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.
Tom Reney’s Jazz a la Mode program on WFCR-FM
Article by Ed Bride.
Mayor Domenic Sarno entered a reception at the Community Music School of Springfield (Mass.) on a Sunday afternoon, seeking out the guest of honor, Tom Reney . Upon finding him, the mayor extended his hand and, greeting Reney like an old friend, simply said, “Mr. Jazz.”
That appellation sums-up the attitude of the friends, family, and listeners to Reney’s long-standing, 5-night-a-week radio program, Jazz à la Mode. The program celebrated its 30th anniversary on Nov. 16, when 230 guests assembled in the cavernous digs of the music school, which is located in a former bank in the heart of downtown.
Jazz à la Mode has been a staple of WFCR-FM’s offerings –and Reney its only host– since the station’s inception of jazz programming in 1984. The NPR affiliate, which operates under the aegis of New England Public Radio, recently relocated from the environs of Reney’s alma mater, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, to become part of the downtown Springfield scene. The station’s signal is carried by about five repeaters in western New England and, for many, represents the only jazz within listening range.
Reney got his start in broadcasting with seven years on a community radio station in his native Worcester. He has carried a torch for jazz since he would sneak-in to jazz joints when he was too young to be admitted legally. That sort of passion and dedication, plus his natural curiosity, mellow voice and articulate speaking mannerisms, made him a natural for radio. Seeking to satisfy his passion for the music, he eschewed an expected career in the family business of civil engineering, surveying the jazz scene instead of highways, golf courses, and landscapes.
Reney’s 3-hour show is believed to be the only 5-night-a-week jazz radio program in New England, and is one of the longest-standing full-time jazz programs in the country. He credits NEPR CEO and General Manager Martin Miller for “maintaining a vision of public radio as a community service” for western New England.
WFCR’s programming day includes NPR news, plus local and syndicated classical music and locally produced jazz. In addition to Reney’s program, his weekend colleague Kari Njiiri has also been part of the scene since 1984.
Affirming NEPR’s commitment to jazz, CEO Miller said the 50-year-old station, a spinoff from Boston’s WGBH, is fundraising “to create an endowment for jazz and classical music, to ensure their future as part of the New England Public Radio programming mix.”
The station’s commitment comes from the founding principles of NPR. “Some think that the word ‘public’ in public radio is used because we rely on the public for financial support,” said Miller. “And while that’s true, the visionaries who created public broadcasting used the word public because they believe public media should be like the public square – where all parts of our society can come together to share and express all of those elements of culture and ideas which make up our society. So, what better place for jazz than on public radio?”
To celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary, a bevy of local and regionally-based jazz musicians honored Reney, and by extension the station itself, with some 90+ minutes of planned and improvised performances. They included Paul Arslanian, piano and music director; Khalif Neville, piano; Steve Davis, trombone; Charles Neville and Grant Stewart, tenor saxophones; Jay Hoggard, vibraphone; Nat Reeves, Avery Sharpe, and George Kaye, bass; Cicci Santucci and Reney’s broadcasting colleague Peter Sokolowski, trumpet/flugelhorn; and Jon Fisher, Claire Arenius, and Billy Arnold, drums. Jim Argiro (piano) and Jason Schwartz (bass) played the opening reception.
Reney’s affable personality, on-air or off, serves his passion well. Never pompous, he is knowledgeable, and is always willing to share that knowledge. One gets the feeling that it would be cool to hang with him, even if he weren’t “Mr. Jazz.”
In expressing his gratitude to the jazz community, Reney thanked “everyone who’s ever made a record that I’ve played on Jazz à la Mode,” including “the countless musicians who commit themselves to the rigors of jazz with little prospect of major financial reward, and none of paid vacations.”
Among those who thanked Reney for his three decades of service, which include countless lectures, a popular blog, as well as commentaries and film screenings, were Congressman Richard Neal and Massachusetts state representative Steve Kulik, as well as Mayor Sarno. All three professed to be fans of Reney, each making knowledgeable reference to various experiences or anecdotes of their listening times (the politicians often returning home after late working sessions). The City of Springfield declared November 16th “Tom Reney Day;” the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also acknowledged his legendary standing in the broadcasting community; and, Rep. Neal inserted his acknowledgement into the Congressional Record, giving it national, and permanent, stature.
