The region’s principal newspaper, The Berkshire Eagle, recently interviewed Berkshires Jazz co-founder and president Ed Bride. The article is part of the newspaper’s series called “take 5 with…”, and is only coincidentally related to the Dave Brubeck song.
The Lenox Jazz Stroll
The pandemic safety guidelines for indoors events have necessitated the suspension of our indoors programming for the remainder of 2020.
But, music followers yearning for ‘live’ performances had a bonanza on Saturday, Sept. 12, when the Lenox Jazz Stroll featured five bands in a series of free one-hour concerts. Taking place throughout the picturesque Berkshires town, the Stroll is sponsored by Mill Town Capital, the Lenox Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, and Berkshires Jazz, Inc.
The lineup and schedule included:
• Noon: Ben Kohn Quartet, Gateways Inn
• 1pm: Mary Ann McSweeney, Winstanley Green
• 2pm: Berkshire Jazz Quartet, Lenox Library Reading Park
• 3pm: Richard Stanmeyer Quartet, Church Street Dining Terrace
• 4pm: Kris Allen, Jonathan Barber, Luques Curtis, Gateways Inn
Pandemic guidelines were strictly followed, and several of the venues were turning away fans (sorry).
Given the evolving pandemic situation, please check back for the latest news. We look forward to the return of some sort of normalcy, and to an exciting year in 2021.
Stay safe, and healthy. And enjoy the growing number of venues that are presenting jazz al fresco. Check our Regional Jazz Calendar for details, which are provided by the artists and the venues.
“New Branches on Ten Old Trees”
Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, 7:30pm
Berkshire Museum, 39 South St., Pittsfield
Beer and wine bar at 6:30pm
Piano virtuoso Laszlo Gardony performs fresh, modern but soulful arrangements of beloved familiar tunes, and covering ten styles and genres (jazz, spirituals, rock, funk, Broadway, Neapolitan, etc.). Based in part on his new, highly-acclaimed CD “La Marseillaise,” his adaptations include the title song and nine other familiar tunes, from Misty to Eleanor Rigby, Lady Madonna to Summertime, and myriad in between.
Plus, some surprises.
Known as an innovator for both his composing and performance approaches, Laszlo will be performing unaccompanied, on the marvelous Steinway grand piano at the Berkshire Museum, home of so many wonderful cultural events. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event. They are available now at our online box office (click here).
Hungarian-born Laszlo Gardony is a professor of piano at the Berklee College of Music. He made his local debut at the Berkshire Museum nearly 25 years ago, and has developed a strong regional and national following. This program was devised specially for Berkshires Jazz, and is presented in conjunction with Pittsfield’s 10×10 Upstreet Winter Arts Festival.
And with your support, another banner year in 2020!
It has been a wonderful year for jazz lovers in Berkshire County, and we are proud of the role we have played in bringing some of the most memorable performances to the area. As we conclude our 10th year as a 501c3 non-profit organization, here’s a look-back at some 2019 highlights:
• The 8th annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend in Lee
• The 15th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival
• Another memorable Jazz Prodigy concert
• Performances by marquee artists such as Ted Rosenthal, Ken Peplowski, Wanda Houston, Samirah Evans, Diego Figueriedo, Veronica Swift, Stephanie Nakasian, and Dayramir Gonzalez, and Matt and Atla DeChamplain.
• Plus, we presented a record number of first-call musicians from the local scene, who populated both our second annual Berkshire Jazz Showcase and other standalone events.
• Our first-ever concert at Saint James Place in Great Barrington, featuring Miro Sprague, Marty Jaffe, Jason Ennis, and Claire Daly.
Our commitment to education continues, with master classes, workshops, joint performances, and, of course, our student art contest.
None of this would be possible without the support of donors and underwriters. As you contemplate your year-end giving, we hope you will take Berkshires Jazz into consideration.
You can make a donation by clicking on the “Donate” button above, or sending a check to:
Berkshires Jazz, Inc.
27 Dewey Ave.
Pittsfield MA 01201
Thank you for your support!
Happy Holidays. We look forward to seeing you in the new year.
Nov. 30, 2019, 7:30pm. Saint James Place,
Great Barrington, Mass.
An evening of fresh and familiar music with Berkshire standouts Miro Sprague, Marty Jaffe, and Jason Ennis, with special guest Claire Daly. This concert marks Berkshires Jazz’ first collaboration with the stunning new performance venue.
The Sprague/Jaffe/Ennis Trio is an exciting new ensemble featuring long time collaborators Miro Sprague (piano), Marty Jaffe (bass), and Jason Ennis (guitar). Though they always include a few surprising interpretations of familiar tunes, the trio mainly performs original jazz compositions by each band member. Infused with influences from Brazil, classical chamber music, funk and more, the trio’s music features intricate group improvisation, inventive arrangements, and a deep sense of beauty and groove.
