Roger Humphries annual boat ride soothes the soul with amazing music

CHRIS MORELL performs with RF Factor. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)
CHRIS MORELL performs with RF Factor. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

North Side resident Robin Alexander and downtown Pittsburgh resident Carolyn Kazdin have made it their business to attend the annual Jazz on the Water boat ride given by local Pittsburgh Jazz icon, Roger Humphries.
“It’s the best place to be on a Sunday afternoon,” said Kazdin, who along with Alexander have attended the event for three years. “It’s a sensational atmosphere with the music and everything and the fact that it helps with a scholarship that Roger gives out ensures that Jazz is brought forth to the next generation.”
Alexander agreed with her friend.
“Pittsburgh is such a fabulous Jazz city and it’s wonderful to be here with these great Jazz musicians,” Alexander said.
In addition to Humphries and his RH Factor Band, the afternoon featured  local soul artist Spanky Wilson, salsa band, Azucar, salsa instruction by Loyal Martinez from Salsa 412 and the afternoon ended with Jazzy balladeer Chris Morrell who traveled all the way from North Carolina to perform at Humphries’ request.
“Roger gave me a call and asked me to come and perform,” explained Morrell, who performed with the Count Basie Orchestra for 18 years and cut an album at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. “It’s a beautiful day to bring God’s love through music.”
Their diverse music styles is one of the reason’s Humphries chose this line-up for this year’s boat ride.

“I chose these artists because I wanted to give people the taste and experience of different music. When I grew up we liked to dance and listen to a lot of different things,” Humphries said.
Thirty-three years ago, the boat ride began as a way for people to enjoy a relaxing afternoon on the water and 12 years ago Humphries added the scholarship component to help the emerging musical careers of CAPA kids. Humphries held teaching positions at CAPA for 28 years and also at the University of Pittsburgh
Although slow to take off, Humphries’ good deed has spanned to include musically inclined students from other schools throughout the years. This year two students, Simon Bullo and Jason Washington, Jr. won the scholarships.
“These boys have a great desire to play music. They didn’t choose music. Music chose them,” said Humphries who was “chosen” by the drums as at the age of 3 ½.
Humphries began touring the country as a drummer at age 14 and has performed with some of music’s greatest artists including Ray Charles whom he went on tour with in 1967, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Slide Hampton and George Benson.

He worked with Horace Silver and performed on the album, “Song for my Father.” He performed on four tracks on the album. He has led his own band, RH Factor, since the early 1970s and led various other bands under various other names.
Humphries released full-length albums under his own moniker in 1993, 2003, and 2011.
He can be found playing weekly at the Savoy Restaurant in the Strip District and is working on new material for another album.
Humphries would like more students to get involved in the scholarship process.
He said he plans on putting the scholarship information on more social media areas like Facebook.
“I’m trying to explore other avenues to try and get more kids interested in participating in the scholarship. It’s so important to encourage the kids that are in music because they are the next generation,” Humphries said.
Repeat and first time passengers alike were soothed by the music and the ether of the afternoon during the boat ride.
“I was looking for something nice and elegant to do on this beautiful day and I wanted to be on the water,” explained boat ride newcomer Delana Flowers.
The music is what drew Terrence Denne to the event.
“This is the only chance you get to see all of these great artists together and enjoy all the artists together,” he said.

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