Jazz Legend Art Blakey Honored

Article excerpt

It started, appropriately enough, with a drumroll.

After Rodger Humphries raced drumsticks across the face of his snare, a cadre of jazz lovers, officials and family unveiled a state historical marker Sunday honoring drummer and local jazz legend Art Blakey.

The blue-and-gold sign -- which hails Blakey's work with singer Billy Eckstine and his own group, The Jazz Messengers, that earned him a lifetime achievement Grammy award posthumously in 2005 -- will be placed near Blakey's childhood home on Chauncey Street in the Hill District. Blakey was born in 1919 and died in 1990.

"Art Blakey once declared ... 'No America, no jazz.' This is the only culture America's brought forth," said State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D- Highland Park, who appeared on behalf of the state Historical and Museum Commission. "Pittsburgh played a part in that legendary history of jazz culture (and) placement of this historical marker ... will build on a rich tradition."

Musicians followed the ceremony with nearly two hours of jazz, some of it Blakey's work. The event, part of Citiparks' Reservoir of Jazz series, was sponsored by Highland Park Community Club, Rep. Joe Preston, D-East Liberty, The Bank of New York Mellon, DUQ 90.5 FM, Trib Total Media and the Pittsburgh Courier.

Humphries introduced the first song, a Blakey tune dubbed "One By One," by joking about lessons the elder drummer taught him. …