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Jazz Poetry Month

Celebrate the 17th Annual
International Jazz Poetry Month


Since 2005 September in Pittsburgh means it’s time to celebrate Jazz Poetry at City of Asylum. This year, Jazz Poetry 2021 melds all the opportunities of virtual programming with the thrilling return to in-person concerts, all while speaking to the very core of City of Asylum’s mission to protect and celebrate creative free expression. 

There will be 9 completely different concerts including 4 international commissions created specially for Jazz Poetry 2021. Some will be virtual, some will be live-streamed from Europe directly to Pittsburgh, and some concerts will be live at City of Asylum @ Alphabet City. All concerts will continue to be streamed on our virtual programming channel. There are plenty of options to tune-in and participate and we’re welcome to welcome back this community in whatever way suits you best. 

All programs are streamed and can be watched at any time.
Missed a program? Don’t worry—all programs will remain on demand and accessible on Crowdcast page. See the event listings below for access and free registration.

See below for a full list of events and ticketing links.

A complete calendar can be downloaded here.
Download a poster here.


SUNDAY, September 12, 6:00 PM EDT
Layale Chaker
Inner Rhyme
Run time: 90 minutes

Layale Chaker is a violinist and composer whose work weaves together classical music, Jazz, Arabic Music, and improvisation. Born in Lebanon and trained musically in Beirut, London, and Paris, Layale’s music fuses sounds of the world and musical genres. Inner Rhyme, Layale’s debut album, is a suite of music that explores the sounds, rhythms, rhymes, shapes, and forms of Arabic poetry. 

Layale and her band join us live from the Alphabet City stage to perform Inner Rhyme and collaborate with poets from across the US and across Lebanon.

Country of origin: Lebanon
Language: English & Arabic with English translations
Format: Artists live from City of Asylum. Two ways to watch—live in-person from Alphabet City or virtually on-demand via City of Asylum @ HomePrograms that take place at our venue have limited seating, so we encourage early registration. Please review our safety policies below before registering to attend.

See in-person COVID-19 safety guidelines.

View the program for tonight’s show.


TUESDAY, September 14, 7:00 PM EDT
Norihide Nakajima Quintet
Run time: 120 minutes

This concert marks the first time Jazz Poetry reaches Japan. A concert filmed for fans in Pittsburgh inside the top jazz club in Kyoto, Rag Jazz. 

The program features original compositions, with Japanese poetry woven throughout as lyrics, and Japanese Jazz standards. Featuring musicians Utako Yamauchi (vocals), Tsutomu Takei (saxophone), Kiyoshi Takeshita (piano), Norihide Nakajima (bass), and Takehiro Shimizu (drums).

Country of origin: Japan
Language: Japanese with English translations
Format: Pre-recorded, watch virtually


SUNDAY, September 19, 6:00 PM EDT
Vlatko Stefanovski Trio

Run time: 90 minutes

An ethno-rock jazz fusion trio who weaves the sounds of North Macedonia throughout their sharp rhythms and electric sounds. This concert was filmed in front of a small studio audience in the Macedonian capital Skopje, and premiers exclusively on City of Asylum @ Home. 


Country of origin: North Macedonia
Language: Macedonian with English translations
Format: Pre-recorded, watch virtually


MONDAY, September 20, 7:00 PM EDT
Mai Khoi: Bad Activist
Run time: 75 minutes

Bad Activist is an autobiographical performance piece, combining storytelling with state-of-the-art music performance. The narrative charts the extraordinary trajectory of Mai Khoi’s life—from renowned to Vietnamese pop star to dissident activist, fighting for artistic freedom in Vietnam and pitting herself against the strong arm of the communist government. In the face of political titans, international powers, and constant surveillance and threat, Khoi develops a unique art form. Her new sound is rooted in forgotten Vietnamese musical traditions fused with jazz and ripe with political song lyrics.

Unable to safely live and work in Vietnam, Mai Khoi is currently an Artist Protection Fund Fellow at City of Asylum and the University of Pittsburgh.

Country of origin: Vietnam
Language: English & Vietnamese with English subtitles
Format: Artists live from City of Asylum. Two ways to watch—live in-person from Alphabet City or virtually on-demand via City of Asylum @ HomePrograms that take place at our venue have limited seating, so we encourage early registration. Please review our safety policies below before registering to attend.

See in-person COVID-19 safety guidelines.


WEDNESDAY, September 22, 7:00 PM EDT
Slow Motion Orchestra

Run time: 120 minutes

Formed in Tallinn, Estonia in 2021, Slow Motion Orchestra is a group of jazz musicians who had been playing together in various iterations for decades, and were looking for a new creative outlet. Their instrumental music is hypnotic and introspective, perfect for self-discovery and sparking the creativity of listeners. At times their music combines spoken word and guided divinations, to offer consultation and health, high hopes and inspiration. This concert is an evening with masterful Estonian musicians looking to stretch their own creativity. 

