From Roxbury to Mattapan to Beacon Hill to City Hall, new and not-so-new events are becoming annual features of Boston Jazz Week.
By J. R. Carroll
Jazz Week 2015 marked a significant new engagement with Boston’s core African-American communities in Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester (and their historical predecessors on Beacon Hill and in Boston’s West and South Ends), and this year’s tenth edition of Jazz Week (with the theme “New Jazz Traditions”) looks to solidify and deepen that relationship. (Speaking of new traditions, check out JazzBoston’s snazzy new website.)
On Friday evening, April 22, at 8 p.m., the Grove Hall community’s Prince Hall Grand Lodge—the oldest African Masonic lodge in the U.S. and the only one chartered by a King of England—debuts a new jazz series in its own club, Biff’s Lounge. Co-hosted by JazzBoston as part of its Neighborhoods Initiative, the Jazz Week kickoff dance party features the Athene Wilson Band.
Saturday afternoon, April 23, brings together a confluence of traditions, starting with the venue. Wally’s Café, at 427 Massachusetts Ave., has anchored the jazz scene in Lower Roxbury and the South End since 1947. Annually, for almost two decades, the Jazz Journalists Association has honored “Jazz Heroes” in cities across the United States. The Walcott family—owners of Wally’s—were honored in 2011, and this year’s Boston Jazz Hero Award goes to Yedidyah Syd Smart and Leonard Brown, founders of Boston’s annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert (which will mark its 40th year in 2017). Co-hosted by JazzBoston and emceed by longtime WGBH jazz radio host Eric Jackson—and free to the public—the award presentation will take place from 3 to 6 p.m., with live music under the leadership of saxophonist Stan Strickland, himself a regular participant in the yearly Coltrane concert.
Located at 184 Dudley St., Hibernian Hall—a one-time Irish social club that was renovated and reopened in 2005 and has become an important cultural component of the reviving Dudley Square neighborhood—will for a second year welcome the Makanda Jazz Dance Party on Saturday, April 23, from 8 to 11 p.m. The party—free and open to the public, and co-hosted by JazzBoston—features music for dancing by the Roxbury-based Makanda Project (whose usual repertoire consists of the compositions of Roxbury native Makanda Ken McIntyre, and who regularly perform at the Boston Public Library’s Dudley Branch.)
Linking Boston’s past and present, the Boston Campus of the Museum of African American History (46 Joy St. on Beacon Hill) will co-host (with JazzBoston) a Musical Tribute to Three Boston Jazz Giants (vocalist Mae Arnette, composer/pianist Ran Blake, and drummer Roy Haynes) on Friday, April 29, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., in the Museum’s historic African Meeting House (where concerts were performed in the 18th and 19th centuries). The evening will also mark the launch of a campaign to create a Boston Jazz Heritage Trail. WGBH’s Eric Jackson will again emcee the event, with live music by drummer Yoron Israel and his band High Standards (with special guests); admission is $10.00.
Closing out Jazz Week 2016, the William E. Carter American Legion Post (located at 1531 Blue Hill Avenue)—the oldest African American veterans’ post in the United States—once again partners with JazzBoston to present Mattapan Speaks Jazz. Enthusiastically received last year by the Mattapan Square community, this multilingual, multistylistic celebration of jazz and the Mattapan community returns on Sunday, May 1, from 3 to 6 p.m. (admission is $5.00). Once again, music will be courtesy of pianist Frank Wilkins and WeJazzUp (with special guests); the program will include a vocal showcase and a concluding jam session.
International Jazz Day
As in past years, Jazz Week 2016 ties in with the Smithsonian Institution’s observance (since 2002) of April as Jazz Appreciation Month and (since 2012) with the UNESCO-sponsored International Jazz Day on April 30.
As a warm-up for the festivities on the 30th, JazzBoston has once again been invited by Boston City Council President Michelle Wu to preview International Jazz Day with a midday concert on Wednesday, April 27. All Jazzed Up at City Hall: An IJD preview features Ken Field’s Revolutionary Snake Ensemble (with guest saxophonist Arni Cheatham) bringing music based on New Orleans’ second line street band tradition to the City Hall mezzanine at 11 a.m., then filling the City Council chamber with jazz when the Councilors convene at noon. Both performances are free and open to the public.
International Jazz Day itself will be everywhere you look, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 30, as student ensembles from the New England Conservatory fan out across Boston to present pop-up performances in a host of public locations. NEC and JazzBoston have coordinated A Moveable Celebration with NEC Bands since 2009, but this year they’ll take things up a notch by putting the bands on wheels. Keep your eyes and ears open for live sounds near you.
Is jazz good for your health? It will be on International Jazz Day, starting at 1 p.m. in Levinson Plaza (835 Huntington Avenue), as the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, the Lung Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and JazzBoston host the Good Music = Good Health Jazz Fair, devoted to raising awareness of the importance of lung health and celebrating the joy of making music together. Saxophonists Stan Strickland and Arni Cheatham and trumpeter Jason Palmer will introduce curious participants to the basic techniques of blowing a horn and lead them in collective music-making using a variety of small wind instruments.
At 8:30 p.m., as the day wraps up, NEC and JazzBoston will again join forces for a free International Jazz Day Concert in NEC’s Brown Hall, at 290 Huntington Avenue. NEC faculty and students will celebrate the ongoing dialogue between jazz and other musics around the globe.
