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.”
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:
2014 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival Jazz About Town schedule
The tenth annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival runs from Oct. 10-19, 2014 in various venues in downtown Pittsfield. In addition to the region’s top big band, the lineup includes four of the top female instrumental and vocal performers, a new entry in the Jazz Prodigy series, and the annual jazz crawl that features the following list of local musicians performing in restaurants and lounges throughout downtown Pittsfield:
Jazz About Town
Wednesday Oct. 8
The Rainbow Restaurant
Peter Primamore Trio, 7:30pm
Thursday, October 9th
Mission Bar and Tapas
Picky Bastards, 8 to 11 PM
Friday, October 10th
Baba Louie’s Pizza
Sherri Buxton Trio, 6 to 9 PM
Mission Bar and Tapas
Kelly, Green, and Bartley Jazz, 7 to 10
Andy Kelly, guitar
Paul Green, clarinet
John Kelly, double bass
Dave Bartley, piano
J Allen’s Clubhouse Grille
Rob Fisch Jazz, 7 to 10 PM
Brass and Blues, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
Saturday, October 11th
Limbshaker’s Jazz Band, 6:30 to 9:30 PM
J Allen’s Clubhouse Grille
Rich Vinette Quintet, 7 to 10 PM
House of India
Andy Kelly Jazz Guitar, 6 to 9 PM
Peter Primamore Trio, 9 to 11 PM
Sunday, October 12th
Dottie’s Coffee Lounge
Jazz Brunch with Ben Kohn and Friends. 10am to 1pm.
Monday, October 13th
Mission Bar and Tapas
Andy Wrba and Friends, 7 to 10 PM
Eugene Uman Quartet play Baba Louie’s Backroom Aug. 23, 2014
Pianist Eugene Uman will make his Pittsfield debut at Baba Louie’s Backroom on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 8:00pm. Uman, who has recorded and appeared in a wide variety of settings, from solo to combo to big band, will appear with a Quartet at the popular Pittsfield venue, located at 34 Depot Street in the city’s Upstreet Cultural District. Tickets are priced at $20 in advance (below), and $25 at the door. Seating is limited, dinner will be available separately.
We sell virtual tickets; just tell us what name to use for your reserved seat(s).
Uman has written over 120 jazz compositions that have been arranged for various musical ensembles ranging from big band to world music ensembles to rock. Three of his original compositions were recorded by Latin Jazz star Sammy Figueroa on his 2005 Grammy-nominated CD “In Walked Sammy.”
In addition to his busy performing schedule, Uman has been director of the Vermont Jazz Center since 1997. During his tenure, the center has grown into an esteemed concert venue where performances by internationally recognized jazz artists are complemented by community outreach and educational programs including a renowned summer jazz workshop that attracts students from around the world.
Miro Sprague at Baba Louie’s Backroom
Sprague is a jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader known for his dynamic performance style and inspiring creativity. Growing up in western Massachusetts in a musical family, he began playing the piano at age 13. Miro won several awards in Downbeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards, including best original composition in 2002 and 2004.
Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance student
He performed extensively in New England before moving to New York City in 2003 to attend the Manhattan School of Music. In 2012 he was selected to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA, a prestigious, tuition-free jazz masters program that accepts one ensemble of musicians for each class.
While at the Institute, he had the opportunity to study with many of the world’s great musicians and educators including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Lewis Nash, Benny Golson, Dave Liebman, Hal Crook and many more.
Miro has appeared on a dozen CDs, four of them as a leader. He returns to the Berkshires for a trio gig at Baba Louie’s Backroom, 34 Depot St., Pittsfield. Saturday, July 19, 8pm.
Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend, June 5-8, 2014
The summer jazz season opens in the Berkshires June 5-8, when the third annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend brings marquee performers and local jazz musicians to downtown Lee, MA. Sponsored by Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc., in collaboration with Berkshires Jazz, Inc., the weekend event will be highlighted by the appearances of Sonny & Perley; The Sounds of Shearing; and the New Black Eagles Jazz Band.
Festivities also include a jazz brunch, an outdoor art show, and “jazz about town,” featuring local performers in an outdoor setting. Additional details will be announced as the event nears.
Sonny and Perley Thursday June 5
The festival opens on Thursday, June 5 with the exciting duo of Sonny Daye and Perley Rousseau. After a successful performance at last year’s event, Sonny & Perley return by popular demand. The duo achieves a rare musical symbiosis, having spent the last several years developing and perfecting their unique blend of jazz, bossa nova, American songbook standards, and international cabaret, which has become their musical signature. (Spectrum Playhouse, 8pm, $15 advance seating, $20 at the door).
George Shearing tribute, Friday June 6
The weekend gets into full sway on Friday, June 6, with the northeast debut of “The Sounds of Shearing,” the only tribute band authorized by the legendary pianist to carry his signature sound forward.
For nearly 30 years, the George Shearing Quintet created a distinct jazz sound that defines a U.S. musical movement. Today five master musicians – including members of the original quintet- are bringing back the magical sounds of the jazz great. The ensemble, led by Charlie Shoemake on vibraphone, includes Joe Bagg on piano; Ron Anthony, guitar; Luther Hughes, bass; and Bill Goodwin, drums. (8pm, First Congregational Church; $20 advance; $25 at the door).
The Sounds of Shearing kicks off its first-ever northeast tour in the town where Sir George spent his summers for 10 years (in fact, the band will be staying at the very residence where Shearing stayed, the home of Dee Dee Fraser). Sir George Shearing was one of the most beloved and honored jazz pianists of all time. His widow Ellie will introduce the band via video. The vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake played with one of Shearing’s premier quintets, and is now leading the tribute group.
New Black Eagle Jazz Band, Saturday June 7
The June 7 concert marks the return of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band to the Berkshires after a five-year hiatus. Perhaps the country’s most renowned exponent of traditional jazz, this seven-piece band has delighted audiences all over the world for more than 30 years, with their huge and eclectic repertoire of jazz from the 1920s and 30s. (First Congregational Church; $20 in advance; $25 at the door).
The Black Eagles have a mature mastery of this great American music, from Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton to early Duke Ellington to Cole Porter; from blues to rags to popular songs of the era. In fact, the New York Times’ John Wilson wrote that the Black Eagles are “so far ahead of other traditional bands…there is scarcely any basis for comparison.”
The Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend had its premiere in 2012, under the direction of Rich Vinette. In 2013, Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc. and Berkshires Jazz, Inc. combined efforts on this event, which has quickly become a signature event of the summer cultural season.
Tickets are now on sale for all events at http://www.berkshiregatewayjazz.com/