Photo by Renee Rosensteel.
September 7, 2013: Accordionist Henry Doktorski performed at the ninth Pittsburgh Jazz-Poetry Concert sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. The outdoor event was held on Sampsonia Way, between Sherman and Montery on the Northside.
Amongst musicians at the ninth Jazz-Poetry Concert, internationally-known saxophonist Oliver Lake returned with singer Dee Alexander and her trio, plus featured poet Joy Harjo. This year's poets and writers included Wang Jiaxin (China), Sridala Swami (India), Israel Centeno (Venuzuela), Khet Mar (Burma), and Yoghoub Yadali (Iran).
Henry Doktorski accompanied the Venuzuelan writer Israel Centeno in a reading of excerpts from his novel "The Sun Never Sets on Tokyo." Centeno read in Spanish and well-known Pittsburgh author and editor Gina Mazza read in English.
Director of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, R. Henry Reese, explained, "Our core mission is to provide sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of persecution. But each year we present a free Jazz Poetry Concert with international poets and great American jazz musicians. It attracts around 700 people, and it is held on a closed public street. It has been reviewed as the best jazz concert of the year by the Post-Gazette. During the first section of the Concert, we also include some prose readings. One this year will be by one of our writers-in-residence, the Venezuelan novelist Israel Centeno. He will be reading a short section from a novel that references Pittsburgh and its history, and it seemed to me that it would be ideal to have an accordionist accompany him."
Doktorski said, "I am honored to have been able to participate in this memorable international humanitarian event. It was a lot of fun improvising an accordion accompaniment to the text by Venezuelan novelist Israel Centeno. The music I played consisted of a diverse collage including Astor Piazzolla's Oblivion, Iosif Ivanovici's Waves of the Danube, the hymn Amazing Grace in polka style and The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh attempts to create a thriving community for writers, readers, and neighbors. The organization provides sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that they can continue to write and their voices are not silenced. They offer a broad range of literary programs in a variety of community settings to encourage cross-cultural exchange. They anchor neighborhood economic development by transforming blighted properties into homes for these programs and energizing public spaces through public art with text-based components.
Henry Doktorski, Israel Centeno, Paul Gertner, Khet Mar, Yaghoub Yadali, Joy Harjo, Wang Jiaxin, and Sridala Swami take a bow. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.