The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival is back this year, but don’t look for it on Penn Avenue. Instead, you’ll have to walk one block south to Liberty.
The new venue for the long-running festival’s three outdoor stages hosts two full days of free shows by local and nationally touring talent.
Its move coincides with the festival’s internal administrative change: The group is still run by Janis Burley Wilson, but now under the auspices of the August Wilson Center, where Burley Wilson last year became president and CEO building on her years at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
The jump to Liberty Avenue doesn’t just bring the showcase closer to the August Wilson Center, but should also accommodate larger audiences than the narrower Penn, Wilson said.
“In the past, we've found that people were on sidewalks, kind of like on top of each other, basically,” she said. “This will open it up and give people a lot more space.”
A number of opening-night shows, all ticketed, will take place in different spaces inside the center itself, including a set by the evening’s headliner, bassist Marcus Miller. Friday and Saturday brings free late-night jam sessions at the nearby Drury Plaza Hotel, led by local favorites Sean Jones and Roger Humphries.
Attendance at the three outdoor stages along Liberty Avenue and Smithfield Street will be free. Visiting acts Saturday and Sunday include drummer Terry Lyne Carrington; blues singer Shemekia Copeland; and festival favorite Gregory Porter. The festival’s tradition of featuring a salsa act continues with Jose Alberto Salsa Orchestra.
The festival opens Friday with a free outdoor performance by the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra. A complete schedule is here.