In a national broadcast scene where only 85 of 10,000 commercial stations, plus the 120 non-commercial stations, regularly offer jazz, WFCR’s commitment is noteworthy. Reney underscored that with his observation that “jazz on public radio is a distinction in and of itself.”
Or, as NEPR CEO Miller noted, “Our community has told us that jazz on public radio is important to our civic and cultural dialogue and educational mission.”
In the end, it’s all about the music, and the people who make it possible. Miller said that Reney’s “eagerness to share the beloved treasures of the jazz idiom…and loving reverence for the music has given us so very much.” And all that, “with so little fanfare, and so generously.”
Roy Gerson Trio concert Feb. 15, 2014 Pittsfield, MA
The Roy Gerson Trio will play a concert during the 2014 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival in Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot St., Pittsfield, MA, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 8PM. Piano standout Roy Gerson puts his unique spin on jazz compositions that were popularized by 10 jazz pianists over the decades, from historic to current.
With a style that has been described as ranging from Little Richard to Ray Charles to Erroll Garner, pianist Roy Gerson has captivated North American music fans with his unique treatment of jazz standards and rarities. Attending the Manhattan School of Music as a classical piano major, he soon fell under the sway of the sounds of Lester Young, Buddy Rich, the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” recordings and, above all, the pure entertainment potency of Louis Armstrong. He moved quickly and easily into the professional arena, gigging with traditional jazz bands and becoming the regular pianist with the Widespread Depression Orchestra, playing all over the country in the early 1980s.
Roy Gerson – If I Had You
Becoming one of the most in-demand performers, he headlined the top jazz clubs in New York, such as the Village Gate, Blue Note, Tavern on the Green, and a two-year stint at the club Zanzibar. He appeared as part of a 1920s jazz orchestra in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “The Cotton Club,” swinging some of the classics of the Harlem Renaissance. Soon after, he was hired by Woody Allen for a cameo in Crimes and Misdemeanors and his more than a dozen subsequent films have included The Mirror Has Two Faces, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand.
“Supremely talented. Gerson knows how to royally entertain…energetic renditions of timeless classics…melody, passion, and improvisation all come together in one glorious package.” – Chicago Tribune
“Run, don’t walk to hear Roy Gerson! He’s a breath of fresh air…plays with wit and imagination…in the tradition of Erroll Garner and Oscar Peterson.” – WNEW Radio
Review of 2013 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival
By Richard Houdek, first published 10/22/2013, Berkshire Eagle.
The late Dave Brubeck was very much a presence around the Colonial Theatre Saturday evening as two of his sons and their colleagues offered their concert tribute to that great American pianist and composer.
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet was the headline attraction in the final event of the ninth annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, which spread its activities throughout the city, in restaurants, schools and other spots, over the last two weeks. Dave Brubeck, who passed away last December, made his final Berkshire appearance at the 2009 festival.
And Saturday evening, Chris Brubeck, on electric bass and bass trombone, and his brother, Dan, on drums, along with what the two call their “honorary brothers,” guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb, proved not only splendid bearers of the Brubeck legacy, but also superb and versatile musicians who have established their own distinctive jazz tradition.
Serving as a most genial master of ceremonies for the set, Chris Brubeck carried the customary introductions and between-numbers patter to an articulate new level of illumination, tendering in his remarks not only time-and-place statistics, but the background and musical calculation in each Dave Brubeck piece that was iterated, and often rearranged, for the quartet’s sentimental tour of appreciation.
In introducing his dad’s “Bossa Nova USA,” Chris Brubeck stressed that this was strictly “a Bossa Nova Brubeck style,” and it elicited one of the many fascinating music conversations that took place throughout the evening between Lamb’s ambient keyboard and DeMicco’s equally fluent guitar, his fingers often dancing with agility over the frets.
