A Symphonic celebration of Black culture

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra welcomed Black History Month early through music with its fourth annual “Tribute: A Symphonic Celebration of African American Culture.”


The Jan. 26 spectacular at Heinz Hall featured renowned jazz recording artist Sean Jones, Duquesne University professor and director of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra. First, the PSO, under the direction of resident conductor, Lawrence Loh, performed a medley of Duke Ellington hits in addition to composer and professor, Adolphus Hailstork’s PHD, Third Symphony.

Jones, noted as one of the country’s great young jazz talents, dazzled the audience with his soulful renditions of George Gershwin’s “Love is Here to Stay,” and “Embraceable You.” The evening reached a crescendo with the orchestral premiere of an inspirational piece by Jones’ Duquesne University colleague, composer David Cutler. The piece titled “Approaching Chiang Mai” was written to capture Cutler’s emotions on a visit to the ancient Buddhist temple Wat Doi Suthep in Thailand with his new wife on their honeymoon.

Cutler said approaching this magnificent temple made him feel so small, and full of anticipation and humbling fear.  Jones’, musical interpretation of Cutler’s feelings came in a stirring legato performance. Jones was accompanied by Jeff Grubbs of the PSO on bass; Andrew Reamer of the PSO on drums; and  Alton Merrell of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra on piano.

The event was hosted by Doris Carson Williams, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania.

Jones also is a member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

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