Obituary: Pittsburgh Hill jazz musician Jordan ‘made everyone feel like family’

Pittsburgh’s jazz family is dark today.

One of his own, Hill Jordan, 50, died Wednesday of unknown causes.

Jordan, known to many as “Hilly”, was a trombonist and leader of Hill Jordan & Slide Worldwide. He regularly performed at clubs and festivals in Pittsburgh and area. Many knew him for his deep conversations and roaring laughs between sets of music.

“He was enterprising and such a talented musician,” said Evan Frazier, who grew up in Stanton Heights and graduated from Peabody High School in East Liberty with Jordan. “He made his mark on the Pittsburgh music scene.”

A GoFundMe page created for the funeral services describes Jordan: “Nephew of Pittsburgh jazz legend Dr. Nelson Harrison, father of Isabella and Bryant, Hill Jordan was a Peabody graduate and was educated at the University of Pittsburgh. There he performed with the Pitt Marching Band, Pitt Jazz Ensemble, African Dance Ensemble with Shona Sheriff and Umoja African Arts Company.

Pittsburgh jazz legend Roger Humphries said he met Jordan many years ago.

“He was so talented and he loved playing his trombone,” said Humphries, 77, from the North Side. “I am so saddened to hear of his unexpected passing. I said ‘Wow’ when I heard the news.

Steve Nelson, who grew up with Jordan in Highland Park and lives in New Jersey, said the word “friend” couldn’t quite describe his bond with Jordan.

“Our bond was more than friends,” Nelson said. “He was like a brother.”

Nelson remembers spending time with Jordan’s grandparents in Highland Park. As a teenager, Jordan often refused to go out because he wanted to practice trombone.

Jordan and Nelson have known each other since they were 3 years old. They attended different schools but went to the same church.

They were Boy Scouts in Troop 34 and loved camping and sleepovers.

Courtesy of Steve Nelson

Hill Jordan (right) with childhood friend Steve Nelson was part of Boy Scout Troop 34

Even though Nelson left the state, the two remained connected. They sometimes took their children to Kennywood.

Nelson said Jordan is committed to taking care of his son and daughter. Jordan’s son Bryant called Nelson “Uncle Steve” and Nelson’s son Roman called Jordan “Uncle Hill”.

On the weekend of 9/11, Jordan called Nelson and they relived the fateful day 20 years ago. Nelson worked near the World Trade Center. His parents have not been able to contact their son. They phoned their daughter and then Jordan to see if he had heard from Nelson.

“My family considers Hill part of our family,” Nelson said.

Because of Jordan, Frazier met his wife Holly Hatcher-Frazier. Frazier, a former Highmark executive, directs the Advanced Leadership Institute (TALI), a nonprofit focused on increasing black executive leadership in Pittsburgh and nationally.

“We’re really sad to hear this news,” Frazier said. “I know the music scene is hurting and I took a few steps back when we lost ‘Hilly’.”

For as long as he can remember, Frazier said, Jordan could be seen playing the trombone, including during their days at Peabody High.

“He was really bright and had a fun spirit,” Frazier said. “He was in one of the college programs.”

One of his gigs was performing for Barebones Black Box Theater and Barebones Production, Inc. in Braddock. Jordan performed on summer weekends in a courtyard outside the Superior Motors theater and restaurant.

The theater’s owner, North Point Breeze actor Patrick Jordan, said he was always asked if he and Hill Jordan were related.

He answers “no, but yes”.

“We’ve been friends for over 15 years,” said Patrick Jordan. “I love this guy. He was always a beacon of light. He made everyone feel like family. I can’t get over the idea that he’s gone. C He was a big name in Pittsburgh and he loved collaborating on things. He was one of the nicest guys. Heartbroken.”

As well as many others. Jordan’s Facebook page is flooded with heartfelt messages.

“When I got the call about his death, it was difficult,” Nelson said. “He touched my life. Even though we lived in different states, I knew I could call or text and he would be there. There’s no doubt that the jazz scene in Pittsburgh is a little quieter today. .

Justin Strong was a co-owner of the popular former East Liberty Shadow Lounge concert venue. Jordan performs there sometimes.

“I was talking with friends who knew him and we talked about his impact in this world,” Strong said. “His death is a shock and we are all on this path and should think about our impact, we should take stock of our lives and try to do something impactful. Hill definitely had an impact. He can tick that off. box.

As a fellow musician, Humphries said he valued Jordan’s hard work and dedication more.

Humphries recalled several open jam sessions Jordan attended at the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy that Humphries hosted.

“It’s something we can all hold on to,” Humphries said. “Everyone responded to him like family because that’s how he treated everyone.”

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Highland Ave. in Pittsburgh. Doors open at 10 a.m.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, or via Twitter .