Virtual Celebration Of Dr. Nathan Davis & Geri Allen  ​   

The 50th Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar will be held November 2-7.

By: Oct. 19, 2020

50th Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar Celebrates With A Virtual Celebration Of Dr. Nathan Davis & Geri Allen  ​   

The 50th Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert will be held November 2-7, 2020 represents the vision of Nicole Mitchell Gantt, who has been Director of Jazz Studies in the Dietrich School's Department of Music since July 2019.

The 50th anniversary presented an opportunity to celebrate the deep legacy of University of Pittsburgh's jazz offerings by pointing to important contributions of past program directors Dr. Nathan Davis and Geri Allen.

Dr. Nathan Davis, the founder of the program, was a collaborator of Donald Byrd, Eric Dolphy, Larry Young, Woody Shaw, Richard Davis, Arthur Taylor and countless other jazz masters. He was a pioneer of jazz education and one of the first-ever leaders of a university-sanctioned Jazz Studies program. The Annual Jazz Seminar & Concert was his creation and a most lasting legacy. Dr. Davis retired from his post at UPitt in 2013 and passed in 2018.

His successor, Geri Allen, a graduate of Pitt, was an iconoclastic pianist and composer known for her work as a leader and collaborator with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Oliver Lake, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Charles Lloyd, Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Wallace Roney, and late in life in a collective trio with Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding. She was notably a disciple of one of jazz's leading pedagogues, Dr. Marcus Belgrave, who mentored at least two generations of future leaders in the field from Detroit, MI. Prior to joining at UPitt, Ms. Allen had served as a faculty member at her alma mater Howard University, New England Conservatory, Montclair State University, The New School and the University of Michigan, where she had taught for 10 years prior. Ms. Allen passed in June 2017 at age 60. Ms. Mitchell took the reigns of the program in July 2019, as only its third director in 50 years.

Unlike past years, all events for the Jazz Seminar, including concerts, will be streamed. There will be no live events at Carnegie Music Hall, typically the crown jewel of the weeklong event. Mrs. Mitchell Gantt, a renowned jazz flutist and composer, will instead be joined by other musicians and scholars via YouTube streams for the seminars and student and faculty concerts.

Throughout the week, former students and colleagues of Dr. Davis and Ms. Allen will convene for YouTube panels, sharing their memories and the notable contributions of each former director. On Monday November 2, PItt faculty member, Dr. Aaron Johnson, will lead a panel with previous Pitt students of Dr. Nathan Davis to highlight his innovations as a trailblazer in jazz and education. On Thursday November 5, Pitt faculty member Dr. Michael Heller and Columbia University faculty colleague Dr. Ellie Hisama will convene Feed the Fire, an all day cyber-symposium on Geri Allen which serves as a launch for Pitt's Jazz and Culture journal focused entirely on Allen's contributions and influence. Keynote speakers include Terri Lyne Carrington, Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, Dr. Gina Dent and Dr. Angela Davis.

Also, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the origins of jazz as an expression of the Black community, Mitchell will discuss the topic of Racial Equity in Jazz and Jazz Education with Gail Austin (Kente Arts Alliance), Ayana Contreras (WBEZ-FM, Vocalo Radio) and Willard Jenkins (DC Jazz Festival, WPFW-FM).

In addition, pianist Vijay Iyer, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Dwayne Dolphin will meet online with groups of Pitt students and youth organizations in sessions throughout Jazz Week, that are closed to the public.

Says Mitchell: "Pitt's Jazz Studies Program is one of the oldest and most reputable in the country and it's our immense honor to herald visionaries Dr. Nathan Davis and Geri Allen who built it with creativity, love, inventiveness and tenacity so that it can stand strong today. It's important for us to remember from where we came so we can plan well where we will go for the next fifty years in jazz."

