In an effort to keep the Pittsburgh Jazzlive International Festival free and open to the public, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust held a fundraiser for the event.
“The fundraiser allowed the Jazz festival to be opened up to a broader audience,” said Janis Burley Wilson, VP of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. “We wanted everyone in the community to be able to enjoy it. We didn’t want people to say they couldn’t come. There are people who love music but may not be able to afford a ticket.”
The fundraiser, which was held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and featured Jazz, Salsa and other music styles, introduced the attendees to the Pittsburgh Jazzlive International Festival and what it means to the city of Pittsburgh.
The 6th annual Pittsburgh Jazzlive International Festival, which is being presented by Citizen’s Bank, will be held June 24-26 this year because the U.S. Open is being held June 17-19, the festival’s traditional weekend. This year’s event features diverse and vibrant world-class talent including The Revive Big Band, Buika, the Chick Corea Trio featuring Brian Blade and Christian McBride, Jeff “Tain” Watts and the Blue 3, Nu Grid featuring Jean-Paul Bourelly and Vernon Reid, Brianna Thomas, Eddie Palmieri’s Big Salsa Orchestra and many others. The festival employs 140 local musicians and more than 20,000 people from across the country attend the festival.
“We have fantastic entertainment lined up this year,” said Burley Wilson. “The festival is a way to bring people together there’s something for everyone. We have things for kids, families and everyone we have about 60 artists performing throughout the weekend.”
The festival opens with Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution. The group has been performing in Pittsburgh for the past five years in various years. She was featured in Unheard Voices Magazines and in the premiere issue of the Elite Pittsburgh Magazine. She has been remarked as Pittsburgh’s Hidden Sensation by Steel City Entertainment Magazine.
Following Smith & Soul Distribution, the music of the late great Prince Rogers Nelson will be celebrated on 9th Street when DJ Selecta spins the Purple One’s music and other Minneapolis sounds from 9 -11 p.m. on June 24.
Children can engage in quality Jazz music while learning what makes Jazz so unique through an interactive performance led by local talented Jazz musicians. Support for the initiative is provided by PNC Grow Up Great. The event will be held at the Trust Arts Education Center.
Local artist Tony DePaolis will perform on June 25 from 2 p.m.-2:45 p.m. DePaolis has become one of the most in-demand bassists in the Steel City. His fluid playing has given him a working knowledge of many different styles of music.
Nu Grid is a new project that explores the boundaries of beat and improvised music. Jean-Paul Bourelly and Graham Hayes are the project creators while Vernon Reed and DJ Logic complete the lineup. The group uses Afro-phonics, free form funk and the jazz impulse to create amazing music. The group will be performing from 2:45 to 4 p.m. on June 25.
The Chick Corea Trio will take the stage from 7:45- 8:15 p.m. the 25th. Corea is the fourth most nominated artist in Grammy history with 63 nominations and 22 wins.
The keyboardist, bandleader, composer and NEA Jazz Master. From straight-ahead to avant-garde, bebop to jazz-rock fusion, children’s songs to chamber and symphonic works, Chick has touched an astonishing number of musical bases in his career since playing with the genre-shattering bands of Miles Davis in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Yet Chick has never been more productive than in the 21st century, whether playing acoustic piano or electric keyboards, leading multiple bands, performing solo or collaborating with a who’s who of music. Underscoring this, he has been named Artist of the Year three times this decade in the DownBeat Readers Poll. Born in 1941 in Massachusetts, Chick remains a tireless creative spirit, continually reinventing himself through his art.
Four-time GRAMMY®-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride can be likened to a force of nature, fusing the fire and fury of a virtuoso with the depth and grounding of a seasoned journeyman. Powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing, McBride’s path has described a continuous positive arc since his arrival on the scene. With a career now blazing into its third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today.
Currently he hosts and produces “The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian” on Sirius XM satellite radio and National Public Radio’s “Jazz Night in America,” a weekly radio show and multimedia collaboration between WBGO, NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, showcasing outstanding live jazz from across the country. A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Brian Blade established himself as a versatile, accomplished drummer early in his career, appearing on albums by the likes of Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, and Bob Dylan. Blade released his first album, Brian Blade Fellowship, at the age of 27 in 1998 and followed two years later with Perceptual, both on Blue Note. Always an in-demand sideman and collaborator, Blade continued to find work with a varied bevy of artists, including Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell, and Wayne Shorter. Ten years after releasing his first album as the Brian Blade Fellowship, Blade returned with Season of Changes in 2008, this time on Verve. A year later he released the solo Americana, singer/songwriter effort Mama Rosa for the label.
At the beginning of 2014, the BBF band re-signed with Blue Note in a cooperative deal with the Shreveport, La-based Mid-City Records. Their fourth album together, Landmarks, was issued in April of 2014. The quintet was augmented by guitarists Marvin Sewell and Jeff Parker.