While plunking bass lines, Chris Brubeck also managed a bit of sotto voce scat singing on one number, and then switched over to his trombone for a mellow take on “My One Bad Habit,” a piece he said had been dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald, who confided to his father one night over an after- session chat that her one bad habit was falling in love. Although the tune was never sung by Fitzgerald, Brubeck reported, it was performed by Carmen McRae after his mother, whom he praised as a fine lyricist, supplied the requisite words.
“Jazzanians,” a rather raucous number for the band, was developed from the experience of another brother, Darius, while teaching and assembling musicians at the University of Natal in South Africa.
Each band member was extended the spotlight to demonstrate his virtuosity, notably Lamb, who, in an extended solo, displayed what was called a new arrangement, dispatching shimmering chromatic chord clusters, shades of blues and galloping cocktail piano nuances, leading to some frenetic finger work from DeMicco’s solo and a tumultuous drum solo from Dan Brubeck.
While in Istanbul once, Brubeck heard a nine-beat rat-a-tat-tat, which his son demonstrated, rapping on his soundboard, then related how his father seized that sound, put it in 9/8 time, interspersed it with a jazzier 4/4, then adapted it all to rondo form in the classical manner. This became Brubeck’s celebrated “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” delivered here in a fanciful arrangement.
The evening’s most touching moment occurred amid the marathon finale rendition of Paul Desmond’s wonderful “Take Five,” the anthem of the Dave Brubeck Band. Quietly and discreetly, Lamb stepped away from the piano into the wings, and DeMicco placed his guitar on its stand and retreated into the opposite wing, allowing the Brothers Brubeck a few precious family moments alone on stage with “Take Five” and to meditate as Brubecks do, jamming passionately and vigorously.
Earlier in the evening, quartet members joined the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble in an ambitious 20-minute program led by Ronald Lively, with Lamb sharing keyboard assignments with Tracy Wilson, director of the Berkshire Music School, and Mark Palady, a Pittsfield High student — DeMicco sitting with Yonaton Kaufman, a student, in the guitar section, and Chris Brubeck jumping in on a couple of trombone solos.
Geoff Vidal Quartet
In other festival activity, the Geoff Vidal Quartet offered some refreshing jazz sounds in Baba Louie’s Back Room last Thursday.
Vidal draws mellow romance from the lower register of his tenor saxophone in the bluesy numbers and blazing heat while dwelling in the upper range with such numbers as his “Mac and Cheese.”
The youthful ensemble, perhaps a harbinger of a bright jazz future, includes Nir Felder, 29, whose dazzling guitar often sparkles like a keyboard; Jochen Rueckert, also 29, tendering a sturdy percussive beat, and Aidan Carroll, 30, the energetic bassist.
2013 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival schedule
The 2013 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, scheduled for Oct. 11-20 in various venues in downtown Pittsfield, MA, features The Brubeck Brothers Quartet in a tribute to the legendary pianist Dave Brubeck, who headed the 2009 Festival. Founded in 2004, the Festival has become a signature cultural event of the Berkshires fall foliage season, with music spanning the spectrum of jazz.
[two_third] In addition to the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, the lineup includes the rising tenor saxophonist Geoff Vidal; Jazz About Town, opening the Festival on Friday Oct. 11, with local musicians in restaurants and lounges throughout downtown; and a new entry in the Jazz Prodigy series, alto saxophonist Zoe Obadia, Outstanding Soloist award winner at the 2013 Essentially Ellington festival at Lincoln Center.
Jazz prodigy Zoe Obadia – Berkshire Athenaeum – Oct. 16
Fresh from her achievement at the Essentially Ellington festival, Jazz prodigy Zoe Obadia will appear at the Berkshire Athenaeum in an Oct. 16 concert sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum. A high school senior from New Jersey, Obadia has been gaining recognition as a soloist and as a member of Jazz House Kids, a big band that also took high honors at the 2011 Charles Mingus Competition and Festival. Obadia’s performance in Pittsfield continues the Berkshires Jazz tradition of showcasing young, talented musicians who have the potential to become significant figures on the jazz scene.
The headline weekend opens on Friday, Oct. 18 with the Geoff Vidal Quartet, in the intimate performance space known as Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot Street, in downtown Pittsfield.
