Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

2015 Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival Set for This Weekend

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is proud to present the fifth annual Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival (PJLIF) this weekend, June 19 - 21, 2015.

The three-day Festival promises the best jazz in a variety of settings: outdoor stages, ticketed special engagements, and indoor "gigs" at over 20 small venues through Pittsburgh's downtown Cultural District. This year, the festival will present artists with both international reputations-and musical origins. PJLIF attracts more than 20,000 attendees from around the country.

For updates, a full list of artist biographies, sponsors and more information visit

"The Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival is proud to present world-class jazz, renowned musicians and an eclectic array of artists that represent the far reach of this exceptional art form," says Janis Burley Wilson, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement and Director of Jazz Programs for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. "In June, the sounds of the world will be heard throughout the streets of Pittsburgh's Cultural District and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is honored to present this dynamic line-up that features legendary musicians as well as novel emerging artists."


Ginger Baker's Jazz Confusion
Ticketed Performance | Tickets on Sale April 1
Considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, Ginger Baker played with the bands Cream and Blind Faith. He is known for using two bass drums in his kit. Born in London in 1939, Baker began playing drums as a teen, and by age 16 he was touring. He formed the band Cream in 1966, and when it dissolved, he formed Blind Faith. Though he only cut top-selling records for a period of about three years at the end of the '60s, virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing. A documentary about Baker's life, Beware of Mr. Baker, debuted at South by Southwest in 2012. "Ginger Baker." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015


Average White Band (AWB)
AWB are widely regarded as one of the best soul and funk bands in the history of music. Though best known for their timeless instrumental mega-hit "Pick Up the Pieces" the band's strength actually lay in their consistently accomplished song writing, stretching across several gold selling albums and multi- Grammy nominations for the legendary Atlantic Records. Somewhat incongruously, given their Scottish roots, the six piece took the influences of their R&B; heroes - people like Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Donny Hathaway and others - and developed their own 'authentic' sound which was eagerly adopted by black audiences in the US and elsewhere. While a good number of cuts-"Cut The Cake" and "Let's Go Round Again"-became hit singles, many other album tracks, like "Schoolboy Crush" and "Stop The Rain" became much-sampled grooves. Many more tunes, such as "Cloudy," and "A Love Of Your Own" stand alongside some of the finest soul album tracks ever recorded. The current line-up of the band (this time with noted US recruits augmenting founder members Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre) continue to record and tour around the world to ongoing critical and audience acclaim. Band Members include: Rocky Bryant, Drummer; Rob Aries, Bassist/Keyboardist; Brent Carter, Vocalist; Onnie McIntyre, Backup Vocalist/Guitarist; Alan Gorrie, Bassist/Guitarist/Vocalist; Fred Vigdor, Backup Vocalist/Keyboardist/Wind.

Christian McBride Trio
It's not simply his abundant virtuosity that has made Christian McBride the most in-demand bassist of his generation. McBride consistently combines his deft musicianship with an innate ability to communicate his enthusiasm to an audience-a warm showmanship that transforms his own passion into infectious joy. It comes across whether he's leading his own bands; sharing the stage with jazz legends like Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock or Pat Metheny; accompanying pop giants like James Brown, Sting or The Roots; or collaborating with classical masters like Kathleen Battle, Edgar Meyer or the Shanghai Quartet. McBride's trio is comprised of pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.

Bebel Gilberto
The multi-Grammy-nominated Bebel Gilberto will release her new album Tudo on Sony Masterworks in August 2014, her first studio recording in five years. Tudo, which means "everything" in English, showcases Bebel's ethereal vocals and wistful, dreamy song writing in each of the CD's 12 tracks. Bebel splits her time between Rio de Janeiro and New York City; she's exquisitely synthesized musical influences from both cities in every track. Bebel's sultry tonality is constant throughout Tudo as are the warm and playful Brazilian rhythms that include the berimbau, wood bongos and shakers. The gorgeous melodies are shaped by touches of electronica, and Bebel's intimate vocals hint at a fantastical Rio de Janeiro. Gilberto was born in New York to Brazilian music icons João Gilberto and Miúcha. For more, watch here:

