Essential Pittsburgh
5:37 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Roger Humphries: Uplifting Pittsburgh Through the Generations

Pittsburgh jazz legend Roger Humphries
Pittsburgh jazz legend Roger Humphries
Credit Billy Jackson / NOMMO Productions

Roger Humphries is one of Pittsburgh’s most notable jazz musicians. He’s performed professionally since the age of 14 with artists such as Horace Silvers and Ray Charles. But his contributions to the Pittsburgh community go beyond music, he’s uplifted generations of young people.

Humphries is the focus of the award-winning documentary Roger Humphries: Pass it On made by Billy Jackson.

Pass it On describes the life of Humphries and focuses on his connections with the community, his family and how these connections led to his success.

Humphries grew up around musicians, so he said the big names like Ray Charles didn't phase him, "At that age, I didn't really think about it because it was kind of a natural thing to be around all of the heavyweights, the older musicians, because two of my brothers were musicians. My one brother Norman played the drums, he taught me how to play the drums and my other brother Lawrence played the saxophone. Plus I had two older uncles who were saxophone and trumpet players."

As he made a name for himself, Humphries eventually needed to make a decision between performing out on the road or coming home to raise his children.

Looking back on the crossroads, Humphries said "Scary you know, because once you go through life there's no going back. So if I didn't do what I planned to do, and be with my family, you can't go back and say, 'Well, I should have been with my family, when I come around next time I'm going raise the family.' So the decision was made then and I'm very happy."

Filmmaker Billy Jackson explained why he chose to focus on Humphries' life in Pittsburgh as the subject of this film, "The focus is to point out to the audience the importance of family, of community and supporting an artist. That's number one. Number two, the integrity that Roger has both with his music and with his relationships with people. And I think number three, it's important that we get this message out so that we have some more coming up behind Roger."

An encore screening of Pass it On will be shown at the Kelly Strayhorn Theatre Saturday at 6 p.m. A Question and Answer session with Humphries will take place after the film.