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Boston’s biggest block party kicks off this weekend, as the 14th annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival returns to Boston’s South End on Saturday, September 27, from noon to 6:00 p.m.
BeanTown runs along Columbus Avenue, between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street, which becomes a traffic-free pedestrian mall for seven blocks. With three stages of continuous music, plus panoply food and beverage stands, artisan displays and community and jazz information, the festival is a wonderful way to spend a fall afternoon in the heart of Boston. Oh, and did we mention it’s free? Because it is free.
The theme of this year’s festival is “Jazz – the Global Ambassador,” and that only makes sense, given the international scope of Berklee College of Music, which organizes the festival each year.
Photo: Berklee College of Music
Festival Artistic Director Terri Lyne Carrington, who is also a Grammy Award-winning drummer, composer and Berklee professor, explains that the theme underscores “how important music and the arts are to fostering a cultural exchange,” adding, “Creative music expression affects the universal rhythm of life and is a profound tool in aiding our global society.”
This year’s line-up certainly reflects a global presence, with performers like Italian saxophonist Marco Pignataro’s Jazzet, featuring legendary bassist Eddie Gomez; Marcus Santos and BlocoBrazil; Puerto Rican saxophone master Miguel Zenon; and a special appearance by the Sapporo Junior Jazz School Band from Hokkaido Prefecture in Japan.
Equally impressive is the line-up of American artists, including popular Latin percussionist Sheila E; Grammy-nominated Singer Oleta Adams; rising trumpet star Ambrose Akinmusire from New York City; Grammy award-winning vocalist Dionne Farris with the Russell Gunn Quartet; Snarky Puppy, an innovative funk band from Texas; and Bill Banfield’s Jazz Urbane group, with special guest Grace Kelly.
Photo: Grace Kelly on the saxophone
You can find a full schedule of this year’s festival lineup here.
Photo: Percussionist Sheila E
In addition to the BeanTown, there are quite a few other Massachusetts jazz festivals taking place this fall, including events in Falmouth, Holyoke, Somerville/Cambridge, and Pittsfield.
These festivals are all a piece of Massachusetts’ vibrant jazz scene, which stretches from Boston to the Berkshires and from Cape Cod to the North Shore. You can find jazz any night of the week, in nightclubs, concert halls, hotel lounges, restaurants and cafés, by visiting www.MassJazz.com. Or, read the 2014/15 issue of MassJazz Guide, published by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism.
For the latest updates on jazz happenings in Massachusetts, you can also find MassJazz on Facebook and Twitter. For information about visiting Massachusetts any time of the year, head to massvacation.com.
Michael Quinlin is founder and director of MassJazz, and publisher of the annual MassJazz Travel Guide. He sends out a daily blog on jazz events taking place in Massachusetts, focusing on both international artists coming to town, as well as great local acts playing in cities and towns across the Bay State.
Photo at the top of Grace Kelly via www.gracekellymusic.com/