Fuse Preview: The 2015 Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival

From noon to six on Saturday, September 26, Boston’s premier outdoor jazz event, the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, returns to Boston’s South End for a fifteenth year.

By J. R. Carroll

Ambrose Akinmusire at BeanTown 2014.

Ambrose Akinmusire at BeanTown 2014. Photo by J. R. Carroll.

Miguel Zenón at BeanTown 2014.

Miguel Zenón at BeanTown 2014. Photo by J. R. Carroll.


The theme of this year’s festival, “Jazz: The Voice of the People,” is warmly welcoming but kind of nonspecific. No matter—as usual, the roster of performers is diverse, albeit with a not at all surprising number of musicians with Berklee connections.

2015 also marks a half century since John Coltrane traversed one of the most astonishing evolutions in music history, a trail that led from A Love Supreme to Meditations in the span of a little over a year. Appropriately, two festival performances (by Javon Jackson and George Garzone) will focus on aspects of Coltrane’s music.

BeanTown follows the Newport model, with simultaneous performances in three locations: the Berklee Stage (near Mass. Ave.) and the Capital One Stage (near Burke St.) at opposite ends of Columbus Avenue, and the Natixis Global Asset Management Stage overlooking the open field adjacent to Columbus. (Here’s a link to the complete schedule.) For those who prefer to settle in at one location, here’s the lineup for each of the stages:

Berklee Stage—Felix Peikli and the Royal Flush Quintet (noon), Omar Thomas Large Ensemble Featuring Stefon Harris (1:15), We Four: Celebrating John Coltrane (2:30), David Gilmore and Energies of Change (3:45), George Garzone Quartet with the Teros String Quartet: Tribute to John Coltrane and Stan Getz (5:00)

Capital One Stage—Caili O’Doherty: ‘Padme’ CD Release (noon), Marty Walsh (no, not the mayor) and the Total Plan (1:15), ChoroBop (2:30), Bass Extremes featuring Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey (3:30), Eguie Castrillo and the Palladium Nights Orchestra (4:50)

Natixis Global Asset Management Stage—Berklee City Music All-Stars (noon), Carlos Averhoff Jr. and iRESI (12:45), Alissia and the Funketeers (1:45), Paige Bryan (2:45), The Mosaic Project Featuring Terri Lyne Carrington and Jaguar Wright (4:00), Ledisi (5:00)

But if you like to keep on the move, here’s a tour that will bring in many of the most interesting performances at the festival, starting off at the Capital One Stage.

Pianist Caili O’Doherty is a former member of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and her musical interests reflect the influence of her travels and of the Institute’s director, Danilo Perez. Saturday’s noon performance serves double duty as a release event for her new CD, Padme.

On your way from the Capital One Stage to the Berklee Stage, swing by the Natixis Global Asset Management Stage to catch a 12:45 set by Cuban-born saxophonist Carlos Averhoff Jr. and iRESI (with Aruan Ortiz on piano, John Lockwood on bass, and Francisco Mela on drums).

Knowing the difficulties—both logistical and financial—of herding large numbers of cats, I admit to having an especially sympathetic ear for big bands, jazz orchestras, and other populous aggregations (and enormous respect for the leaders who’ve managed to keep such groups together for decades). At 1:15, guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris joins the 18-piece Omar Thomas Large Ensemble (who somehow will all manage to fit on the Berklee Stage).

Up next on the Berklee Stage at 2:30 are We Four: Celebrating John Coltrane, led by tenor man Javon Jackson and including bassist John Webber and two jazz legends, pianist George Cables and drummer Lenny White (filling in for the originally scheduled Jimmy Cobb). The program will include Coltrane classics like “Impressions,” “Giant Steps,” and “Naima,” along with a few originals by members of the band.

A long hike down Columbus Ave. takes you back to the Capital One Stage for a thunderous 3:30 session of Bass Extremes featuring Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey.

Then, at 4:00, BeanTown artistic director Terri Lyne Carrington takes the Natixis Global Asset Management Stage with her Mosaic Project and Philly-based guest vocalist Jaguar Wright (who’s performed with the Roots and Jay-Z, among others). Wright appears on Carrington’s latest CD, Love and Soul, so expect some material from this recording to feature in the Mosaic Project’s set.

Back at the Berklee Stage at 5:00, the afternoon closes out with what could be called “The Fringe with Strings (and Piano)” in a tribute to John Coltrane and Stan Getz. (Will the program include “Dear Old Stockholm,” I wonder?) Tenor saxophonist George Garzone is joined by his regular partners John Lockwood on bass and Bob Gullotti on drums, along with pianist Leo Genovese and the Teros String Quartet.

The weather forecast for Saturday indicates a brisk autumn day, so you may want to bring a jacket. But, again, no matter—see you at BeanTown! (And check out further coverage this week by Jason Rubin and Jon Garelick.)

1 Comment

  1. Parmie on September 26, 2015 at 11:04 am


Leave a Comment

Recent Posts