By Mike Shanley
Pittsburgh Current Music Writer
The Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Summer are upon us once again. The week-long event — which runs from August 17 through August 25 — might not seem all that different from other weeks in Pittsburgh, as far as programming, but that’s part of the idea. Drummer Tom Wendt describes the week as a time when the local jazz community comes together to present what an average jazz week looks like in Pittsburgh. “The whole point is that it’s anything but average,” he stresses. “There will probably be well over 50 jazz events just during that week. And that’s usually the case every week in Pittsburgh.”
Wendt and Dr. Harry Clark are the organizers of jazzPGH, a group of musicians, promoters and broadcasters, which grew out of Jazz Hubs, a national project spearheaded in three other cities to help the jazz market in each of those cities. One prevailing problem, which Wendt mentioned to Pittsburgh Current last year, was that the audience wasn’t hearing about particular gigs until after the fact. They also didn’t know where to go as a resource to find out what is happening around town.
To help combat that problem, the first Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Summer took place last August, with a winter installment following in February. Flyers and calendars listed all the local jazz events within that week, including everything from traditional jazz to more experimental examples. It also pointed people towards two ways to stay up to date on upcoming shows and events: the online jazz central calendar created by WZUM the Jazz Channel; and Jazz Near You, a mobile app.
Since the first Jazz Days event, more people are utilizing both calendar resources, Wendt says. Musicians and promoters have also been keeping in contact to make sure that bigger events don’t all fall on the same night.
“Pittsburgh, for being a mid-size city, has a pretty good jazz audience for the most part. But if there are two, three or four major jazz events happening on the same night, each audience is going to suffer,” Wendt says. “Because even if we have a good base audience, there’s not enough people to fill venues if you’re doing four main events in one night. So if [promoters and musicians] are aware of what’s going on, they can schedule things a little bit differently so that everybody’s audience increases.”
A Pittsburgh Jazz Days of Summer Kick-off party takes place Friday, August 16 at Con Alma. Jazz Vinyl Happy Hour runs from 5 pm to 7 pm. Lynn Speakman Quartet with Roger Humphries plays at 10 p.m. $5. For a complete schedule of events, visit jazzpgh.org.