In late 2011, acclaimed East African vocalist & songwriter Somi decided to move from New York City to Lagos, Nigeria for 18 months in search of new inspiration. The result: a new album she calls The Lagos Music Salon released in August 2014 as her major label debut on Sony Music/Okeh - landing at #1 on US Jazz charts. Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, the African and Jazz legacies are always crucial to her sound. As her career has taken off, Somi's talents have been called upon for collaborations and live performances alongside a diverse cast of artists including Mos Def, Baaba Maal, John Legend, Billy Childs, Paul Simon, Danilo Perez, Idan Raichel, Jennifer Hudson and many more. In 2011, Somi released her first live album of performances at the venerable Jazz Standard in New York City. Widely acknowledged as both artist and scholar, Somi is a TED Fellow, an inaugural Association of Performing Arts Presenters Fellow, a 2013 Park Avenue Armory Artist-in-Residence, and the founder of New Africa Live, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the very best of contemporary African artists working in the performance, visual, and literary arts. Last year, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited Somi to perform at the United Nations' General Assembly in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Somi and her band continue to perform at international venues and stages around the world. Somi is a 2015 Artist-in-Residence at UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance and The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Etienne Charles Calypso Review
Over its century-plus history, jazz has forged its shape-shifting identity by encompassing a rainbow of musical dialects in an improvisation-infused setting. While jazz's potency launched into popular appeal based on the integration of the European classical music sensibility and the grassroots of African-American cultural heritage, it has not remained a static idiom. Indeed, jazz has become organically enlarged, expanded and revitalized by cultivating new influences into the tradition, from the Afro-Cuban movement of the '40s to today's artists embracing their ethnic heritage. One of the most compelling and exciting young jazz artists ushering the genre into groundbreaking new territory is trumpeter/bandleader Etienne Charles, who, still in his 20s, has already recorded three impressive and well-received albums for his own Culture Shock Music imprint. His new album, Creole Soul, is a captivating journey of new jazz expression. It buoyantly taps into a myriad of styles rooted in his Afro-Caribbean background and plumbs the musical depths of the islands, from calypso to Haitian voodoo music. The New York Times calls Charles an auteur who is "one of [jazz's] more ambitious soloists and composers," JazzTimes applauds him as a "daring improviser" and DownBeat celebrates his tone as "melodically captivating" and "rhythmically agile" that makes his music "immediately pleasing." After three albums, released on Culture Shock, Charles has garnered a welcomed response to his Caribbean roots-informed jazz. Creole Soul, his most accomplished recording so far in his young career, holds great promise to a future of more ebullient and intimate artistry.

Camila Meza
The New York Times has described Meza as "A bright young singer and guitarist with an ear for music of both folkloric and pop intention, Camila Meza has connected with a strong peer group since moving to New York from her native Santiago, Chile, in 2009." During her five years in the United States, Camila Meza has created a big impact in the New York jazz scene. She possesses an innate and rare combination of qualities as a singer and guitar player, who also writes her own songs and arrangements. She has a highly expressive voice with a unique timber and way of phrasing, while her improvisations and accompaniment on the guitar are equally touching and soulful. Camila's music takes us on a joyfully energetic and deep journey full of beauty and adventure. Her Latin American roots and profound connection to jazz combined with the fusions of contemporary and popular music give the music she creates a very special and appealing sound. Camila Meza belongs to a new generation of jazz musicians that are interested in creating new sounds and allowing diverse influences into their music.

Sammy Figueroa's Latin Jazz Explosion
Sammy Figueroa has long been regarded as one of the world's great musicians. As one of the world's leading percussionists he has played on countless records, providing the rhythmical framework for hundreds of hits. Well-known for his versatility and professionalism, he is one of the few percussionists equally comfortable in a multitude of styles, from R & B to rock to pop to bebop to Latin to Brazilian to New Age. As one of New York's most sought after session players Sammy played on countless albums, jingles and film scores and appeared often on The David Letterman Band and the Saturday Night Live Band. He has recorded and toured with Miles Davis, the Brecker Brothers (for 12 years!), Sonny Rollins, Michel Camilo (who wrote the tune "And Sammy Walked In" in his honor), Chaka Khan, David Bowie, and Mariah Carey (in her multi-million selling MTV Unplugged). Sammy's famed sense of humor, ebullient personality, and open-heartedness is famous within the music industry and has further empowered him in his connection with musicians and audiences alike. As leader of The Latin Jazz Explosion, Sammy empowers his players and has created an ensemble that is astounding in its musical excitement. Sammy appears in several important books on music and its legends. His relationship with Miles Davis is described at length both in Miles? own words in his autobiography entitled Miles and in The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis From 1980 - 1991 by George Cole. Anecdotes about Sammy abound in Paquito D?Rivera?s amusing book My Sax Life. Sammy has also been included in The Grove?s Dictionary of Jazz.

