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Pittsburgh's Jazz Days of Winter Set for February 16-23, 2019


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By Mackenzie Horne

Dwindling attendance is perhaps the most serious threat to the well-being of today's regional jazz circles, and addressing this issue requires an approach that is as authentic as it is aggressive. Problems with attendance and participation seem to be amplified in a metropolitan area as small as Pittsburgh, and past history also weighs heavily upon the Steel City. Pittsburgh has produced some of the finest artists in jazz, including Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Mary Lou Williams, Maxine Sullivan, and Lena Horne—and these illustrious names barely scratch the surface. The city serves as a staging ground for dozens of prominent national and international artists during the annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival and the University of Pittsburgh's Pitt Jazz Seminar. The scene's wider regional ties reach into neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, consistently drawing in innovative young players like Sean Jones, Chris Coles, Clifford Barnes, and James Moore.

Despite Pittsburgh's place in music history, many people living in and around the city remain unaware of its contemporary jazz landscape. Local entity JazzPGH, a coalition of local performers, promoters, and venues devoted to jazz education and community outreach, endeavors to address this problem alongside members of the music community. Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Winter is a follow-up to Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Summer, which underscored the distinct vibrancy of Pittsburgh's jazz during mid-August. This winter event will exhibit the remarkable nature of a typical week in the local jazz scene, which boasts over 50 jazz-related events including performances by local and national artists. This weeklong event is coordinated by JazzPGH, which hopes to enrich local culture by promoting local businesses that support live performance, raise awareness of artists performing in the region, and encourage cross-generational projects between musicians.

This pointed campaign targets potential listeners as well as seasoned veterans of the community. Pittsburgh jazz is accessible because of its diversity, and Jazz Days of Winter will showcase some of the best straight-ahead, funk, fusion, and avant-garde music the city has to offer. Organizers also hope to familiarize listeners with venues that consistently host live jazz, and to strengthen the already intimate relationship between businesses, patrons, and performers. Through this partnership, musicians and entrepreneurs bring increased cultural awareness to the community and beyond.

Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Winter officially opens on February 16 with the New York-based ensemble The Hot Sardines at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. The campaign will push weekly jam sessions by local favorites, curated by George Heid III and Howie Alexander. Alphabet City will host a two-night mini festival celebrating the art and life of Ornette Coleman beginning on February 19. Roger Humphries's group will pay tribute to Mary Lou Williams on February 23 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Other notable programs include Gregory Porter at the August Wilson Center on February 17 and Delfeayo Marsalis at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on February 23.

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