“Thrush Hour:10 great ladies of jazz” with national recording artist Stephanie Nakasian and the Hod O’Brien Trio. In this program, part of Pittsfield’s annual 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival, Stephanie Nakasian performs selected classic vocal works and describes the historical context of the composition and the original singer.
Stephanie is endowed with unique vocal insights and capabilities that enable her to sing in the styles, and with the sensibilities, of her subjects, who range from Ethel Waters to June Christy, Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughn, Bessie Smith to Abbey Lincoln, etc.
Her program will include biographical sketches of the original artists that place the music in its era and details its significance in jazz history. The performance and contextual information are based on research she conducted as part of her vocal jazz course at the University of Virginia, and which serve as the foundation for her recording “Thrush Hour: A Study of the Great Ladies of Jazz.”
Saturday, Feb. 13, 8pm
Panchos, 154 North Street, Pittsfield MA 01201
$20 in advance, $25 on day of event.
Online tickets are no longer on sale. There may be a few seats available on-site, please call 413-841-7718 to be sure
“Stephanie Nakasian is a great gift to jazz buffs—and especially to those who love singers. Not just for her exuberant performances but for her ability to articulate in layman’s terms what it is to be a jazz singer. Her latest recording on V.S.O.P. Records, Thrush Hour, combines masterful singing, top-notch musicianship, and an educator’s expertise to deliver a comprehensive study of the great ladies of jazz….Few singers can tell you as much about where their sound comes from.” [All About Jazz]
The lineup for the 11th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival is wide-ranging, and includes a first-time pairing of 6-time Grammy winner Randy Brecker with the Greg Hopkins Jazz Orchestra; a return engagement by guitar virtuoso Frank Vignola; our annual “jazz crawl;” a new discovery in our jazz prodigy series, and more.
The festival begins on Columbus Day weekend, with Jazz About Town, the annual jazz crawl featuring local musicians in restaurants and lounges throughout Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District. The Oct. 9-11 weekend concludes with a Sunday jazz brunch.
The 12-year-old pianist Esteban Castro is this year’s prodigy, thanks to a recommendation from Jazz House Kids. A nationally respected program, Jazz House Kids was also the proving ground for alto saxophonist Zoe Obadaia, who appeared as our Jazz Prodigy in 2013, and went on to Juilliard on full scholarship. Esteban Castro has been a standout participant of the Jazz House Kids program, as New York-area jazz followers are learning. His Pittsfield appearance takes place on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 7pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Free admission, sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum.
Frank Vignola at Baba Louie’s Backroom, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015
The exciting, creative sounds of jazz guitar will fill Baba Louie’s Backroom on Friday, Oct. 16, starting at 8pm. Frank Vignola is one of today’s most extraordinary guitarists. His stunning virtuosity has made him the guitarist of choice for many of the world’s top musicians, including Ringo Starr, Madonna, Donald Fagen, Wynton Marsalis, Tommy Emmanuel, the Boston Pops, the New York Pops, and guitar legend Les Paul, who named Vignole to his “Five Most Admired Guitarists List” for the Wall Street Journal. Vignola’s jaw- dropping technique explains why the new York Times deemed him “one of the brightest stars of the guitar”.
With more than 1,000 engagements in the last five years alone, Frank Vignola has become one of the most popular and sought after guitarists on the international music scene. He conducts clinics, masterclasses and workshops at music universities all over the world including Juilliard and Boston University. And here in Pittsfield, as well, where he will conduct one program at Reid Middle School, and another public clinic at Wood Brothers Music (Saturday, Oct. 17). Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event, dinner available separately. Advance purchase strongly advised!
The online box office for Frank Vignola’s Oct. 16 appearance at Baba Louie’s is now closed. There may be a limited number of tickets available at the door, please call 413-841-7718 to confirm.
Jazz trumpeter and composer Randy Brecker has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades. His trumpet and flugelhorn performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa.
Randy ventured into jazz-rock with the band Blood, Sweat and Tears, leaving to join the Horace Silver Quintet. Later, with his brother Michael on saxophone, the Brecker Brothers Band had immeasurable impact and influence, releasing six albums on Arista, garnering seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981.
In 1997, “Into the Sun,” a recording featuring Randy’s impressions of Brazil, earned the trumpeter his first Grammy as a solo artist. His 2008 album “Randy in Brazil” was recorded in Sao Paulo with a full complement of great Brazilian musicians. Chosen one of the top 10 CDs of 2008 by AllAboutJazz.com, the CD won the Grammy for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album,” his fifth of six Grammy Awards under his own name.
