Metro West Thump, the contemporary jazz group from the greater Boston area features originals and favorites from the great American jazz book. After an impressive debut on Third Thursday last October, Metro West Thump takes over Baba Louie’s Backroom as our jazz series continues. Friday, July 10, Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot St., Pittsfield, MA$20 in advance, $25 on day of concert. Dinner available separately.
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Berkshires Jazz Appreciation events
Berkshires Jazz, Inc. observed national Jazz Appreciation Month with a free performance at Baba Louie’s on April 25, plus the month-long exhibition of this year’s entries in the Student Art Contest at Pittsfield City Hall.
The performance, which was sponsored by The Berkshire Eagle, introduced Faux Real, a quintet of next-generation musicians from Williams College and the Berkshires. They include Scott Daniel, violin; Max Dietrich, reeds; Jack Schweighauser, guitar; Mitch Zimmer, bass; and Gabe Morosky, the leader, on drums. The group’s repertoire ranges from Clifford Brown to Herbie Hancock, as well as original arrangements inspired by contemporary popular music.
Student Musicians, Artists Highlight Jazz Appreciation Month in the Berkshires
With both an original approach and respect for the jazz tradition, Faux Real represents an important aspect of creativity: they have the enthusiasm of students and yet the insights of the professional musicians. The audience of mature jazz fans and the younger, new followers enjoyed the evening. A tip of the hat to Kris Allen of Williams College for helping to make it happen.
Also associated with our Jazz Appreciation Month activities, Berkshires Jazz hosts an annual student art contest. More than 100 student artists from Pittsfield and Taconic High Schools, as well as St. Joseph’s and Miss Hall’s, participated in this seventh annual contest, which was conceived by Art Niedeck, chairman of our Education Committee, as a way to engage more of the student community in cross-genre creative activity.
This year’s Student Art Contest judges were painters Scott Taylor, Diane Firtell, and Julio Granda. The three winning entries were from Taylor Turner (P.H.S. senior), Max Whalen (P.H.S. freshman), and Anita Curtin (St. Joseph’s junior). One of these will become the graphic symbol of the 11th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival in October.
Every April is Jazz Appreciation Month, a national program started by the Smithsonian Institution in 2002 and recognized by Congress in 2003. Its purpose is to celebrate jazz, the country’s indigenous art form, often referred to as “America’s classical music.” It’s no coincidence that the Smithsonian chose April, the month of Duke Ellington’s birthday, to celebrate our cultural gift to the world.
Rich Falco, founder of the Jazz History Database project that is housed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, interviews Ed Bride about his discovery of and role in promoting jazz. The wide-ranging interview includes a section on Berkshires Jazz and our dual commitment to presenting concerts, events, and encouraging jazz education in Berkshire County.
Among the topics is the founding of the initial Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, the evolution of our Jazz Crawl, headline concerts, Jazz Prodigy series, and other events that make the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival a signature cultural event of the fall foliage season.
Jazz education plays an important part in the three other activities discussed in this online video, including the New England Jazz Hall of Fame; American Jazz Venues (whose musical arm, the American Jazz Repertory Orchestra, recorded a DVD in Pittsfield); and the New England Jazz Ensemble.
Ten Decades of Jazz Piano With Bill Mays, solo piano
Master pianist Bill Mays provides examples of jazz’ progression from raggedy honky-tonk sounds to its speakeasy era, to its heyday in the mid-20th century, to bebop and beyond, and now, to “America’s Classical Music.” Choosing one example from each of 10 decades, his interpretations both entertain and educate; Come hear the NY-based virtuoso in his Pittsfield debut.
- Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, 8pm.
- Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot Street, Pittsfield
- $15 through Feb. 20; $20 at the door. Advance purchase strongly advised.
- Dinner available separately, in the main dining room starting at 6pm, or backroom (doors open at 7pm).
(Once online box office is closed, tickets may be available at the venue; call 413-841-7718 to verify.)
In addition to his reputation as a jazz pianist noted as both a first-rate accompanist, and soloist, Bill Mays is well-known for his compositional and arranging talents. He has contributed music to the libraries of a wide array of artists: Aureole chamber ensemble, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Percy Faith Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Morgana King, Shelly Manne, Mark Murphy, Bud Shank, Marvin Stamm, Lew Tabackin, Turtle Creek Chorale and Phil Woods.
Currently, he tours and records in many varied configurations: duo with trumpeter Marvin Stamm, the Inventions Trio, solo piano, his trio (featuring Matt Wilson & Martin Wind), duo with Bud Shank, and a sextet. He has many awards and honors as an arranger, pianist and producer, and has been the recipient of performance grants from Meet The Composer, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour. He has recorded over two dozen albums under his own name, and has been heard on hundreds more by others. More about Bill Mays
2014 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival schedule
The tenth annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival runs from Oct. 10-19, 2014 in various venues in downtown Pittsfield. A signature cultural event of the fall foliage season in western Massachusetts, the music spans the spectrum of jazz.
In addition to the region’s top big band, the lineup includes four of the top female instrumental and vocal performers, the annual jazz crawl that features local musicians in restaurants and lounges throughout downtown; and a new entry in the Jazz Prodigy series. Full jazz crawl schedule here.
Jazz Prodigy concert with The Robert Woodard Heath Trio
One of the highlights of the 10-day festival is the Jazz Prodigy concert: The Robert Woodard Heath Trio, Featuring Franz Robert, piano. Introducing a young artist who is expected to become a force in jazz, it will be at 7PM Oct. 15 at Berkshire Music School, sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum.
Next Festival event is Third Thursday block party in Downtown Pittsfield Oct. 16, featuring at 5pm the Eagles Swing Band and then at 6pm, Metro West Thump.
Stephanie Nakasian, Hod O’Brien Trio
There are only two ticketed events, on Oct. 17 and 18. Opening the headline weekend is vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, featured with Hod O’Brien Trio, Jeff Link, bass; and Jereme Vinette, drums.
The performance takes place in the intimate setting of Baba Louie’s Backroom, a popular speakeasy-type room that is becoming one of the more popular jazz venues in the Berkshires. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. (Please include name for your reservation, in lieu of actual ticket(s))
Empire Jazz Orchestra, Claire Daly, Sharel Cassity, Ada Rovatti
The final concert is Saturday, Oct. 18. The performers are the Empire Jazz Orchestra, the region’s top big band, and will feature three guest artists: saxophonists Claire Daly, Sharel Cassity, and Ada Rovatti. Plus Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble, with students from Herberg Middle School, Rock On Workshop, and Youth Alive. This concert will be held at Pittsfield’s historic Colonial Theatre (and offers discounts to AAA members). Tickets at Colonial Box Office, $35/20.
The weekend winds down at The Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum, for a Sunday matinee screening of the movie The Girls In The Band. Oct. 19, 2pm, $10 ($5 for Berkshire Museum members).
More about the performers:
Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend video
The second annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend July 25 – 28, 2013, drew the attention of tourists and locals in downtown Lee, Massachusetts, as they patronized lunch and dinner spots and stores, and then went to headline concerts featuring Freddie Bryant, Phil Woods, and the Greg Caputo big band.