Known as Boston's biggest block party, the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival returns to the Back Bay and South End this weekend and could draw as many as 80,000 fans of jazz, Latin, blues, and soul.
In its 12th year, the free block party takes place on Saturday from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street.
This year's festival highlights women in jazz, and opens and closes with ticketed performances at the Berklee Performance Center: Melody Gardot on Thursday at 8 p.m., A Night of Two Pianos with Geri Allen and Joanne Brackeen on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and closes with Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio – a 14 Grammy Award-winning banjoist in a collaboration with the trio known for its signature, virtuosic style –cap the festival on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the concerts are available at berkleebpc.com or at the BPC box office.
Other festival highlights, according to Berklee spokeswoman Liz Lupton, include:
- Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic - 9/29, Natixis Global Asset Management Stage, 3:30 p.m. The festival's artistic director (and Berklee professor and alumna) will perform following her first Grammy Award. The 2012 Best Jazz Vocal Album will be joined by Lizz Wright, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, and more.
- Paula Cole - 9/29, Natixis Global Asset Management Stage, 2:15 p.m. The "Where have all the cowboys gone?" songstress and 1997 Best New Artist Grammy Award winner returns to her alma mater for her free festival performance. Cole, a Rockport, Mass., native, graduated from Berklee in 1990.
- Hailey Niswanger - 9/29, Subaru of New England Stage, 3:30 p.m. The up-and-coming saxophonist has shared the stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and other jazz luminaries.
- Lalah Hathaway - 9/29, Natixis Global Asset Management Stage, 5:00 p.m. The r&b, jazz, and pop-fusion vocalist returns to her old stomping grounds; born to r&b and soul music royalty, Hathaway is a Berklee grad.
For more info including a full list of performers, head to beantownjazz.org.
The outdoor celebration also features booths offering foods and crafts from all over the world. And Carter Playground on Columbus Avenue will have inflatables, face painting and an instrument petting zoo staffed by Berklee professionals.
"Students and faculty play a major role in the festival with performances from faculty member Mark Walker and the Rhythm of the Americas Nonet, Summer in the City concert series standout artists and current Berklee students Lihi Haruvi and Caili O’Doherty, the Neo Soul Ensemble, and the Berklee City Music All Stars." a Berklee press release states.
The National Endowment for the Arts, for the third year in a row, has awarded a grant to Berklee College of Music to support the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival. Natixis Global Asset Management (NGAM) is the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include Subaru of New England.
For more, see Patch blogger Megan Dervin-Ackerman's post about the festival.