Joining the trio for this evening is award-winning baritone saxophonist Claire Daly, who is right at home with the mix of familiar and original. Recognized as an interpreter of such legends as Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, she has appeared in a wide range of ensembles, and has appeared in the Berkshires in both a big-band and small-group setting.
Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the concert, and are available here, and at Wood Brothers Music, Allendale Shopping Center, Pittsfield.
Berkshire native Miro Sprague is a pianist and composer, known for his inspiring creativity, dynamic and passionate performance style, and artistic versatility. He has performed at many of the world’s top venues and festivals in settings ranging from solo piano to septet. He leads his own trio and quintet, and is a member of the cooperative septet “Holophonor”. He has performed with many renowned artists, and is an in-demand vocal accompanist. Since 2015 has been the pianist of choice for vocalist Karrin Allyson, appearing with her at the 2017 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, along with bassist Marty Jaffe.
Guitarist Jason Ennis is an exciting voice in the world of jazz guitar. His unique sound, deep groove and sensitive feel, along with a diverse background in jazz, blues, Brazilian music and classical music have made him highly in demand as a soloist, sideman, bandleader and musical director. Jason leads his own instrumental group, Trio Jota Sete, and co-leads the world jazz trio, La Voz de Tres, which has toured extensively throughout the United States and Chile and has released two CDs. His searing blues style is a cornerstone of the NYC-based jazz/blues powerhouse group, Opius Bliss.
Also a Berkshire native, Marty Jaffe comes from a musical family that includes his father, the educator, composer and bandleader Andy Jaffe, a former Board member of Berkshires Jazz. A Juilliard graduate, Marty is the youngest member of the group, and is already in demand as an ensemble player and soloist. He has performed in venues around the world, and has appeared in the Berkshires with Samirah Evans and Karrin Allyson, among others, as well as with Jason Ennis and Miro Sprague.
Guest artist Claire Daly’s career has included anchoring the sax section in the Diva Big Band, freelancing in New York doing every imaginable kind of gig, recording five CDs with the band “People Like Us”, as well as several CDs as leader. She has appeared at many festivals and venues, including Pittsfield, where her last appearance was with Sharel Cassity and Ada Rovatti and the Empire Jazz Orchestra. President Clinton’s Library requested a copy of her first CD, Swing Low, to be included in a listening station as a CD that was significant to the former president while in office. A four-time winner of the Downbeat Critic’s Poll “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition,” she was also recognized by the Jazz Journalist Association as Baritone Sax Player of the Year.
Check back for updates, tickets are on sale now (click here). The venue is amazing, both visually and acoustically. It’s great to be holding an event in this remarkable performance space. Seating is limited, don’t miss out on this highlight of the holiday weekend.
The 15th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival takes place from Oct. 11-20
Six locations will feature local artists in the annual “Jazz Crawl” on Friday, Oct. 11
A signature event of the fall foliage season in the Berkshires, festival highlights include a rare duo of vocalists Stephanie Nakasian and Veronica Swift; Cuban piano standout Dayramir Gonzalez; jazz prodigy Anton Kot; a “jazz crawl” that features local musicians in downtown venues; jazz brunches; and more.
Things kick off on Friday, Oct. 11, for our annual “jazz crawl”, where six restaurants and lounges will be featuring Berkshires-based musicians. A part of a weekend of “Jazz About Town,” the schedule is at the bottom of this page.
On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Anton Kot, a 16-year-old pianist and drummer, will make his Berkshires debut in the annual Jazz Prodigy Concert. From Milford, Connecticut, Kot was a discovery of the Litchfield Jazz Camp, which provides a nurturing environment for budding talent. The Jazz Prodigy Concert features a young artist who has not been recorded commercially and who is expected to become a force in jazz. Sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum, the concert starts at 7pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave. Admission is free.
Headline weekend starts on Friday, Oct. 18, with another prodigious piano talent, Dayramir Gonzalez and his quartet. A Cuban jazz pianist, composer, arranger and music visionary, Gonzalez has appeared at leading jazz venues worldwide, He will be performing on the Steinway at the Berkshire Museum, 39 South Street. His group includes Dean Torrey, bass; Juan Chiavassa, drums; and Arturo Stable, a master Cuban percussionist and composer. Click here for online box office. (Members can purchase discounted tickets on the Berkshire Museum site.)
The keystone event of this 15th annual festival features a rare pairing of legendary vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, a Berkshire favorite, with her daughter, Veronica Swift, the fastest-rising vocalist on the jazz scene today. The show includes material from Swift’s newest release, Confessions. The Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble will open. Saturday, Oct. 19, 7:30pm at The Colonial Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the Colonial Theatre box office (click here).
