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Remembering Trudy Pitts

Suzanne Cloud reports on the recent memorial celebration of the Philadelphia-based pianist and organist

Trudy Pitts
Mr. C at memorial celebration for Trudy Pitts on June 4, 2011 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia
Pat Martino at memorial celebration for Trudy Pitts on June 4, 2011 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia
TC III at memorial celebration for Trudy Pitts on June 4, 2011 at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia

There are a few things I’ve found to be fairly commonplace at the jazz funerals I’ve attended over the years. Many times the religious figures chosen to officiate often turn out to know nothing of the dearly departed, as when the priest at the well-attended funeral of the late Philadelphia pianist Gerald Price kept calling him “Gerry” over and over again until some tormented soul screamed out, “His name is Gerald!” in the middle of the ceremony. Or the clergymen, when confronted by all the new, unfamiliar, upturned faces in their spiritual homes, tend to make especially protracted entreaties for us wayward jazz folk to come to Jesus. A few families seek to avoid these ecumenical mishaps by inviting friends and family to get up before the mourners and give testimony about the loved one, and this usually seems to work out fine unless someone decides to arise spontaneously from the congregation to take center stage and wax on forever about themselves and their careers, which happened to much eye-rolling at a bassist’s funeral last year.

Fortunately, none of that happened at the memorial celebration of the late organist Trudy Pitts, the godmother of all things jazz in Philadelphia, on June 4th at the Kimmel Center. Bill “Mr. C” Carney, her husband since the mid-1950s when she replaced another Philadelphia great, Shirley Scott, who was leaving his group The Hi-Tones, decided to wait after her death last December (in the wake of the death of pianist Sid Simmons in November) to make sure this tribute would loom as large as his lady’s talent. And it surely did.

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