Closing-out the headline performances at this year’s Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend will be the Jeff Holmes Big Band, featuring the amazing vocalist Dawning Holmes. [Click here for tickets, or read on]
Pianist, composer, arranger and trumpeter Jeff Holmes is a nationally published composer/arranger, and a multiple recipient of National Endowment For The Arts Jazz Composition Grants. He has written music for renowned jazz musicians including John Abercrombie, Max Roach, Sheila Jordan, Yusef Lateef, Rufus Reid, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
In addition to the band’s impressive library of big-band standards and originals, this evening’s repertoire will include a tribute to Leonard Bernstein, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated this year by musical organizations across the globe. Bernstein’s music touched all genres, from classical to pop, opera to jazz, and Hollywood.
The band features the outstanding vocalist Dawning Holmes, who was first heard in Lee during the 2017 tribute to Buddy Rich. In addition to her work with Jeff’s big band, Dawning has sung in jazz clubs from New York City to London, has guested with both Paul Winter and the UMASS Studio Orchestra/Jazz Ensemble I, and opened for Bob Newhart at the Foxwoods Casino Theatre. She performs pieces made popular by Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse, and is currently working on a project of her own original music and lyrics.
Concert time is 7:30pm, at the Lee Meeting House (Lee Congregational Church). Tickets [click here] are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event.
Optional Italian buffet, as only Brenda’s can do it!
Matt DeChamplain is “the man” when it comes to stride piano. He approaches his instrument in a fresh and interesting way, reworking familiar standards and interpreting his own compositions. Not just a repertory player, Matt is a creative interpreter of the genre, as shown on his CD “Stride – Bop.”
Matt’s music is rooted in a profound love for the early jazz masters. What makes him unique is his application of early jazz piano devices created by Ragtime, Blues and Stride musicians. He pursues a musicianship that fuses traditional elements with modern jazz concepts. In this program, Matt illustrates how various stride players influenced generations of jazz giants.
So, after Pittsfield’s monthly “First Friday Artswalk,” stride over to 41 Wendell Ave. for this special event. An optional Italian buffet will be available from Brenda’s Catering, starting at 6:30pm. Regular seating will be available at 7pm. Cash bar.
A popular participant in Pittsfield’s jazz scene, Matt DeChamplain is an educator and performer, but rarely gets the chance to mix the two professions. A growing interest in jazz in the Berkshires, encouraged by his two previous appearances in a different (vocal) setting, gives him the opportunity to stretch out.
Advance price for tickets is $42 all-inclusive, including the dinner, tax, and tip, or $25 for the concert only. Available online (click here), don’t miss out!
Ted Rosenthal and his trio perform jazz interpretations of ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ and 9 other familiar compositions of George Gershwin
Ted Rosenthal is one of the leading jazz pianists of his generation, actively touring worldwide with his trio, as a soloist, and in various configurations. Winner of the 1988 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, he has performed with many jazz greats, including Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Bob Brookmeyer, and James Moody.
His interpretation of George Gershwin compositions was captured on the CD “Rhapsody in Gershwin,” which provides the foundation for our “10, by George” concert. In reviewing this album, Kevin Whitehead of NPR said, “Rosenthal gets Gershwin’s sensibility (with) a classical pianist’s reverence for the material and a jazz musician’s way of running off of it.” As for the band, Whitehead adds, “these players really make the Rhapsody their own and make it modern again.” It’s no wonder that this CD reached #1 in jazz album sales at iTunes and Amazon.
A virtuoso interpreter and presenter of jazz and crossover music, Ted has 15 CDs to his name. His trio includes Martin Wind, bass, and Tim Horner, drums.
A wine bar, featuring the products of Berkshires’ own Balderdash Winery, will be available starting at 6:30pm.
This concert is part of downtown Pittsfield’s annual “10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival,” when arts organizations present a variety of concerts, plays, and other performances with a “10” theme.
The Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, Oct. 6-15, 2017, is a celebration of America’s classical music, our cultural gift to the world. Spanning two weekends, our 13th annual festival kicks-off with the popular “jazz crawl,” on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 6-8. Local musicians perform in restaurants and lounges in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District. (click here for schedule) It’s no secret that the Berkshires are home for some amazing talent, and it’s a pleasure to present so many of them in a concentrated timeframe and format. Capping off both weekends, there will be jazz brunches on Oct. 8 and 15.
One of the most important aspects of the festival is our Jazz Prodigy series, featuring young performers whom we expect to become significant figures in jazz. As has happened for the past three festivals, this year’s artist, pianist Caelan Cardello, comes to us from Jazz House Kids, the renowned educational and performance program in Newark. A high school student in Teaneck, New Jersey, Caelan and his trio appear at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 7pm. Thanks to the support of the Friends of the Athenaeum, there is not charge for tickets to this event.
