Dizzy Gillespie tribute, Samirah Evans with Charles Neville to headline Pittsfield CityJazz Festival

Our two marquee events for the 2017 Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival show remarkable range and diversity…from the New Orleans mainstay Samirah Evans –with special guest Charles Neville– to a celebration of Dizzy Gillespie.Tickets are now on sale for both events.

Of course, the October 6-15 festival will include the annual “jazz crawl” on Columbus Day weekend (schedule to be posted Oct. 1), the Jazz Prodigy concert on Oct. 11, two jazz brunches, and more.

Watch this space for more news.

Friday, Oct. 13, your lucky day

One of the most popular jazz and blues vocalists in pre-Katrina New Orleans, Samirah Evans dedicates time to perpetuating indigenous American music. With a mix of swampy, sultry, and soulful takes on jazz standards and originals, she first performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1990, and became a regular fixture for fourteen consecutive years.

While living in New Orleans, Samirah appeared in concert with such notable musicians as trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Charles Neville, and drummer Shannon Powell (Harry Connick, Jr. band and Diana Krall).

Hurricane Katrina caused Samirah and her husband to seek out new living arrangements outside of New Orleans, so they moved to his native town of Brattleboro, Vermont in the fall of 2006. Her debut performance was at the Vermont Jazz Center with the VJC Big Band. She soon found herself sharing the spotlight with the legendary Shelia Jordan as a principal in a musical theater performance, Beatnik Café’, depicting the beatnik generation.

She has toured Europe, Asia, and both North and South America as a headliner, and shared stages with a multitude of legendary artists from B.B. King and James Brown, to New Orleans own Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas.

Her live performance repertoire runs the gamut from raunchy blues to jazz smooth as silk. She has often been compared to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Etta James She made countless new friends in the Berkshires in an appearance at Zucchini’s in 2016, and we are delighted to bring her back for the Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival.

Guest soloist Charles Neville provides a special treat. The second oldest brother of the famed New Orleans musical family, Charles has the most diverse background. His experience on saxophone has included rhythm & blues, funk, jazz, be-bop, popular and even American Indian music. He cites as influences Louis Jordan, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Professor Longhair. He’s a popular Berkshires artist, and we’re delighted to have him on the Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival program for the first time

Samirah’s group includes three of the top rhythm players on the New York scene, all of whom have deep Berkshires connections: Miro Sprague, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; and Conor Meehan, drums.

Flavours of Malaysia is the setting for many a rising jazz artist, as well as those whose star has already ascended. Acoustically and visually, it’s a “happening” scene. For our jazz festival audience, Flavours is offering special dinner pricing of $15, for your choice among three of their most popular entrees, with stir-fry, curry, and vegetarian options. For the show only, tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the show. The doors open at 7:45pm, when the special dinner pricing goes into effect.

Make your plans early, it’s sure to be a full house. Book your ticket now, you can choose your entree when you arrive. Tickets are available here.

Saturday, Oct. 14: celebrating Dizzy’s centennial

History has produced its share of great artists and great people, and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was both.  As a performer, he left behind an incredible record of innovation and inspiration; as a composer, a broad repository of musical masterpieces; and as a man, a legion of friends, colleagues and compatriots who remember him with the same degree of love and esteem they reserve for his work. Those “Dizzy for President” buttons were actually half-serious.

Berkshires Jazz celebrates Gillespie’s 100th birthday with a performance by the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, a 6-piece ensemble led by his long-term bassist John Lee. The group showcases the unique rhythms and well-loved melodies (such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo”) of Gillespie’s oeuvre of Cu-Bop, which he developed in the 40s and 50s with Chano Pozo. That music rings every bit as fresh today, which is why

jazz ensembles around the world are still performing it.

And, the expanded repertoire of the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience also explores the broader world of Latin-American music–the tunes that Dizzy likely would be playing today.

The musicians are drawn from the high-caliber pool of New York-based talent tha

t frequent the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and All-Star groups, including trumpeter Freddie Hendrix (photo at right), saxophonist Sharel Cassity, Brazilian pianist/vocalist Abelita Mateus, drummer Tommy Campbell and percussionist Roger Squitero. They perform with energy, verve, and style, putting their own fresh stamp on a well-known genre.

Our all-star youth ensemble opens the musical proceedings at 7:30pm. Tickets are $23-38, and are available here.

“Back in the day,” Berkshire radio personality Dave Kidd, father of Berkshires Jazz treasurer Barbara Seddon, conducted this interview with Dizzy Gillespie; it is now on file at the International Jazz History Database.




Discount tix for Hot Summer Swing Bash benefit Berkshires Jazz

Saturday, August 26, 3:00pm-8:00pm the HOT SUMMER SWING BASH (rocks and) rolls into Ski Butternut in Great Barrington. There’s some great jazz and swing music in store, including the Squirrel Nut Zippers, local bands, and a discount on tickets, to boot.

The sponsors, Berkshire Bash, are offering an exclusive, special discount offer for friends of Berkshires Jazz that is also a fund-raiser for us. Your ticket is just $30 ($10 off per ticket, which is normally $40), and $5 of that ticket goes directly to Berkshires Jazz. When purchasing your ticket, use code:  JAZZ and Berkshire Bash remits $5 per ticket to us!

The day-long festival features national headliner SQUIRREL NUT ZIPPERS, and local favorites THE LUCKY 5 and BLUE LIGHT TRIO.  This family-friendly, fun-filled day also includes ROGER THE JESTER and more kids activities courtesy of United Cerebral Palsy of Berkshire County.

Squirrel Nut Zippers’ music is a high-energy fusion of Delta blues, gypsy jazz, 1930s era swing, klezmer and other styles. Originally formed in 1993 in Chapel Hill, their one-of-a-kind sound ranges in influence from Harlem Hot Music to the sounds of Cab Calloway, Johnny Ace, Raymond Scott, Fats Waller, and Django Reinhardt.

Food options include delicious Indian cuisine from Chef Express, SoCo Creamery, and beer & wine from Lefty’s Brewing.  Bring a blanket, a picnic and the whole family!

Tickets and more info:  berkshirebash.com