Geoff Vidal Quartet – Baba Louie’s Backroom – Oct. 18
After several years touring and performing out of New Orleans, Vidal arrived in NYC to quickly become a tenor-of-choice for a host of notable bandleaders and appear in some of the city’s most prominent clubs. While Vidal’s sound is easily comparable to the breathy warmth of Coleman Hawkins or Sonny Rollins’ colossal purr, the years leading up to his first headlining release, “She Likes That,” have seen the total ripening of his unique musical character. His unharnessed energy has effloresced into a performance both playful and deliberate.
Tickets for the Geoff Vidal Quartet concert at 8pm are $25; there will be limited seating, and advance purchase is strongly advised.[/two_third] [one_third_last]
Jazz About Town
Friday, Oct. 11
Sherri Buxton Jazz Trio
Baba Louie’s Sourdough Pizza
34 Depot Street, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 12
Dave Bartley, jazz piano
House of India
261 North Steet, 5:30 to 8:30 PM
Andy Kelly, Charlie Tokarz, Eileen Markland, Jazz Trio
273 North Street, 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Bronte Roman Jazz Quartet
26 Bank Row, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
Jeff Link Jazz Trio
J. Allen’s Clubhouse Grille
41 North Street, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
Mad Jack’s BBQ
297 North Street, 7:00 to 10:00 PM
Andy Wrba Quartet
Mission Bar and Tapas
438 North Stree,t 8:00 to 11:00 PM
Mark Papas Jazz Trio
The Lantern Restaurant
455 North Street, 9:00 to 11:00 PM
Sunday, Oct. 13th
Andy Kelly, Ben Kohn “Jazz Wake-Up”
Dottie’s Coffee Lounge
444 North Street, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Rich Vinette Quartet, with Ted Murray
26 Bank Row, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
Brubeck Brothers Quartet
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet is an exciting jazz group featuring two members of one of America’s most accomplished musical families, Dan Brubeck (drums,) and Chris Brubeck (bass and trombone); guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb complete this dynamic quartet. They have performed at concert series, colleges, and festivals across North America and Europe including the Newport, Detroit, Ravinia, Las Vegas, Sedona, Spokane and Monterey Jazz Festivals.
Of the group’s many and varied CDs, their latest, “Lifetimes,” is a tribute to their father, and was issued a few months before his death in 2012. The material on the CD will comprise much of their Oct. 19 performance in Pittsfield (8pm; $18/30. Tickets now available at berkshiretheatregroup.org).
Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble
The Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble, comprising young musicians from Berkshire County, will open the evening’s festivities; Chris and Dan Brubeck will also appear as guest soloists with the youth ensemble, which is directed by Ronald A. Lively of Pittsfield High School.
In addition to these programs, Cultural Pittsfield is collaborating with Berkshires Jazz in presenting Michael Bellar and the AS-IS Ensemble, as part of the Third Thursday block party on Oct. 17 (5-8pm, free, downtown Pittsfield).
In addition to the two ticketed events, other concerts and performances are free, thanks to the generosity of sponsors and underwriters, including Greylock Federal Credit Union, the Berkshire Bank Foundation, Jamey Aebersold Jazz Books, TD Bank, and others.
The second annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend brought impressive numbers of tourists and locals to downtown Lee, Massachusetts, as they populated lunch and dinner spots and stores, and then flocked to headline concerts featuring Freddie Bryant, Phil Woods, and the Greg Caputo big band. Story from All About Jazz.
First Fridays Artswalk Pittsfield Sept. 6, 2013
Participating in the First Fridays Artswalk, Pittsfield Sept. 6, 2013, we present The Parker/Byrd Trio. The performers include pianist Warren Byrd, drummer Tom Parker, and Dan Broad on bass. The jazz concert will be held at Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot Street, Pittsfield. $20, dinner available separately. Please use the Paypal button below to reserve your seat(s) for the concert; remember to enter a name for our reservation’s list.
Parker and Byrd w/ Brazilian Jazz Trio
The video shows Parker and Byrd playing with Brazilian Jazz Trio at the 2010 Pifttsfield CityJazz Festival.
