[JPL] Walt Harper passes
Jazz Promo Services
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Thu Oct 26 11:20:49 EDT 2006
Local jazz legend Walt Harper dies
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
By Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Walt Harper, an iconic local jazz pianist and club owner who in the 1950s
was dubbed the "Prom King" because of the number of college and high school
dances at which his band performed, died today of apparent cardiac arrest.
Mr. Harper's age is unknown because he wasn't fond of talking about it, and
neither is his wife, Maggie Harper.
Mrs. Harper today said her husband died en route to UPMC Shadyside
"This was all of a sudden," said Mrs. Harper. "He wasn't feeling too well
the last few days, but he wasn't in bad health. He had problems with his
knees from playing tennis."
For more than 50 years, Mr. Harper played jazz the way his fans wanted to
hear it. As a pianist and composer, he remained faithful to the gentler
side, never exploring the music's more esoteric territories. He was also a
celebrity tennis player and a savvy club owner whose most famous venues
were the "Attic" in Market Square and Harper's in Oxford Centre.
Mr. Harper also presented jazz workshops and cultural programs, recorded
eight albums and appeared numerous times on national and area television,
with his group or alone. He hosted a PBS special, "Walt Harper at
Fallingwater," filmed at the Kaufmann home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The program aired nationally and received an Emmy nomination.
In 2001, Mr. Harper received the Henry Schwalb Excellence in the Arts
Award, given by Pittsburgh Magazine. The award honors artists for taking
risks, thinking beyond themselves, attaining excellence in their fields and
educating new audiences.
EDITORS: Nathan Davis is available at 724-935-8206 (home) or 412-624-4187
(office) or through Sharon Blake.
October 25, 2006
Contact: Sharon Blake
[412-624-4364; blake at pitt.edu]
Pitt Jazz Studies Director Nathan Davis: "A Lot of Musicians Aren't Great
Bandleaders . . . Walt Harper was a Great Bandleader."
PITTSBURGH--University of Pittsburgh Jazz Studies Director Nathan Davis
describes local jazz pianist and former jazz club owner Walt Harper, who
died today, as a "Pittsburgh jazz icon."
"Walt always had great bands," says Davis. "A lot of musicians aren't great
bandleaders, but he was a great bandleader." Davis says when he first
arrived in Pittsburgh in 1969, Harper was running an international jazz
festival and bringing in major acts. Harper's name was known throughout
Europe, where Davis was living prior to accepting a job at Pitt. Davis is
available to discuss Harper's commitment to jazz and his contribution to the
local jazz scene.
Davis is the founder of the long-running Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert,
which marks its 36th year this November 1-4. He is a member of the
prestigious International Jazz Hall of Fame, the creator of the University
of Pittsburgh International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame and the University
of Pittsburgh Sonny Rollins Jazz Archives, and the editor of the
International Jazz Archives Journal. A jazzopera written by Davis, called
Just Above My Head, had its world premiere in Pittsburgh in 2004.
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