West Park

September 6
7:45 – 9:45 p.m.

Literature, nature and jazz will converge on the Northside at City of Asylum Pittsburgh‘s signature annual event. Celebrating its 10th anniversary and unveiling a new location, the free and always festive Jazz Poetry Concert brings music and voices from around the world to West Park.

City of Asylum’s highly anticipated concert draws hundreds for a spirited outdoor celebration of creative expression and interdisciplinary collaboration. For its 10th anniversary, Jazz Poetry welcomes some of its favorite performers from past concerts—with some artists coming from as close as Pittsburgh and as far as Australia.

The one-of-a-kind evening of poetry and music under the stars features a diverse lineup of award-winning cultural producers, including the Oliver Lake Big Band (New York City), writer Gerald Stern (Pittsburgh), author Kei Miller (Jamaica) and spoken word performer TJ Dema (Botswana). Joining them is the concert’s newest performer, poet Ali Cobby Eckermann, who is making the trip to Pittsburgh from Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Australia.

With the exception of appearing at Jazz Poetry, none of the participating artists have ever performed in Pittsburgh before. And for the first time in the concert’s decade-long tenure, the event’s curators have invited only English-language writers and composers, which will showcase and explore how English sounds, and is transformed, as a global language.

Since 2005, the acclaimed jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer and poet Oliver Lake has served as musical curator of Jazz Poetry and appeared in each concert, along with different accompanying musicians. With very few surviving big bands remaining, his 17-piece Oliver Lake Big Band is distinct in the way it blends classics, contemporary non-jazz music and free-form improvisation. In addition to playing in and conducting his own Big Band, Lake will premiere “Stoopin’ is a Verb,” the first of eight songs he is composing about what it has been like for him to live on the Northside during a 10-week residency with City of Asylum. Featuring a mash-up of lyrics culled from discussions with seven Northside group, the debut song will also feature vocalist Tami Dixon, of Bricolage Production Company.

Visitors to the Northside can also see a mural on Jazz House, located at 324 Sampsonia Way, which is based on Lake’s artwork. After appearing in Pittsburgh, the band will head to NYC’s famed jazz club, The Iridium. A BNY Jazz Legacy artist and recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award for career achievement, Lake is co-founder of the legendary World Saxophone Quartet. Born Marianna, AK in 1942, Lake is featured on 50-plus recordings made between 1971 and 2013.

Founded in 2004, City of Asylum Pittsburgh brings writers, readers and residents together via global literature and cultural exchange. Located on Sampsonia Way in the historic Mexican War Streets, City of Asylum’s Northside campus includes redeveloped houses that serve both as homes for exiled writers and as public artworks. Its unique arts-based community development model has presented 250-plus authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts. The organization’s publishing arm, Sampsonia Way, specializes in banned books in translation, anthologies of contemporary writing from countries where free speech is under threat and an online journal for persecuted writers.

To accommodate its expanding audiences, the concert is relocating from its longtime home on Sampsonia Way to West Park, located adjacent to the National Aviary. The free rain-or-shine event will take place under a giant tent. View a complete lineup of participating writers and musicians.

If you can’t make it to the concert, be sure to check out the event’s live stream here or here.

The concert is free, but reservations are recommended.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...