At just 25 years old, Veronica Swift has built a résumé that many late-career jazz singers would envy: tours as a featured vocalist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chris Botti; a guest collaboration with Michael Feinstein; engagements at A-list clubs like Birdland, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, and The Jazz Showcase; and headlined at top festivals including Monterey, Montreal and Telluride. As a child, she began performing with her musician parents, the late pianist Hod O’Brien, and the singer/educator/author Stephanie Nakasian, and in 2015, she earned second place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, the most prestigious contest in the art form. Her command of the vocal-jazz tradition is astounding, as was demonstrated at last year’s Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. Swift so impressed the audience that she is the only performer ever invited back for a second consecutive year. PBS viewers caught part of her tour with Chris Botti on a recent fundraising concert video.
Known as one of the world’s leading jazz singers, Stephanie Nakasian will take you on a fresh and authentic swing voyage that transcends the Great Ladies of Song in both tribute and originality. Capturing the hearts of audiences with her extensive repertoire, reaching from Jazz to Broadway, Nakasian creates an atmosphere of romance and excitement that will transport listeners to another place and time. It will be Nakasian’s third appearance in Pittsfield.
Pre-show entertainment will be provided by pianist Ben Kohn at The Garage (the Colonial’s lobby), starting at 6pm.
The big weekend concludes with a jazz brunch on Oct. 20 at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, 444 North Street.
Details will be updated at www.BerkshiresJazz.org, which also has links to the online box office.
Berkshires Jazz, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization, formed in 2009 from the committee that plans and conducts the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. With a mission of presenting top jazz talent, encouraging jazz education, and promoting the local jazz scene, Berkshires Jazz programs the Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend in Lee each mid-June, and several individual events year-round.
Box office information to be posted shortly. Veronica Swift tickets are available online at the Colonial Theatre.
Jazz About Town Schedule
Friday, October 11
“The Jazz Crawl”
Patrick’s Pub, 26 Bank Row, 5:30-8pm: Kelley Love, keyboard
Panchos, 156 North St., 5:30-8:30pm: Gary Miller, vibes
Flavours, McKay St.: 6-9pm: Andy Kelly, guitar
Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, 444 North Street, 7-8pm
Dessert and Live Music with Jeff Link and Kirk Scott
Rainbow Restaurant, 109 First St., 7-10pm: Blue Light Trio
Hotel on North, 297 North Street, 8-11pm: Lita Williams
Saturday, October 12
Rainbow Restaurant, 109 First St., 7-10pm: Lady Di & the Dukes
Sunday, Oct. 13
Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, 444 North Street
10am-2pm (music until noon) BornIVblues
Hotel on North, 297 North St.,
11am-2pm: Kelley Love duo
Sunday, Oct. 20
Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, 444 North Street
10am-2pm (music until noon): DBsquared (Dave Bartley and Dan Broad)
Hotel on North, 297 North St.
11am-2pm: Kelley Love duo
Berkshires Jazz brings five of the most popular regional bands to the stage for the second annual Berkshire Jazz Showcase.
Originally scheduled for Aug. 3, 2019, the event will take place on Sept. 28, noon-5pm, rain or shine.
Berkshires Jazz brings five of the most popular regional bands to Pittsfield Common for the second annual Berkshire Jazz Showcase, Sept. 28 from noon-5pm. The wide-ranging lineup for the jazz extravaganza will include (in this planned sequence):
• Gina Coleman and Misty Blues
• Paul Green and Two Worlds
• Andy Wrba’s Berkshire Jazz Collective
• First Take with Mary Ann Palermo
• Kyle Murray Quintet
A free event, the Showcase will also include food vendors, as well as a beer and wine garden. The event will be held on the field adjacent to the First Street Common’s playground and “splash park”. Prelude music will be provided from 10am until noon at The Pittsfield Farmer’s Market. Audiences are advised to bring blankets or chairs.
Berkshire County enjoys a long-standing reputation as a hotbed of jazz talent, going back nearly 75 years to Music Inn, and now enjoying renewed popularity throughout the region. On any particular weekend, and some weekdays, audiences can find dozens of locally-based world-class musicians in clubs and lounges, but rarely on a main stage. Berkshires Jazz addressed that oversight in 2018, when the showcase took off, from the City of Pittsfield’s outdoor stage as the launching pad. This year’s event includes all new bands.
The performing arts represent the heart and soul of the Berkshires. And yet, despite signature jazz festivals that feature headline talent during the shoulder seasons, there is no other main-stage jazz event during the high tourist season. Compounding that absence was the fact that there had been no event that celebrates and showcases the rich variety of local talent who call the Berkshires home. We’re delighted to be presenting such excellent groups in such a proud setting.