Phil Woods, Freddie Bryant, Greg Caputo headline Jazz weekend in Lee, MA
Several free events, including al fresco performances. a jazz brunch and an art exhibit, have been added to the Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend, in downtown Lee, July 25-28. Berkshires Jazz, Inc. and Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc. have teamed-up to bring a full weekend of marquee performers, a jazz documentary film, and appearances by local jazz musicians to the town.
The weekend kicks off at 6pm on Thursday, July 25 with the screening of “A Life in E Flat,” a biographical profile of the legendary alto saxophonist, NEA Jazz Master and 4-time Grammy winner Phil Woods. Through a special arrangement with Jazzed Media, producers of jazz films and CDs, the screening at the Lee Library on Main Street is free and open to the public.
The festival includes two headline concerts in the striking performance space at First Congregational Church, 25 Park Place. Freddie Bryant & Kaleidoscope appear on Friday, July 26 at 8pm; and the Greg Caputo Big Band with special guest Phil Woods takes to the stage on Saturday, July 27 at 7:30pm. Tickets for these two concerts, $25 each, or $40 for both, are on sale at the Chamber of Commerce information booth in downtown Lee; at Qwik Print, Great Barrington, and Wood Brothers store in Pittsfield and online at www.BerkshireGatewayJazz.com. Information at 413-243-1033.
free Jazz events throughout downtown Lee
In addition to the two headline concerts, the weekend is spangled with free events, starting with the Thursday movie, continuing with art exhibit, and a series of “Jazz in the Alley” concerts next to Spectrum Theatre:
- The first of the al fresco events is on Friday afternoon, July 26, 2-4pm with a performance by the Berkshire Jazz Collective, featuring Andy Wrba and other musicians from the area;
- “Jazz in the Alley” resumes on Saturday, July 27 with an outdoor art exhibit, plus a noontime concert featuring a quintet of local jazz performers including Rich Vinette, Stan Pyrzanowski, Josh Kleederman, Jack DiNicola and Ted Murray;
- Also on July 27, Andy Kelly’s Jazz Ambassadors, a roaming New Orleans-style group, will be strolling downtown in various locations along Main Street starting at 1pm, kicking off at Baja Charlie’s and finishing in the alley next to Spectrum Theatre.
- The festivities conclude on Sunday July 28with a Jazz Brunch at the Starving Artist Creperie, 40 Main St,, 11am-1pm. Lee.
Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend schedule Lee, MA July 25-28, 2013
- Thursday, July 25, 6pm. Phil Woods bio-pic, “A Life in E Flat.” Lee Public Library. Free, sponsored by Jazzed Media.
Friday afternoon, July 26, 2-4pm. “Jazz in the Alley” with the Berkshire Jazz Collective, featuring Andy Wrba (WOOr-bah) and other musicians from the area. Free.
- Friday evening, July 26, 8pm. Freddie Bryant and Kaleidoscope. First Congregational Church, 25 Park Place. ($25. Or, both Thursday and Saturday concerts for $40)
- Saturday, July 27 “Jazz in the Alley” resumes at noon, with an outdoor art exhibit, plus a concert featuring a quintet of local jazz performers (including Rich Vinette, Stan Pyrzanowski, Josh Kleederman, Jack DiNicola and Ted Murray).
- Saturday, July 27, 1pm: Andy Kelly’s Jazz Ambassadors, a roaming New Orleans-style group, will be strolling downtown in various locations along Main Street, kicking off at Baja Charlie’s and finishing in the alley next to Spectrum Theatre.
- Exhibit: A Retrospective featuring artist John Lawson. Good Purpose Gallery, 40 Main St., Lee. Reception: Saturday July 27, 5-7 pm. Live music by Steve Dietmann and the Jazzmen Band.
- Saturday, July 27, 7:30pm. Greg Caputo Big Band, “Benny Goodman to Gordon Goodwin.” With special guest Phil Woods. First Congregational Church, 25 Park Place. ($25. Or, both Thursday and Saturday headline concerts for $40)
- Sunday July 28, Jazz Brunch at the Starving Artist Creperie, 40 Main St. 11am-1pm. Free.