Online jazz seminar this month will honor pianist Erroll Garner

The Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert is returning for its 51st iteration with online performances and other events from Jan. 24 to 29 honoring famed pianist and Pittsburgh native Erroll Garner.

Erroll GarnerThe virtual event will feature performances by Pitt jazz students and faculty, a symposium on musician rights, a virtual tour of the Erroll Garner Archive housed at Pitt, and a concert performance showcasing critically acclaimed pianist Orrin Evans with Pittsburgh-based musicians. 

The Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert was founded by late Jazz Studies Program Director Nathan Davis. It was the first academic jazz seminar in the country to feature international artists connecting with student musicians in a lecture format, then performing together as an ensemble.

Due to budget challenges related to the pandemic, it wasn’t feasible to mount a traditional 51st annual Jazz Seminar & Concert in fall 2021, a spokesperson said. But Jazz Studies did present “Give the Drummer Some,” featuring local drummers, from Nov. 4 to 6, 2021. Organizers hope to host the 52nd annual event in November 2022.

Philadelphia-based Evans has more than 25 albums to his credit without ever relying on the support of a major label. He topped the “Rising Star Pianist” category in the 2018 DownBeat Critics Poll and has two Grammy nominations.

All events are free and open online to the public and the Pitt community. Performances will be streamed on the Music@Pitt YouTube channel.

Erroll Garner (1921-1977) is best known as composer of the popular jazz standard “Misty.” He started performing on riverboats and at The Hurricane in the Hill District, and left Pittsburgh in his 20s for a successful career in New York City.

“Erroll Garner is not only a Pittsburgh icon, but he’s an incredible jazz legend who forever changed the scene through his infectious style, deeply embedded with melodically virtuosic swing,” said Nicole Mitchell, Pitt’s Jazz Studies program director. “The University of Pittsburgh is blessed to hold his archive which contains crucial insights to his music and the journey of his career.”

Last June, the Erroll Garner Foundation celebrated Garner’s 100th year by releasing three new recordings.

Pitt Jazz Week 2022 events include:

8 p.m. Jan. 24: Kickoff performances by the student-based Pitt Jazz Ensemble as well as by Pitt graduate student pianists Samuel Boateng and Irene Monteverde. View live online here.

7 p.m. Jan. 26: “Jazz Talk,” the podcast of Pitt Jazz Studies Director Nicole Mitchell, will feature an episode on Erroll Garner with comments from guest pianist Orrin Evans and Irene Monteverde, a Pitt jazz Ph.D. student pianist whose dissertation focuses on Garner. There will also be a 15-minute virtual tour of the Erroll Garner Archives at Pitt, which the University Library System acquired in 2015. Register here.

Jan. 27: Musicians Rights Symposium

Part 1: 1-2:30 p.m. A panel discussion on musician’s rights, including the difficult terrain musicians must travel to secure ownership of their own music. Panelists include:

  • Michael Heller, Pitt associate professor of music

  • Aaron J. Johnson, Pitt assistant professor of music

  • Tina Rivers Ryan, art historian with expertise in media art

  • Anjali Vats, associate professor at Pitt Law

  • Matthew Garrison, jazz bassist with his own record label: Garrison Jazz

Orrin Evans (photo by Anna Webber)Part 2: 3-4 p.m. Keynote presentation titled “The Liberation of Erroll Garner: A Conversation about Music, Money, and Power” by Robin D. G. Kelley, professor of American history at UCLA, who has knowledge of Garner’s own problems with artistic rights. Garner and his manager, Martha Glaser, sued Columbia Records in the late 1950s in an attempt for Garner to start his own record label, virtually unheard of at that time. Garner and Glaser were ultimately successful. Register here.

7 p.m. Jan. 28: Jazz Faculty Showcase with performances of Garner compositions by Frank Cunimondo, piano; Jeff Grubbs, bass; Ralph Guzzi, trumpet; Aaron J. Johnson, trombone; James Johnson Jr, piano; James Johnson III, drums; Nicole Mitchell, flute; Kenneth Powell, saxophone; Mark Strickland, guitar; and Yoko Suzuki, saxophone. View live online here.

7 p.m. Jan. 29: 2022 Pitt Jazz Collaborative Concert with Orrin Evans, Jeff Grubbs, James Johnson III and Nicole Mitchell. View live online here.

Information and links for all events can be found on For any questions about the events, email or call the jazz program’s office at 412-624-4187.