Joey DeFrancesco
Joey DeFrancesco's emergence in the 1980s marked the onset of a musical renaissance. Organ jazz had been a form of music that literally went into hibernation from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties largely because of the introduction of high-tech, lightweight keyboards. It was Joey, however, that ignited the flame once again with the sound of his vintage Hammond organ and Leslie tone cabinet. He not only illuminated this once dormant music form but also brought back the many proponents of jazz organ who had been shuffled by record producers and club owners to lesser roles within the music industry. Befriending and supporting those who preceded him, Joey became the new-age proponent of an instrument that had been pushed aside in favor of the growing technology. Joey is a two time Grammy Nominee: In 2004 for his record "Falling In Love Again," and again in 2010 for his release titled "Never Can Say Goodbye." Winner of Down Beat Magazine's Critic's poll 2002-2008, 2012, 2013 as well as the magazines Reader's Poll every year since 2005. In 2014 he was inducted into the inaugural Hammond Organ Hall of Fame. Quoted as the Master of the Jazz organ, Joey has received countless Jazz Journalist awards, and accolades worldwide. Joey has been involved in product designs and endorsements that serve to further the advances of digital organ technology in the States and around the world. Currently, Joey continues to tour with his own group and perform with all-star projects in major jazz clubs and festivals internationally. He is the weekly radio host of "Organized" on SiriusXM. New recordings and creative musical projects are all vital components in Joey DeFrancesco's future as he continues to write, perform and stand at the fore front of the digital technology that replicates the classic Hammond organ/Leslie speaker sound. With over thirty recordings as a leader and numerous collaborations with the masters of modern jazz in his legacy, Joey DeFrancesco deservingly takes his place with Fats Waller, Wild Bill Davis and Jimmy Smith in the lineage of Jazz Organ.

Song for My Father Reimagined w/ Roger Humphries & Sean Jones
Local legends join forces to present new work commissioned especially for this year's JazzLive Festival. Roger Humphries is rated by music critics as one of the most exciting percussionists in the business and is the last surviving band member from Horace Silver's The Song For My Father album, which is one of the most legendary album's of our time, still being played by most jazz radio station as a popular hit. Humphries has provided the rhythmic beat for such greats as Ray Charles, Horace Silver, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Stanley Turrentine, James Moody, Lee Morgan, Dr. Billy Taylor, Benny Green, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Randy Brecker, Joe Williams, Milton Jackson, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Witherspoon, Nathan Davis, Pete Henderson, Don Patterson, Gene Harris, Grant Green, George Harris, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Dogget, Jack McDuff, and a list of great musicians that goes on and on and on. Humphries will partner with Sean Jones, the remarkable composer/trumpeter/educator/activist, on the "re-imagining" of this special endeavor premiering at the Festival.

Craig Handy & Second Line Smith
Born in Oakland, CA, as a music-hungry youngster, Craig Handy experimented on guitar, trombone, and piano before settling on his first true love, the saxophone. At the age of 11 while listening to the radio, Handy fell under the spell of the transcendent saxophone playing of jazz legend Dexter Gordon. Berkeley High School's (CA) reputable Jazz Program soon beckoned, and Handy joined the ranks of graduating stellar saxophone talent including David Murray, Peter Apfelbaum, and Joshua Redman, to name a few. He attended North Texas State University and won the coveted Charlie Parker Scholarship which enabled his early college experience as a psychology major and frontrunner in the school's exceptional One O' Clock Jazz Ensemble. His distinctive sound and authentic instrumental prowess were redoubtable traits immediately noticed by artists of stature, especially those committed to nurturing new talent on the bandstand and road. In 2014, Handy returns as an original bandleader and party-starter for his new touring and recording project on the venerated OKeh label, a division of Sony Masterworks. Titled Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, Handy draws from his fondness for the music of New Orleans, smack attached to the groove-filled re-imaginings of originals and standards by the late, great organist Jimmy Smith. The release includes cameos by Dee Dee Bridgewater and Wynton Marsalis while filling a rotating drum chair with Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Ali Jackson, and Steve Williams. But the band at the core of the recording springs out of Handy's current residence in Weehawken, NJ, and shines a light on organist Kyle Koehler, guitarist Matt Chertkoff, and sousaphonist Clark Gayton.