Jazz Week has always included a focus on jazz history, in Boston and beyond. On Sunday, April 24, at 3 p.m., the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline (290 Harvard Street) will host the first Boston screening of Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story. A former child prodigy who, by the age of 23, was backing up greats like Billie Holiday, Morgan (like too many others of his generation) fell victim to a heroin addiction that cost him thirty years of repeated incarcerations. Ultimately, he kicked the habit and, for the last 22 years of his life, made a successful return to music, as a performer and as a mentor to younger musicians (like saxophonist Grace Kelly, who will participate in a Q&A session following the film). Tickets are $25 for general admission ($22 for Coolidge members); a VIP Package for $75 will include premium seating, a reception with Grace Kelly, and an autographed copy of her new CD.
On Thursday, April 28, from 6 to 8 p.m., Pastoral Restaurant (345 Congress Street in Fort Point) will host a JazzBoston Listening Party with Jason Palmer. The Boston-based trumpeter will play recordings from a variety of Boston-affiliated jazz musicians, and will offer commentary and lead discussion in an informal setting. There’s no cover charge, but dinner and drinks will be available for purchase.
Jazz Week 2016 will also encompass the final two screenings in the Free Film Series at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery for African and African American Art at 104 Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge. On Thursday, April 28, at noon, they’ll screen Charlotte Zwerin’s 1988 documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser, including footage from a 1968 performance by Monk and his band. The series will conclude at noon on Thursday, May 5, with Clint Eastwood’s 1988 bio-pic of Charlie Parker, Bird, starring Forest Whitaker.
On Sunday, May 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Piano Factory Gallery (793 Tremont Street), The Boston Creative Jazz Scene, Then and Now will focus on the recent CD compilation (and accompanying historical essay by trumpeter/composer/arranger Mark Harvey), The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983. JazzBoston will host musicians who appeared on these rare recordings, including Harvey, Arni Cheatham, Peter Bloom, and Leonard Brown, who will join with later generations of improvisers for live music and discussion. Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted.
In addition to the events organized and/or coordinated by JazzBoston, Jazz Week embraces not only performances at most of the familiar jazz venues in the Boston area (see the Jazz Week 2016 schedule), but also several festivals taking place during the same time frame.
You can get a lot more than monkfish at this Asian fusion restaurant, but you can’t beat their moniker. At a time when we’ve lost a number of longtime jazz venues (like the Acton Jazz Cafe and Johnny D’s), the opening last fall of the aptly named Jazz Baroness Room at Thelonious Monkfish (524 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge) couldn’t have been more fortuitous. Now, with the arrival of Jazz Week 2016, the restaurant has launched its inaugural Thelonious Monkfish Jazz Festival. Running from Thursday, April 21 through Sunday, May 1, the festival features:
- Kevin Harris Trio – Thursday, April 21, 7-10 p.m.
- Yoko Miwa Trio – Friday, April 22, 8-11 p.m.
- Jerry Bergonzi Quartet – Saturday, April 23, 8-11 p.m.
- Teresa Ines Quartet – Sunday, April 24, 6-9 p.m.
- Christian Li Trio – Monday, April 25, 6-9 p.m.
- Dominique Eade & Tim Ray – Tuesday, April 26, 6-9 p.m.
- Daniela Schachter Trio – Wednesday, April 27, 7-10 p.m.
- Paul Broadnax Trio – Thursday, April 28, 7-10 p.m.
- Yoko Miwa Trio and friends – Friday, April 29, 8-11 p.m.
- Eula Lawrence Quartet – Saturday, April 30, 8-11 p.m.
- Mike Turk Trio – Sunday, May 1, 12:30-3:30 p.m.
There’s no cover charge, but dinner reservations are highly recommended.
Harvard University’s ARTS FIRST Festival is an annual event presented by the Office for the Arts Performers Program on the Science Center Plaza at 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge. This year’s Jazz on the Plaza concert by the Harvard Jazz Band, to be held at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29, will be the festival’s debut appearance of the new Director of Jazz Ensembles, saxophonist/composer Yosvany Terry. Featuring guest saxophonist Tia Fuller, the concert is free and open to the public; there’ll also be a cash bar with beer and wine.
The concluding weekend of Jazz Week 2016 also coincides with the fifth annual A-Town Jazz Festival, presented by Morningside Music Studios in and around Arlington Town Center, at the intersection of Route 60 (Pleasant & Mystic Streets) and Massachusetts Avenue. Running from Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1, the festival features:
- Vocalist Emma Zack and trio – Friday, April 29, 8:30-10:30 p.m., Flora Restaurant, 190 Massachusetts Avenue (no cover, dinner reservations recommended)
- Morningside Music Studio Ensembles – Saturday, April 30, 4-6:30 p.m., Kickstand Café, 594 Massachusetts Ave
- Morningside Music Studio Faculty Performance – Saturday, April 30, 7-10 p.m., Artlounge Arlington, 1346 Massachusetts Avenue ($10 cover)
- A-Town Brass Band – Sunday, May 1, 1-2 p.m., Whittmore Park at the Dallin Museum
- Morrison/Lafleur Group – Sunday, May 1, 1:30-3:30, Menotomy Grill, 25 Massachusetts Avenue (jazz brunch)
- Main Event (Foxbill with trumpeter Jason Palmer, vocalist Louise Grasmere, Arlington High School Jazz Band) – Sunday, May 1, 7-10 p.m., Regent Theatre, 7 Medford Street (general admission, $15; students and seniors, $10)
Jazz Week 2016 also coincides—almost exactly—with Passover this year, so I’ll leave you with this seasonal contribution from guitarist Slim Galliard (sorry, Bird didn’t play on this session):
(… with a tip of the yarmulke to Steve Provizer.)