In 2019, in her first year organizing the seminar, Mitchell brought together a truly unprecedented stylistic lineup of musicians to the Seminar. Her guests included Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) forbear, multi-instrumentalis and composer Roscoe Mitchell (co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago); pianist, composer & Kennedy Center artistic advisor Jason Moran; poet and spoken word artist Moor Mother; bassist, composer, arranger and educator Rufus Reid; drummer and electronic musician Marcus Gilmore and pianist, organist and vocalist Amina Claudine Myers, a fellow AACM member.

2020 Concert Livestream Schedule:

Pitt Jazz Ensemble Tribute to Dr. Nathan Davis

A prerecorded video performance of a Nathan Davis composition by members of the Pitt Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Ralph Guzzi, will be posted on Pitt Jazz Studies throughout Jazz Week.

Monday, Nov. 2

12 noon

"Dr. Nathan Davis: Musician, Innovator and Educator"

Former students of Davis will share recollections in this live discussion, moderated by Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies Aaron Johnson. Panelists include: Dale Fielder; James Johnson Jr.; Alton Merrell; Kenneth Prouty; and Doretta Whalen.

Wednesday, Nov. 4

7 p.m.

"Jazz Talk" with Nicole Mitchell

This episode, titled "Racial Equity in Jazz and Jazz Education," will feature panelists Gail Austin, managing director of the Kente Arts Alliance; Ayana Contreras of WBEZ in Chicago; and national arts consultant Willard Jenkins.

Thursday, Nov. 5

9:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

This event can be accessed at:

"Feed the Fire: A Cyber Symposium in Honor of Geri Allen"

This all-day conference at Columbia University will bring together internationally renowned scholars and performers to discuss Allen's legacy as an artist and educator. The event will coincide with the release of a special issue of Pitt's journal Jazz and Culture, focusing entirely on Allen, slated to be published this fall. The final keynote presentation will feature political activist, philosopher, academic, and author Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin (William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University), Terri Lyne Carrington (drummer, composer, producer; Founder, Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice), and Gina Dent (Associate Professor of Feminist Studies at University of California-Santa Cruz. During breaks, an extended performance video of Ms. Allen will be played.

Additional participants include:

Mount Allen III (Geri's brother, Director of Operations at SFJAZZ)

Dwight Andrews (Emory University)

Courtney Bryan (Tulane University)

Michael Dessen (University of California, Irvine)

Kevin Fellezs (Columbia University)

Ellie M. Hisama (Columbia University)

Vijay Iyer (Harvard University)

Aaron J. Johnson (University of Pittsburgh)

Veronica Johnson (Detroit Metro Times, Jazztimes)

Tammy Kernodle (Miami University)

George E. Lewis (Columbia University)

Nicole Mitchell (Gantt) (University of Pittsburgh)

Fred Moten (New York University)

Robert O'Meally (Columbia University)

Yoko Suzuki (University of Pittsburgh)

Francis Wong (Asian Improv Arts)

Friday, Nov. 6

7 p.m.

"Reminiscing Eminence" International jazz artists Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) and Vijay Iyer (piano) along with Nicole Mitchell Gantt (flute) and Pittsburgh-based Dwayne Dolphin (bass) will discuss the influence of Geri Allen. Following the conversation, each will perform a pre-recorded solo as well as a collaborative piece inspired by the work of Geri Allen. Photos of these artists are available upon request.

Saturday, Nov. 7

Pitt Jazz Faculty Showcase

7 p.m.

Pre-recorded at Pittsburgh's Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, small ensembles of Pitt jazz faculty will perform songs, many of them composed by Nathan Davis. Musicians will include:

Nicole Mitchell (flute)

Kenneth Powell (saxophone)

Yoko Suzuki (saxophone)

Ralph Guzzi (trumpet)

Aaron Johnson (trombone)

Mark Strickland (guitar)

Frank Cunimondo (piano)

James Johnson Jr. (piano)

Irene Monteverde (piano)

Jeffrey Mangone (bass)

James Johnson III (drums)

Sandra Dowe (voice)

Pitt Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey (voice)

This year, in keeping with social distancing measures, all events will be held online:

All online events can be found on the Pitt Music Department YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzhaYWy3kDp19c8mskKBMlg/video. All events are free