The final day of the festival will begin with Peoria, Illinois’ own Brianna Thomas. Her father, Charlie Thomas, not only influenced her with his own unique talents as a vocalist and percussionist, he created an exceptionally well-rounded musical environment that fostered Brianna’s emerging abilities. At the tender age of six, Brianna made her singing debut performing a duet rendition of the jazz classic, “What A Wonderful World” with her father. At the age of eight she won her first of 13 trophies, all first place and overall, from various district and regional talent shows. Between the ages of eight and ten she had her first gigs performing for a variety of banquets, black tie affairs and as a guest on local radio stations. It didn’t take long for people to notice her talent and potential. Just shy of her teens, Brianna’s talents were discovered by distinguished jazz educator Mary Jo Papich. Soon after, Brianna toured Europe with the Peoria Jazz All-Stars, a big band under Ms. Papich’s direction. This was the beginning of Brianna’s career as jazz vocalist. Brianna’s singing is deeply enriched by an understanding of the masterful voices of jazz past. Beyond a healthy serving of sass, Sarah Vaughn’s influence contributes to Brianna’s style the artistic savvy needed to communicate myriad moods and feelings as well as a keen instrumental perspective. Add to that a coyness reminiscent of Nancy Wilson, an Ella-esque skill and enthusiasm for scatting, and the stylistic breadth and vocal grandeur evocative of Dianne Reeves. Thomas will perform from 2-2:45 p.m.
Pittsburgh’s own Brett Williams will take the stage from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. on June 26. Brett started playing music at the age of 2, piano at 4. His early influences in music were funk, gospel and jazz, and he was always interested in improvisation. By the time he was 9, Brett was performing locally; by his teens, he was making a name for himself on the Pittsburgh jazz scene. Brett became an in-demand pianist throughout greater Pittsburgh, and he frequently played, recorded and produced with great musicians including Dwayne Dolphin, Sean Jones, Roger Humphries and Poogie Bell. In 2010, Brett studied jazz and classical music with outstanding musicians such as Sean Jones at Duquesne University, where he also earned many solo performance awards before graduating.
In 2012, Brett won the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival competition, performing with a band he co-founded, Elevations, which led to him to performing at the 55th Monterey Jazz Festival later that year. In 2013, he began working with the multi-Grammy-award-winning bassist Marcus Miller. Brett has now been touring with Marcus for three years and is featured on his latest Grammy-nominated recording, Afrodeezia.
Through this opportunity, Brett has had the pleasure of playing with many talented artists and musicians—among them, Snarky Puppy, Cory Henry, Robert Glasper, Sean Jones, Gregoire Maret, Larry Graham, Victor Bailey, Omar Hakim, Mino Cinelu, Joe Lovano, Wycliffe Gordon, Dianne Reeves, Etienne Charles, Selah Sue, and Charles Haynes. He has performed all over the world, including the United States, Europe, South America, Africa, China and Japan. Brett also has played at many esteemed festivals — the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Vienne Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival and Newport Jazz Festival.
At 24 years old, Brett has already accomplished so much. The influences of many music styles and genres, his “old soul”, and his musical honesty (he pours his soul deeply into his music) have helped him create and mold a dynamic musical sound and voice. With a promising solo career in his sights, Brett continues to grow. He is currently working on a soon-to-be-released recording, which showcases his talent and growth as an artist.
The festival will end with Eddie Palmiere’s Big Salsa Orchestra from 7:15 to 8:45. Pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, Eddie Palmieri is known as one of the finest pianists of the past 50 years, Eddie Palmieri is a bandleader, arranger and composer of salsa and Latin jazz. His playing skillfully fuses the rhythm of his Puerto Rican heritage with the complexity of his jazz influences: Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner as well as his older brother, Charlie Palmieri.
Palmieri’s parents emigrated from Ponce, Puerto Rico to New York City in 1926. Born in Spanish Harlem and raised in the Bronx, Palmieri learned to play the piano at an early age, and at 13, he joined his uncle’s orchestra, playing timbales.
Palmieri’s professional career as a pianist took off with various bands in the early 1950s including Eddie Forrester, Johnny Segui’s, and the popular Tito Rodriguez Orchestra. In 1961, Palmieri formed his own band, La Perfecta, which featured an unconventional front line of trombones rather than the trumpets customary in Latin orchestras. This created an innovative sound that mixed American jazz into Afro-Caribbean rhythms, surprising critics and fans alike. Palmieri disbanded La Perfecta in 1968 to pursue different musical endeavors, though he would return to the band’s music in the 2000s.
Palmieri perfected his arranging skills in the 1970’s releasing several impressive recordings that reflected his unorthodox approach to music. His unconventional style would once again surprise critics and fans with the 1970 release entitled “Harlem River Drive.” This recording was the first to merge what were categorized as “Black” and “Latin” music into a free-form sound that encompassed elements of salsa, funk, soul and jazz. In 1975, Palmieri won the first-ever Grammy for Best Latin Recording for The Sun of Latin Music (he’s won ten Grammys altogether to date), including two for his influential recording with Tito Puente, Obra Maestra/Masterpiece.
Recognizing Palmieri as an American icon, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, recorded two of Palmieri’s performances for its archives in 1988. Because of Palmieri’s proclivity for creating music in funk Latin style, Little Louie Vega invited him to record on Nuyorican Soul (1997), a release that became very popular in the house and underground music scenes.
(For more information on the Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Festival, visit http://www.pittsburghjazzlive.com.)
(Ricco Martello contributed to this article.)
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