As a composer, performer and in-demand Yamaha clinician, Randy Brecker continues to influence and inspire young musicians around the world. He appears as guest soloist with the Greg Hopkins Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, Oct. 17 (Colonial Theatre, 8pm)
Performer, composer, conductor and arranger Greg Hopkins first picked up the trumpet as a boy in Detroit, and to this day it would be hard to spot him without his horn. Hopkins plays even when caught in traffic on commute to Berklee College of Music, where he’s been teaching since 1974 – the year the London Times called him “a real find” for the Buddy Rich Orchestra.
His own 16-Piece Jazz Orchestra CD “Okavongo” is out on the Summit label, as is his quintet CD “Quintology”, featuring Bill Pierce, Mick Goodrick, and Gary Chaffee. His busy teaching and performing schedule takes him all over the world doing concerts, festivals, jazz club dates, and clinics. A Professor of Jazz Composition at Berklee College of Music, Hopkins has developed and teaches several courses in composition and also directs the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra, one of the most prestigious performing ensembles at the school.
Hopkins works often with his 16 Piece Jazz Orchestra, and also performs regularly with his quintet, and Tim Ray’s trio, Tre Corda. He began his professional career in 1965, freelancing in the Detroit area for such acts as the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight.
Most of the festival’s events are free, thanks to underwriting support from The Feigenbaum Foundation, North Coast Brewing Co., TD Charitable Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union,Crowne Plaza, jazz education pioneer Jamey Aebersold, jazz advocate and educator Brent Banulis, and Dave Read/ReadWebCo.
Jazz About Town – Pittsfield CityJazz Festival Jazz Crawl – Oct. 9-11, 2015
Friday, October 9
J. Allen’s, 41 North St. | 7-10pm: Andy Kelly Gypsy Jazz
Flavours, 75 North St. (enter on McKay)|7-10pm: John Sauer and Aaron Dean
The Rainbow, 109 First St. | 7:30-9:30pm: The Blue Light Trio
Saturday, October 10,
House of India, 261 North St. | 6-9pm: Andy Kelly, guitar
J. Allen’s, 41 North St. | 7-10pm Rich Vinette Quintet | [gview file=”https://berkshiresjazz.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/vinette-quintet.pdf.pdf”]
The Rainbow, 109 First St. | 7:30-9:30pm: Todd McLeod
Mission Bar & Tapas, 438 North St. | 7-11pm: Andy Wrba and friends
The Lantern, 455 North St. | 9-11pm: Peter Primamore Quartet
Sunday, Oct. 11
Hotel on North, 297 North St. \ 11am-1pm: Jazz Brunch with Dave Bartley
Other events of interest, All events free unless noted
Wednesday, October 7,
7:30pm: The Rainbow, 109 First St. | Peter Primamore
Friday, Oct. 9
Rob Fisch’s Intentional Jazz | Whitney Center for the Arts | 42 Wendell Ave. | 7:30pm, $15
Monday, Oct. 12
7:30pm, Mission, 438 North St. | Andy Wrba and Friends
Berkshires Jazz is proud to present a centennial tribute to jazz giants Billie Holiday and Billy Strayhorn, who were both born in 1915. Featured performers are the DeChamplain Trio, who make their Berkshires debut in our Baba Louie’s Backroom series on Saturday, Aug. 15, 8pm.
The online box office for tonight’s event is closed. There may be a few tickets available at the door, which will open at 7:30pm.
Matt DeChamplain is a one-of-a-kind piano virtuoso, with a range that spans from delicate and intimate to energetic and powerful. A strong improviser and interpreter of the “great American jazz book,” he is joined by his wife, vocalist Atla DeChamplain, and the remarkable bassist Matt Dwonszyk.
Atla is “moving by leaps and bounds towards stardom as a jazz vocalist,” according to the iconic vocalist Jon Hendricks, with whom she has appeared. The fast-rising DeChamplain Trio is a group to be reckoned with, and this is a unique opportunity to hear them in an intimate setting. (Translation: limited seating, get your tickets early).
The date would also be the 90th birthday of piano giant Oscar Peterson, so you can expect some surprises in the evening’s repertoire. Advance reservations strongly advised; dinner available separately, either in the main dining room at any time, or in the backroom after 7pm.
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.
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.
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
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).
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
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.