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Jazz Poetry 2024: Alex Harding & Lucian Ban Blutopia (ft Bob Stewart), Quan Barry, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Quincy Scott Jones, & Rajiv Mohabir

May 23 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

For the final performance of Jazz Poetry 2024, the tradition of international collaboration and cross-cultural exchange is embraced by saxophonist Alex Harding and Transylvanian expat pianist Lucian Ban. The pair will make their return to City of Asylum with their quintet to share their latest project, Blutopia. They are joined by City of Asylum writer-in-residence Jorge Olivera Castillo, Vietnamese American poet and author of the explorative poetry collection Auction, Quan Barry, Cave Canem Fellow Quincy Scott Jones, and British-Guyanese poet Rajiv Mohabir, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award who will make his long anticipated return to the Alphabet City stage. 

Each Jazz Poetry program begins with a 40-minute performance by the band, followed by 30 minutes of collaborative performance with the featured poets. In these collaborations, poets share their work while the musicians interpret and accompany their poetry with jazz, adding a unique, improvisational dimension to each performance.

Featured Musician:

Lucian Ban: piano

Alex Harding: saxophone

Bob Stewart: tuba

Mat Maneri: viola

Allan Mednard: drums

About the Musicians:

Lucian Ban is a Romanian-born, NYC-based pianist and composer known for his amalgamations of Transylvanian folk with improvisation, for his mining of 20th Century European classical music with jazz, and for his pursuit of a modern chamber jazz ideal. Ban was raised in a small village in northwest Transylvania and studied composition at the Bucharest Music Academy while simultaneously leading his own jazz groups. Desire to get closer to the source of jazz brought him to the U.S., and since moving from Romania to New York in 1999, his ensembles have included many of New York’s finest players. His 2020 Transylvanian Folk Songs reimagining the Béla Bartók Field Recordings with Mat Maneri and legendary John Surman was an NPR Album of The Year, and a Balkan World Music Chart winner. His second album with ELEVATION quartet, Songs from Afar, featuring Abraham Burton, John Hebert, and Eric McPherson gets a five star review in Downbeat and BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR in 2016. His albums have won critical praise and awards, but, more importantly, they have revealed a singular focus to connect the worlds of American jazz and European chamber music with the freedom of improvisation. Lucian has performed and/or recorded with Abraham Burton, Nasheet Waits, John Surman, Mat Maneri, Billy Hart, Alex Harding, Barry Altschul, Louis Sclavis, Gerald Cleaver, and Tony Malaby, among many others. 

Alex Harding was born in Detroit and studied music in his early years with Yusef Lateef, Beans Bows and Herbie Williams, and had a chance to play with Wynton Marsalis and Donald Byrd while still in high school. He had his first European engagement in 1990 and a year later, he went to Mexico to the Arts and Music Festival with percussionist Francisco Mora. After settling in New York in 1993, Alex joined Julius Hemphill’s Saxophone Sextet. He also began performing with Muhal Richard Abrams, Craig Harris, Lester Bowie, Frank Lacy, Oliver Lake, and David Murray’s Big Band. In 1996, Alex joined Hamiet Bluiett’s Baritone Group and appeared with the Mingus Big Band, Jayne Cortez Firespitters and Lester Bowie’s Hip-Hop Philharmonic. He also recorded with Greg Osby, Frank Lowe, David Lee Roth and Rodney Whittaker. The following year, Alex recorded At Doctor King’s Table with the Julius Hemphill Sextet, a CD with Hamiet Bluiett’s Baritone Group, and he made his debut with the Sun Ra Arkestra under Marshall Allen’s leadership. In 1998, Alex was part of the Sun Ra All-Star Project that premiered at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival and has performed with the late Roy Hargrove Big Band and with Aretha Franklin. Alex Harding has released several albums as a leader, garnering glowing reviews, and appeared as guest on more than 40 albums. 

About the Poets:

Quan Barry, born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s North Shore, is the Lorraine Hansberry Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Quan is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry, including the recent novel When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East, which the New York Times described as “a dazzling achievement.” O: Oprah Magazine described her novel We Ride Upon Sticks as “spellbinding, wickedly fun,” while the LA Times called her previous work, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, “haunting and beautiful.” A recipient of NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, Barry is currently Forward Theater’s first ever Writer-in-Residence. The world premiere of her play, The Mytilenean Debate, was staged in spring 2022.

Jorge Olivera Castillo is a Cuban poet, writer, television editor, journalist, and songwriter. He is a well-known dissident, and his work has been banned in Cuba. Jorge has published six books of poetry and two short story collections. His works have been translated into several languages, including Czech, English, Italian, and Polish. Jorge recently finished two books: a book of poetry and his third collection of short stories, based on his experiences as a soldier in the African jungle during the Angolan Civil War. Jorge is a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum since 2021. He is married to Nancy Alfaya Hernandez, a Cuban human rights and women’s rights activist.

Quincy Scott Jones is a New York educator, Cave Canem fellow, and the author of two books of poetry: The T-Bone Series (Whirlwind Press, 2009) and How to Kill Yourself Instead of Your Children (C&R Press, 2021). His work has appeared in the African American Review, The North American Review, the Bellingham Review, Love Jawns: A Mixtape, and The Feminist Wire as well as such anthologies as Resisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the Sky, COVID Chronicles: A Comics Anthology, Black Fire This Time, Vol I and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, and Superhero Poetry. With Nina Sharma he co-curates Blackshop, a column that thinks about allyship between BIPOC artists. His graphic narrative, >BlackNerd<, is in the works.

Rajiv Mohabir is an Indo-Caribbean American author of three acclaimed poetry collections, The Taxidermist’s Cut, Cowherd’s Son, Cutlish, Whale Aria, a book of translation, I Even Regret Night, and his hybrid memoir, Antiman. He is winner of the 2015 Kundiman Prize, a 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant, finalists for the 2017 and 2022 Lambda Literary Awards, finalist for the 2022 PEN Open Book Award, the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award in Poetry. Mohabir has received fellowships from Voices of Our Nationʻs Artist foundation, Kundiman, The Home School, and the American Institute of Indian Studies language program. He received his MFA in Poetry and Translation from Queens College, CUNY and his PhD in English from the University of Hawai`i. Rajiv is currently a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder. 

About Your Visit: 

Doors open at 6pm. 

The in-house restaurant 40 North is open for dinner from 5-9pm. Please visit Open Table or call 412-435-1111 to make a reservation.

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May 23
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
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City of Asylum
(412) 435-1110
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Alphabet City
40 W. North Avenue
Pittsburgh,PA15212United States
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