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Jazz Poetry 2024 Opening Night: James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Olena Boryshpolets, Amit Chaudhuri, Toi Derricotte, & Shara McCallum

May 2 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

This celebration of 20 years of Jazz Poetry kicks off with the return of crowd favorite, four-time-returning festival headliner, and critically acclaimed jazz saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, performing with his quartet. Joining James on the Alphabet City stage are outstanding poets Amit Chaudhuri (visiting all the way from India to share his latest collection), Pittsburgh’s own beloved Toi Derricotte, winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature Shara McCallum, and, returning for her second Jazz Poetry performance, City of Asylum writer-in-residence Olena Boryshpolets.

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 Musicians:

James Brandon Lewis: tenor saxophone

Chad Taylor: drums

Chris Lightcap: bass

Alexis Marcelo: piano

About the Musician:

James Brandon Lewis is a critically-acclaimed composer, saxophonist, and writer. He has received accolades from NPR, ASCAP Foundation, Macdowell, and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. He has released several critically-acclaimed albums, most recently highly touted 2021’s Jesup Wagon, and is a member and co-founder of American Book Award winning Ensemble Heroes Are Gang Leaders. James was recently voted Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist by Downbeat magazine’s 2020s International Critics poll, and most recently named top Tenor Saxophonist for 2021 by Jazz Times Magazine. In 2022 Lewis was named the Inaugural recipient of the Phd Fellowship in Creativity by the University of the Arts in collaboration with The Balvenie, drummer and  Academy Award-Winning Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

About the Poets:

Olena Boryshpolets is from Odesa, Ukraine. It is said that you can leave Odesa, but Odesa will never leave you. As such, Olena has carried Odesa with her upon her arrival in Pittsburgh, and is ready to share the incredible city with us all. She is a poet, writer, journalist, actress, culture manager, and laureate of the Konstantin Paustovsky Municipal Literary Prize for the collection of poems “Blue Star.” Olena is also a member of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine and a co-founder of the public organization Creation Without Borders. After the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine in February 2022, Olena went to Poland and banded together with other Ukrainian women to tell the European audience about the war and its consequences through the Polish-Ukrainian play “Life in the Event of War.” She has been a Research Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh and writer in residence as part of City of Asylum’s Fellowship for Ukrainian Writers since March 2023.

Amit Chaudhuri is a novelist, essayist, poet, and musician. A fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he lives in Calcutta and the United Kingdom. Sojourn is his eighth novel. Among his other works are three books of essays, the most recent of which is The Origins of Dislike; a study of D.H. Lawrence’s poetry; a book of short stories, Real Time; two works of nonfiction, the latest of which is Finding the Raga; and four volumes of poetry, including Sweet Shop: New and Selected Poems (New York Review Poets, 2023). Formerly a professor of contemporary literature at the University of East Anglia, Amit is now a professor of creative writing and the Director of the Centre for the Creative and the Critical at Ashoka University, as well as the Editor of www.literaryactivism.com. He has made several recordings of Indian classical and experimental music, and has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, the Indian government’s Sahitya Akademi Award, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Toi Derricotte’s sixth collection of poetry, “I” New and Selected Poems, was shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. She won the Pegasus Award from the Poetry Foundation in 2023, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2021, and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2020. With Cornelius Eady, she co-founded Cave Canem, a home for the many voices of African American poetry, in 1996.

Shara McCallum is from Jamaica, born to a Jamaican father and Venezuelan mother. She has published six books in the U.S. and UK, most recently, No Ruined Stone, winner of the 2022 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry. An anthology of her poems in Spanish, La historia es un cuarto, was published in 2021 in Mexico. Awards for her work include a Musgrave Medal, NEA Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and others. McCallum is an Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Penn State University and faculty in the Pacific University Low-residency MFA. For a longer bio and more information, visit www.sharamccallum.com

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 2
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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