Year after year, the end of summer comes way too quickly; before I know it, moving trucks nearly bowl me over as I cross the street, and I’m getting ready for another school year. One of the few things that gets me through this transition is counting down the days until the annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, which consistently brings amazing artists together to present an unforgettable few days in Boston. The festival is chock full of music, arts, and food and creates what the president and chief executive officer of Natixis Global Asset Management (NGAM), the festival’s presenting sponsor, refers to as an “incredible environment where families from Boston's diverse neighborhoods can be introduced to top-notch artists who may serve as role models for the music world's future stars.”
This year, the 12th annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival celebrates women in jazz and will be held from September 27-30th.
The festival kicks off on Thursday, September 27th, with singer-songwriter Melody Gardot. The Grammy-nominated 23 year-old is influenced by jazz artists such as Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, and George Gershwin. She will take the stage at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC) at 8:00 pm. Tickets here.
The following night, the festival will continue at the BPC with performances by two female piano powerhouses, Geri Allen and Joanne Brackeen. Allen has worked with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Ron Carter, Ravi Coltrane, Tony Williams, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Betty Carter, and Charles Lloyd. Brackeen known for her whimsical style, has been referred to as the “Picasso of jazz piano,” (NPR). The show will begin at 7:30 pm and tickets are available here.
The free outdoor festival takes place on Saturday, September 29, from 12:00-6:00pm on Columbus Ave. between Mass. Ave. and Burke St. This year’s outdoor festival features three stages of live performances by over 15 artists. Performers include: Terri Lyne Carrington, the festival’s artistic director (and Berklee professor and alumna) who will perform following her first Grammy Award – the 2012 Best Jazz Vocal Album award for her album The Mosaic Project; Lalah Hathaway, a R&B, jazz, and pop-fusion vocalist who also happens to be a Berklee graduate; Hailey Niswanger, an up-and-coming saxophonist; and Paula Cole, a Berklee alumna and 1997 Best New Artist Grammy Award winner who is returning to the BeanTown Jazz Fest. The free festival will also be home to vendor booths with food and crafts from all over the world, as well as family activities at the Natixis Family Park, which transforms Carter Playground into a hub of kids' activities - face painting, inflatables (like a bounce house), and an "instrument petting zoo" staffed by Berklee professionals.
On Sunday, September 30, Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio will close out the annual festival with a concert at the BPC at 7:30 pm. Fleck is often considered the premier banjo player in the world and will come together with the members of the Marcus Roberts Trio (Roberts on piano, Jason Marsalis on drums and Rodney Jordan on bass) to create a new way forward in jazz, deeply rooted in the form, while pulling from extensive backgrounds and music journeys of all the members – creating stellar performances that are exuberant, fresh, soaring, bold, and, of course, eclectic. Tickets for the closing show can be found here.
Berklee’s BeanTown Jazz Fest is never one to disappoint, and I am delighted about what it has to offer this year. The best part about it is that even though some of the shows are ticketed, they always make sure to offer a whole day of music and fun completely free of charge for all of us Bostonians along with the visitors who just happen to stumble into town at the end of September.
For more information, you can check out Beantownjazz.org and I hope to bump into you rockin’ away watching the impressive performances and enjoying some (cross your fingers) beautiful weather.
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