Trudy Pitts

Credit Line
John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

Mosley conveys the confident spirit of Trudy Pitts at her piano, taking her picture from above. The dynamic composition of furniture at strong angles frames up his subject, who continues to play her instrument even as she looks up to acknowledge the photographer’s presence.

A Philadelphia-born jazz organist, pianist, and vocalist, Pitts played with many jazz greats over her four-decade career, but she is perhaps best known for her work on the Hammond B3 organ, which she helped popularize in the 1950s and ’60s. In 2006, she became the first jazz musician to play the Kimmel Center’s 7,000 pipe organ.

Producer and jazz musician Warren Oree recalls, “Philly’s known as the organ town. Back in the day, you always had at least one bar where you heard that organ just jumping. It’s not unusual that the organists would be from Philly—but you have a lot of women organists. You know, Gloria Coleman, Trudy Pitts, Shirley Scott…Trudy was so elegant. She was really an elegant organist.”

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