West Park (Northside)
On a magical mid-September evening, one of Pittsburgh’s most distinct and diverse outdoor happenings will usher in a new decade—and welcome a string of firsts. Setting up shop in scenic West Park on the Northside (near the Aviary)—to accommodate its expanding audiences—City of Asylum Pittsburgh‘s Jazz Poetry Concert turns 11 with some new twists on its signature annual event.
This is a night when music fans know they will hear exceptional jazz and compelling poetry, while exploring a melding of the two art forms. But this time around—for the first time anywhere—three MacArthur Genius Grant winners will be featured in the same performance. Dubbed “MacArthurs in the Park” (cue flowery 1968 Jimmy Webb song), the multi-format event will showcase poet and University of Pittsburgh professor Terrance Hayes (2014), Grammy-nominated composer, pianist and bandleader Vijay Iyer (2013) and poet Heather McHugh (2009).
Iyer, who was voted “Jazz Artist of the Year” in the 2015 Downbeat Critics Poll and was appointed as Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University in 2014, will also perform with his own acclaimed trio, which features 21-year-old drummer Marcus Gilmore and Grammy-nominated bassist and composer Stephan Crump.
During the evening’s collaborative segment—always a highlight and always developed in Pittsburgh the Friday before the concert—Iyer will be joined by legendary jazz saxophonist, composer, flutist, poet and artist Oliver Lake. Serving as musical curator of Jazz Poetry—he has appeared in each concert since 2005—Lake co-founded the World Saxophone Quartet in 1977, and has also arranged music for Bjork, Lou Reed and A Tribe Called Quest, collaborated with poets Amiri Baraka and Ntozake Shange and is currently a member of the group, Trio 3.
Also participating in Jazz Poetry are Pakistani poet Harris Khalique and Belgian graphic novelist Shamisa Delaunay. Emcees for Jazz Poetry this year will be international columnists from City of Asylum’s online magazine SampsoniaWay.org—who will participate via video—including Tarik Gunseril (Turkey), Dina Meza (Honduras), Tienchi Martin Liao (Germany) and Chalachew Tadesse (Ethiopia).
The Jazz Poetry Concert is free but reservations are suggested.
Can’t make the concert? Watch the live stream.