Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival a throwback to ‘Good Ole Days’ in the ‘Burgh

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JAZZY-COOL: (On Left): Gregory Porter delivered his unique jazzy-suave vocalese to a Pittsburgh audience, who loved his classic lyrical excellence; meanwhile (on Right), Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis offered their Cool brand of Minneapolis funk ‘n soul for the first time in a jazz-festival setting. (Photos by Alexander Johnson and C. Michael Rush, respectively).

HOMECOMING: Chelsea Baratz enjoyed a homecoming experience at the 2023 Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival. The Upper St. Clair high school product and Slippery Rock alum, has enjoyed life as a professional tenor saxophonist – having first earned her chops with some of Pittsburgh’s legendary jazz musicians, including Roger Humpries, Sean Jones and Cecil Brooks III. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea Baratz archives)

By Alexander Johnson

PITTSBURGH, PA — About 12 internationally – renown musical acts lined the stages of Pittsburgh on the weekend of August 16 – 22. The results were a good old fashion musical feel that felt like a major throw-back to the ‘Burgh’s good old days.
As a 70-something young man, this writer has had several opportunities to witness some of the legendary nightclubs and jazz venues that once saturated Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.
Through the years, our Pittsburgh history has been known to compete with the big-city spots of New York, Kansas City and even Atlanta, Ga. While the 1990s brought about a sudden shut down of our major good times, in recent years, the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival has brought about a sudden return to our once golden, shiny entertainment scene.
This year’s 13th Annual festival has got to be one of the finest of all the recent events.
Credit Janis Burley-Wilson and her August Wilson African American Cultural Center team for a complete throw-down, in bringing the top-notch talent to the 2023 version of the PIJL.
Resting on the laurels and legacy of her father, Mr. Thomas Burley – the Burley family should be more than proud of the way they’ve raised this young lady. At age 58, she has definitely got herself into the high cotton, when it comes to promoting and producing a high-class musical production.
The following artists graced stages at The Highmark Theater and the former Stanley Theater, now known as the Benedum. Star performances were displayed by Bob James, Kurt Elling, Pittsburgh home-girl Chelsea Baratz, with special guest performances by The Time’s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Jazz crooner Gregory Porter also provided an unforgettable classy show, as did the neosoul star Ledisi.
Overall this year’s PIJL was an unforgettable experience – and we can’t wait til next year.
(C. Michael Rush contributed to this article).

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