Many of these artists could easily establish careers in jazz havens like New York, Chicago, New Orleans or San Francisco, but they live in the Berkshires because this is where they want to be. Visitors and locals alike will be amazed at the talent that calls the Berkshires home.
Lead sponsor for The Berkshire Jazz Showcase is The Berkshire Eagle, with additional support from MountainOne Financial, The Pittsfield Cultural Council, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held indoors in the Common Room of Zion Lutheran Church, which is adjacent to the Pittsfield Common.
Announcing the lineup and slate of events for the
eighth annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend
June 14-16 at various locations in downtown Lee, Massachusetts
Sponsored by Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc. in collaboration with Berkshires Jazz, Inc., the festival includes headline concerts, a free afternoon of jazz in the park in front of Lee Congregational Church, outdoors food vendors, a display of vintage automobiles, and two jazz brunches. Headline performers include regional favorites Wanda Houston and Samirah Evans, singing classic duets, plus a night of Brazil-flavored jazz with guitarist Diego Figueiredo and saxophone legend Ken Peplowski.
The weekend opens on Friday, June 14, with a 7:30pm concert of “Classic Duets and More.” The concert entails a rare pairing of Samirah Evans and Wanda Houston, two of the region’s most exciting and accomplished vocal artists. They will be accompanied by three of the Berkshires most noted instrumental artists: Benny Kohn, piano; Andy Wrba, bass; and Conor Meehan, drums. The weekend continues on Saturday June 15 (7:30pm) with a night of Brazilian-tinged jazz, featuring the fiery guitarist Diego Figueiredo, legendary reedman Ken Peplowski, plus special guest vocalist Chiara Izzi. The musical approach for Saturday has been described as “bossa nova with a fiery modern flavor”.
The headline concerts take place in the Lee Meeting House, a venue of extraordinary audio quality and visual appeal. Also known as Lee Congregational Church, it is located on the Common in downtown Lee, Massachusetts, the gateway to the Berkshires. Tickets for each concert are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the event.
Details, and the online box office, are available at www.BerkshireGatewayJazz.org.
On Saturday afternoon, the park in front of the church becomes an outdoors music fair, with jazz being performed between 11:30am and 4pm (see website for update on performers). Along with the free music, food vendors will be on hand, plus a display of vintage automobiles.
Starving Artist Café will have jazz brunches on both days. Saturday, June 15 (10am-noon) will feature the music of Gary Miller’s Release the Penguins; Sunday, June 16 (11am-2pm), the Rich Vinette Quintet holds sway.
The festival is made possible through the support of several organizations and sponsors, including Adams Community Bank, Berkshire Bank, Canna Provisions, Consolati Insurance, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and the Lee Chamber of Commerce.
For detailed information, continual updates, and a link to the online box office, visit
On April 30, 2019, observed globally as International Jazz Day,
Berkshires Jazz announced Student Art Contest winners
More than 100 students from Pittsfield High School participated in this 12th annual contest, which was conceived as a way to engage more of the student community in cross-genre creative activity.
This year’s judges included painters Marguerite Bride and Scott Taylor, and designer Tom Buckley. They were charged with the difficult task of determining three winners, and five honorable mentions. The wWinning paintings include (with judges’ comments):
1. Sophia Nguyen (painting to left). The judges commented that it was especially well-painted, down to the detail, very good composition. Captures the essence of many instruments in an appealing mix. Ms. Nguyen’s painting will become the graphic symbol of the 15th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, in mid-October.
2. Megan Francoeur. The painting “feels musical,” and expresses itself in vibrant colors and creative composition.
3. Antonia Bedard Torres. A great abstract with fun color play, it conjures abstract jazz.
Honorable mentions are awarded to
• Nolan Degrof
• Jazlyn Rodriguez
• Lynniah Falwell
• Paige Webster
• Abby Cohan
The contest was organized by art teacher Colleen Quinn of PHS, in collaboration with Lisa Ostellino. Overall project coordinator is Art Niedeck, a jazz musician and music educator, and co-chairman of the Education Committee of Berkshires Jazz, Inc., which is responsible for planning the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival and other events throughout the year. In addition to our mission of presenting ‘live’ jazz, Berkshires Jazz, Inc. is chartered to promote jazz education throughout Berkshire County.
The student art contest is one way to spread the interest in jazz to a broader part of our community and draw attention to April as Jazz Appreciation Month. Jazz Appreciation Month is 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.”
Megan Francoeur’s painting is to the left, below; Antonia Bedard Torres’ painting is to the right.