Aaron Abernathy & the Nat Turner Band
Aaron Abernathy, professionally known as AB, is a multi-talented entertainer - musician, singer, songwriter, and producer. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, AB comes from a long-line of historical pioneers including Civil Rights Leader, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and student of the same high school music program as the late R&B great Gerald Levert. AB's detailed-oriented passion for the craft is influenced heavily by the unstoppable showmanship of James Brown; the supreme vocal talents of Prince and Marvin Gaye; the inspired lyricism of Stevie Wonder; and the fearless originality of George Clinton. His professional music pursuits began on the historical steps of Howard University, where he formed the band AB and The Souljourners and developed a buzz on the local DC music scene with the release of his self-produced debut album Lyrically Inclined 1.3: The Odyssey. After graduating from Howard, they embarked on a US Tour. The band's talent and showmanship style caught the eye of several artists, most notable Eric Roberson and Slum Village. AB has also been spotted working with Grammy-nominated artists including Jack White, The Foreign Exchange, and Eric Roberson.


Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration featuring Ramsey Lewis, Kurt Elling, Sean Jones and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Ticketed Performance | Tuesday, June 16 | Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts
The Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration is an evening of music with the Pittsburgh Symphony featuring pianist Ramsey Lewis, vocalist Kurt Elling and trumpeter Sean Jones, among other guests who will appear throughout the evening. Television, film, Broadway actress and singer Gloria Reuben will host the evening. Concert goers will enjoy a preview of the upcoming documentary celebrating the legacy of jazz in Pittsburgh. The feature-length documentary will air later this year on WQED. Tickets to the gala and concert are $250 and can be purchased by calling 412.322.0800 or visiting Concert tickets range in price from $24.75 to $79.75 and can be purchased by phone at 412.392.4900 or online at This project is a partnership between MCG Jazz, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in collaboration with the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival and WQED.


A free Jazz Crawl in the Cultural District, featuring 150 local and regional musicians at multiple venues kicks off the Festival Friday, June 19, from 5:30-9 p.m.

In addition to late-night club performances, Jam Sessions at locations throughout the Cultural District begin at 10 p.m., June 20 and June 21.

Showcase Noir marks its 12th year for this African American Designer Market that includes pottery, paintings, jewelry, fiber works, and sculptures available for sale by some of the world's finest artists.

New this year, the Festival will introduce elite craft beer tasting courtesy of our official beer sponsor, North Coast Brewing Company, as well as a special ticketed event with Raise Your Spirits, LLC, the gateway to the enjoyment of fine craft spirits.

The special pop-up vinyl record store, Trust Vinyl, will return to downtown's Cultural District, offering visitors the opportunity to purchase vinyl in this old-fashioned record store.

The outdoor Night Market presented by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership will feature some of Pittsburgh's most creative independent vendors of food, music, art, jewelry, clothing, crafts, and more.

JAZZLIVE FRIENDS - The Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival greatly relies on the support of individuals like you. Join the Jammin' JazzLive Club today and receive terrific festival benefits all while preserving the rich legacy of Jazz in Pittsburgh! For more information, click here.

All artists and show times are subject to change. For updates, a full list of artist biographies, sponsors and more information, visit

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh's most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners. Founded in 1984, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country's largest land masses "curated" by a single nonprofit arts organization. A major catalytic force in the city, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation and creativity. Using the arts as an economic catalyst, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy and enhancing Pittsburgh's quality of life. Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies and thousands of private citizens, the Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts.

Related Articles View More Music Stories

More Hot Stories For You