2016 Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Celebrates City's Growing Hispanic Community

Jun 20, 2016

After a week of Stanley Cup celebrations, Pittsburgh’s Cultural District will again be full of music and celebration. The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival will showcase local, national and international acts in a Pittsburgh context with free music filling the Cultural District. Bob Studebaker, WESA’s Jazz from the South Side host, said that Pittsburgh’s jazz festival has a special draw, and for good reason.

Studebaker pointed out that the JazzLive festival draws in a wide group of people because the performers represent a variety of ages and sounds. Whereas old-school fans can look forward to seeing influential jazz pianist Chick Corea, younger audiences can seek out fusion artists combining many different musical genres.

“This weekend is going to be unequaled,” said Studebaker.

Events begin with a “Jazz Crawl” through downtown, where attendees can experience live music at different venues, both indoor and out. Throughout the weekend, free concerts will be held along Ninth Street and Penn Avenue.

Janis Burley-Wilson, director of JazzLive and Vice President of Strategic Partnership and Community Engagement for the Three Rivers Cultural Trust, pointed out that the festival gives the local economy a significant boost each year. Visitors keep local businesses and restaurants busy as they traverse downtown and book up area hotels and airport shuttle services before and after the festival.

“Many restaurants downtown report it as their biggest night of the year,” confirmed Studebaker.

In addition to providing an economically pleasant burst of business, the event also provides a cultural context to make Pittsburgh’s fastest-growing Hispanic population feel at home. Ron Alvarado, Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president, said the Latino community is ecstatic to see elements of their culture and heritage represented in their city.

On the lineup are bands like Eddie Palmieri’s Big Salsa Orchestra as well as Gabriel Alegria’s Afro Peruvian Sextet.

While those unfamiliar with jazz may not be aware, Studebaker pointed out the long history of the genre’s innovators emerging from Pittsburgh. Earl “Fatha” Hines, who many consider the father of modern jazz piano, is from Pittsburgh. So, too, are Art Blakey and Kenny Clarke, both influential jazz drummers and bandleaders.

“Pittsburgh has been an incubator for important jazz artists since the very beginning,” said Studebaker. “It’s a long, wonderful tradition that is truly unequaled by other cities, including and up to New Orleans.”  

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