Country of origin: Estonia
Language: Estonian with English translations
Format: Pre-recorded, watch virtually


THURSDAY, September 23, 7:00 PM EDT
Thumbscrew
Run time: 75 minutes

Throughout August 2021, Thumbscrew (Mary Halvorson, guitar; Michael Formanek, double bass; and Tomas Fujiwara, drums) were living on Sampsonia Way as part of their fourth City of Asylum residency, developing original compositions for their newest album. This concert, recorded on the final days of residency, is a showcase of their new material and a sneak peak of a forthcoming album.

Country of origin: United States
Language: English
Format: Pre-recorded, watch virtually


SUNDAY, September 26, 3:00 PM EDT
Jure Pukl Broken Circles
Run time: 90 minutes

Jure Pukl first performed in Jazz Poetry 2019 as part of the Impossible Four Quartet. It was the first time the Slovenian group had performed in Pittsburgh, and their 3-day gig marked 3 days of sell outs. Jure returns to the Pittsburgh stage, this time from his home in Slovenia. Featuring a quintet live from Max Jazz Club in Velenje, Slovenia—and performing Jure’s 2020 album Broken Circles. Playing the original compositions to a crowd gathering inside in Velenje and live at Alphabet City, this is a concert not to be missed—great music and an opportunity to interact with audiences in Slovenia.

Country of origin: Slovenia
Language: English
Format: Artists live from Slovenia. Two ways to watch—livestreamed in-person from Alphabet City or virtually on-demand via City of Asylum @ HomePrograms that take place at our venue have limited seating, so we encourage early registration. Please review our safety policies below before registering to attend.

See in-person COVID-19 safety guidelines.


TUESDAY, September 28, 7:00 PM EDT
Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon
Run time: 120 minutes

Performance of Lewis’ newest album, a concept piece exploring the life and work of agricultural scientist, inventor, and social justice activist George Washington Carver. Carver, most well known for inventing 300+ ways to use the peanut, was the most important black farmer of the 20th century. And Lewis sets out to evoke his memory, his legacy, through song.  This is a deeply researched album—Lewis poured through correspondence from Carver and farmer bulletins, but it’s also a deeply emotional and evoking journey through Black genius.  The Red Lily Quartet consists of musicians James Brandon Lewis (saxophone), Kirk Knuffke (bass), William Parker (gimbri), Chris Hoffman (cello), and Chad Taylor (drum and mbira).

Country of origin: United States
Language: English
Format: Artists live from City of Asylum. Two ways to watch—live in-person from Alphabet City or virtually on-demand via City of Asylum @ HomePrograms that take place at our venue have limited seating, so we encourage early registration. Please review our safety policies below before registering to attend.

See in-person COVID-19 safety guidelines.


WEDNESDAY, September 29, 7:00 PM EDT
James Brandon Lewis & Chris Hoffman
Run time: 90 minutes

James Brandon Lewis and cellist Chris Hoffman perform an evening of duos, including original compositions and live improvisations. James Brandon Lewis, also a poet, will read his work and collaborate with poets M. Soledad Caballero, and Joel Dias-Porter.

Country of origin: United States
Language: English
Format: Artists live from City of Asylum. Two ways to watch—live in-person from Alphabet City or virtually on-demand via City of Asylum @ HomePrograms that take place at our venue have limited seating, so we encourage early registration. Please review our safety policies below before registering to attend.

See in-person COVID-19 safety guidelines.


Covid-19 policies for indoor programs [at Alphabet City] as of September 1, 2021

To keep our audience safe, we will require proof of vaccination (physical card or photo) to attend all events at Alphabet City.

There will be special accommodations for children under 12 and people with medical conditions or religious beliefs preventing them from being vaccinated. These audience members will be asked to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time.  All guests will be required to wear masks.

Additionally:

  • All artists, volunteers, and staff are fully vaccinated and will be wearing masks (except when on stage)
  • Audience size will be limited to 60% total capacity and seats will be set up with moderate social distancing.
  • If you do not have a mask, one will be provided for you.
  • The HVAC system at Alphabet City has been upgraded with the addition of MERV-13 filters and an ionization bar.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers are located throughout the facility.
  • Please remember there is a restaurant, 40 North, inside our open concept venue. Diners will be required to show proof of vaccination but will not wear masks while seated at tables.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Jazz Poetry Month is made possible by the generous support from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh, and Trust for Mutual Understanding. Media sponsorship courtesy of WZUM and The Incline

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