Our two marquee events show remarkable range and diversity…from the New Orleans mainstay Samirah Evans –with special guest Charles Neville– to a celebration of Dizzy Gillespie’s 100th birthday. Tickets are now on sale for both events.
There are two jazz brunches, Oct. 8 and 15, at The Rainbow Restaurant (Oct. 8) and Dottie’s Coffee Lounge (Oct. 15).
Details for the headline concerts follow.
Friday, Oct. 13, your lucky day
[This show is sold out]
One of the most popular jazz and blues vocalists in pre-Katrina New Orleans, Samirah Evans dedicates time to perpetuating indigenous American music. With a mix of swampy, sultry, and soulful takes on jazz standards and originals, she first performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1990, and became a regular fixture for fourteen consecutive years.
While living in New Orleans, Samirah appeared in concert with such notable musicians as trumpeter Terence Blanchard, saxophonist Charles Neville, and drummer Shannon Powell (Harry Connick, Jr. band and Diana Krall).
Hurricane Katrina caused Samirah and her husband to seek out new living arrangements outside of New Orleans, so they moved to his native town of Brattleboro, Vermont in the fall of 2006. Her debut performance was at the Vermont Jazz Center with the VJC Big Band. She soon found herself sharing the spotlight with the legendary Shelia Jordan as a principal in a musical theater performance, Beatnik Café’, depicting the beatnik generation.
She has toured Europe, Asia, and both North and South America as a headliner, and shared stages with a multitude of legendary artists from B.B. King and James Brown, to New Orleans own Queen of Soul, Irma Thomas.
Her live performance repertoire runs the gamut from raunchy blues to jazz smooth as silk. She has often been compared to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Etta James She made countless new friends in the Berkshires in an appearance at Zucchini’s in 2016, and we are delighted to bring her back for the Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival.
Guest soloist Charles Neville provides a special treat. The second oldest brother of the famed New Orleans musical family, Charles has the most diverse background. His experience on saxophone has included rhythm & blues, funk, jazz, be-bop, popular and even American Indian music. He cites as influences Louis Jordan, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Professor Longhair. He’s a popular Berkshires artist, and we’re delighted to have him on the Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival program for the first time
Samirah’s group includes three of the top rhythm players on the New York scene, all of whom have deep Berkshires connections: Miro Sprague, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; and Conor Meehan, drums.
Flavours of Malaysia is the setting for many a rising jazz artist, as well as those whose star has already ascended. Acoustically and visually, it’s a “happening” scene. For our jazz festival audience, Flavours is offering special dinner pricing of $15, for your choice among three of their most popular entrees, with stir-fry, curry, and vegetarian options. For the show only, tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the show. The doors open at 7:45pm, when the special dinner pricing goes into effect.
This event is now sold-out. If you were lucky enough to get tickets, we look forward to seeing you there.
Saturday, Oct. 14: celebrating Dizzy’s centennial
History has produced its share of great artists and great people, and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was both. As a performer, he left behind an incredible record of innovation and inspiration; as a composer, a broad repository of musical masterpieces; and as a man, a legion of friends, colleagues and compatriots who remember him with the same degree of love and esteem they reserve for his work. Those “Dizzy for President” buttons were actually half-serious.
Berkshires Jazz celebrates Gillespie’s 100th birthday with a performance by the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, a 6-piece ensemble led by his long-term bassist John Lee. The group showcases the unique rhythms and well-loved melodies (such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo”) of Gillespie’s oeuvre of Cu-Bop, which he developed in the 40s and 50s with Chano Pozo. That music rings every bit as fresh today, which is why
jazz ensembles around the world are still performing it.
And, the expanded repertoire of the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience also explores the broader world of Latin-American music–the tunes that Dizzy likely would be playing today.
The musicians are drawn from the high-caliber pool of New York-based talent tha
t frequent the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and All-Star groups, including trumpeter Freddie Hendrix (photo at right), saxophonist Sharel Cassity, Brazilian pianist/vocalist Abelita Mateus, drummer Tommy Campbell and percussionist Roger Squitero. They perform with energy, verve, and style, putting their own fresh stamp on a well-known genre.
Our all-star youth ensemble opens the musical proceedings at 7:30pm. Tickets are $23-38, and are available here.
“Back in the day,” Berkshire radio personality Dave Kidd, father of Berkshires Jazz treasurer Barbara Seddon, conducted this interview with Dizzy Gillespie; it is now on file at the International Jazz History Database.
“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.
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.