Centennial Celebrations of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk highlight 2017 programs

After a whirlwind 2016, Berkshires Jazz is going to be even more active this year, starting with our “10 Flavours” performance by the Dechamplains on Feb. 25, and highlighted by centennial salutes to three jazz giants: Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Ella Fitzgerald. Two of these will be part of two separate jazz festivals, and the third is a standalone event.

Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

Mary Ann McSweeney at the Whitney Center for the Arts, May 13

A special, one-time concert of jazz interpretations of Portuguese music themes, Mary Ann McSweeney’s “Urban Fado Project” makes its Berkshires debut on May 13, 8pm, at the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield. Tickets are available here.

Her quartet includes Jason Ennis on guitar, Todd Reynolds on violin, Conor Meehan on drums, and McSweeney on bass, and augmented by special guests.

Fado originated in Portugal in the 1800s. Of Portuguese heritage herself, McSweeney says “the beautiful melodies of Fado resonated for me immediately. The sadness, the sigh of the voice, the story of fate told by the singer inspired me to compose music that is Fado.” McSweeney wrote much of the new music at home in Brooklyn, and so she named the repertoire the “Urban Fado Project.”

Known for her jazz prowess as both a leader and ensemble member, McSweeney brings new grooves and new chord structures to the Fado form. “I want to bring a new voice and vibe to this music and share the cultural diversity it has to offer.” Her instrument, the string bass, brings a melodic and low supportive voice to the music. “I like to keep the form of the traditional Fado song, but I have also expanded it to leave room for improvisation. Musicians can layer their voice onto the form of the piece.”

The intimate setting of the Whitney Center for the Arts lends itself well to this music, which will be presented in a cabaret setting. Beer, wine and snacks will also be available.

Tickets are available here.

Celebrations of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk top 2017 program

This will be our most active year ever, so please mark your calendar, and return here for box office information and updates. The schedule, as it now stands:

May 13: Mary Ann McSweeney Quartet, plus guest vocalist Natalia Bernal. The Urban Fado Project. Tickets are available here.

June 15-18: Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend (in collaboration with Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc.)

Aug. 12: Images of Monk: a centennial salute, the Ted Rosenthal Quintet

Oct. 6-15: Pittsfield CityJazz Festival

  • Oct. 13: Veronica Swift (rising vocalist, daughter of Stephanie Nakasian and the late Hod O’Brien)
  • Oct. 14: The Dizzy Gillespie Afto-Cuban Experience

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