Click the poster for COA's website! Used with permission.
Click the poster for COA's website! Used with permission.

For the second year in a row, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Jazz-Poetry Concert won a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Fast-Track grant of $10,000.  This grant goes to small or medium-sized organizations who bring art of any kind to underserved communities.  It’s a fast-track grant, so that means, “You don’t apply and wait five years,” said COA founder Henry Reese.

The waiting period is six months, so that organizations can quickly get the funds out into their communities.

“It’s a great deal of seed money for the project, and it says to others that this is an event of significance,” Reese added.

Jazz-Poetry takes place on Sept. 11, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Sampsonia Way.  The street will be closed to traffic, and the event is, of course, free.

Some headlining performers include the Oliver Lake Big Band, poet Yusef Komunyakaa and COA’s writer-in-residence Khet Mar.

“[Komunyakaa] is sort of a bridge poet because he’s popular and … he’s a poet’s poet,” Reese said.

Komunyakaa actually decided to write a poem specifically for the event that will be performed with one or more saxophones — but we’ll have to wait until the actual concert to find out exactly what the performance will be like.

The musicians and writers that perform at Jazz-Poetry rehearse once the day before, and that’s when most of the details of the show are figured out, Reese said.

“We don’t know what’s going to come out of this mix.”

The mix also includes New Zealand poet and singer Hinemoana Baker, who Reese expects to perform in both English and Maori.  Maori is both the name of the indigineous people of New Zealand and the name of their language.

Reese hopes the newest editions in COA’s “house publication” series will be completed in time for the concert as well.  Khet Mar’s husband recently finished a mural on one, and musician Oliver Lake is working on another.

In case of rain, the event will be held in the New Hazlett Theater.

“Each year we try to learn from the response of people on ways to make it better,” Reese said.