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Book Excerpts

Trudy Pitts: Extraordinary Pianist & Master of the Hammond B-3

By Published: August 14, 2012
It turns out Mr. C's audacious claims about Trudy's prowess on the piano, her virtuosity, are true. Through the years, she has collaborated with Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
, Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry
b.1920
trumpet
, Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
1936 - 1977
reeds
, James Moody
James Moody
James Moody
1925 - 2010
reeds
, Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
}, Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
1932 - 2013
trumpet
, Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
, Odean Pope
Odean Pope
Odean Pope
b.1938
saxophone
, Tyrone Brown
Tyrone Brown
Tyrone Brown
b.1940
bass
, Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
, John Blake
John Blake
John Blake
b.1947
violin
, Al Grey
Al Grey
Al Grey
1925 - 2000
trombone
, and a plethora of others. She's mentored many a young lion, including Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco
b.1971
organ, Hammond B3
, Orrin Evans
Orrin Evans
Orrin Evans
b.1975
piano
, Terrell Stafford, Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
. It's just always been nonstop music. Indeed, when she was nine months pregnant with her daughter Anysha, she was performing in a club with [saxophonist] Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
Grover Washington, Jr.
1943 - 1999
saxophone
Her water broke mid-stroke during a solo, and she was rushed immediately to Albert Einstein Hospital.



Years later, her composition "Anysha" was featured on her solo piano project, "Me, Myself and I." In addition to being a pianist, Trudy is recognized as a master on the Hammond B-3 organ. Her recordings on the instrument for the Prestige label have become standard bearers: "Introducing Trudy Pitts," "Bucket Full of Soul" and "These Blues of Mine" feature Trudy as a leader; El Hombre (Riverside, 1967) was guitarist Pat Martino's first album as a leader.

Her seminal work, "A Joyful Noise," composed for orchestra, jazz ensemble and concert choir, premiered at Mother Bethel AME Church, in 1996. Compositions for the featured vocalists represent Trudy's favorite Biblical passages: Psalm 150, written for and sung by her son, T.C. III, Psalm 100 for her daughter Anysha, and The Lord's Prayer, for her daughter-in-law Laura. She performed a Mother's Day Concert with pianist Marian McPartland at Temple University in 1997. In 2006, Trudy became the first jazz musician to perform on the Philadelphia Kimmel Center's pipe organ (while simultaneously opening for Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
b.1937
vocalist
). And, she has been invited back many times to appear in prominent live music showcases such as California's Monterey Jazz Festival. I recall Trudy telling me that by making music, she's following her destiny. This was during a 1993 interview for Jazz Philadelphia: "I feel there's a purpose for each and every one of us to be born and given the gift of life and breath. I feel that my purpose was to be here to play music." During that same interview, she also said: "Jazz is a phenomenon. Not only is jazz a phenomenon, it's an element that was created that almost lacks definition. Because it's endless. It isn't like sitting down and perfecting a work of Chopin, for instance, and getting it down to your satisfaction. Jazz is a matter of creativity and ever, ever searching. The door is open as far as you are able to go with it."

Sacred Soul Sisters

But I digress. Back to our conversation. Trudy was remarking about how when we met, Steve and I were still married and our daughter Shenneth was in diapers. And now here she is a young professional, on her own in Washington, D.C., with her undergraduate and graduate degrees behind her.

"I know, Trudy. I can hardly believe it myself. Where does the time go?"

"You know, Anysha and I were just talking about that last night. She's my baby, 'cause you know. I can't remember how many times I've told you Anysha is a full eleven years younger than TC. What on earth were me and C thinking? Starting all over again like that. But that's my baby girl and she's just a blessing. And now look at her. I was so happy when Laura and TC gave me my first grandson, but here she's got so grown she's given me two more grandbabies, beautiful boys. And such an attentive mother! I tell you, Nysha and Randy sure do make some pretty babies."

"Can you believe it Trudy? We've been friends now for almost 25 years. Can you imagine—25 years! And you've stuck by me through everything—everything. Anytime I need you, you're always there for me. And that means a lot."

"Yeah, Pheralyn. Anysha and I were seriously trying to figure it out. What exactly is the essence of time? Where does it go? What happens to all those days that go by? And I tell you, I got so inspired that when we got off the phone, I wrote these lyrics. All day I've been hearing the melody, playing around with some chords. I really think I'm on to something. Want to hear it? Want to hear what I've sketched out so far?"

Pat"Sure."

She scurries around in the background muttering under her breath. "Where'd I put it? I just had it." I can tell she's shuffling papers, trying to put her hands on that particular piece of sheet music. Then I hear Mr. C summoning her.

"Trudy!" he bellows from the back room.

First she ignores him. Then she tells him, "Hold on."

"Why?" he wants to know.

"Because I'm talking to Pheralyn on the phone."

"Oh. Then why didn't you say so?"

"I just did."


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