Charles "Chuck" Austin June 17, 1927 -- May 26, 2012 Jazz Trumpet Great Helped Preserve History

By Twedt, Steve | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Charles "Chuck" Austin June 17, 1927 -- May 26, 2012 Jazz Trumpet Great Helped Preserve History


Twedt, Steve, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


A June 23 ceremony to commemorate the contributions of local African-American jazz musicians will take on added poignancy following the death this weekend of local jazz trumpet great Charles "Chuck" Austin.

On that day, a historical marker will be dedicated in the Hill District near where the offices of the former African American Musicians Union Local 471 stood. It will be the culmination of two years of work by the African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh, of which Mr. Austin was a founding member.

"That has been something so dear to Daddy for all these years," said Lynn Austin Scott of Ben Avon, Mr. Austin's daughter.

While Mr. Austin will not be present for the June festivities, organizers say he will be remembered as a valued friend and respected musician who in 2008 was honored by the Manchester Craftsman's Guild as a Pittsburgh Jazz Legend.

"On stage, you could tell there was joy that he was playing music," said Marty Ashby, executive producer of MCG Jazz. "He was always very happy that he was on the bandstand, making music and sharing his heart and passion."

"He was just a warm, generous person and a good jazz player," said Joe Negri, who was part of the same Jazz Legends group. And, through Mr. Austin's union work, Mr. Negri added, "He did everything he could to make musicians' lives better."

Mr. Austin, who grew up in Ben Avon and most recently lived in the Hill District, died of cancer Saturday at the Aspinwall Veterans Administration hospice. He was 84.

This past weekend his friends and colleagues remembered him as the consummate sideman, a trumpet player who could play lead chair or blend in with his bandmates with equal skill and grace, and who excelled at helping younger players find their way.

"He was forever youthful, forever energetic, and he got along with everybody," said Nelson Harrison, a longtime friend who first met Mr. Austin nearly 50 years ago when they played in the Joe Westry Orchestra.

Even when AAMU Local 471 merged with the local white musicians union, and bookings for black musicians quickly dried up, Mr. …

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