Coming Attractions in Jazz: Early Summer Festivals 2011

By J. R. Carroll

Updated: The 2011 festival season opens with big doings in Burlington, Cambridge, Brookline, New Haven, Manchester, Boston, Middlebury, Marblehead, Somerville, Worcester, and North Adams

The Discover Jazz Festival in Burlington, VT, running from Friday, June 3 through Sunday, June 12, has evolved into a major event mingling well-known artists with local musicians. Highlights include a 40th anniversary Miles Davis tribute, Bitches Brew Revisited, created by cornetist Graham Haynes (yes, he’s Roy’s son) (Friday, June 3, 8 p.m.); an inspired pairing of ageless vocalists Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan (Tuesday, June 7, 8:30 p.m.); our premier interpreter of the Great African-American Songbook, Catherine Russell (Wednesday, June 8, 8 p.m.); the Asian tinge of pianist/composer Myra Melford’s Be Bread Sextet (Thursday, June 9, 8:30 p.m.); Cubano Be Cubano Bop, the teaming of percussionist Poncho Sanchez and trumpeter Terence Blanchard in a tribute to Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie (Friday, June 10, 8 p.m.); and the return of pianist and harmonica player Howard Levy for a reunion of Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones (Sunday, June 12, 8 p.m.).

The annual Cambridge River Festival on the left bank of the Charles is a more compact affair, but on Saturday, June 4, their jazz stage packs some outstanding music into a mere six hours starting at noon: Alex Alvear’s Ecuadorean fusion project NAWI leads off; at 1:30 p.m. the Makanda Project honors the legacy of saxophonist/composer Ken McIntyre; the New World Jazz Composers Octet features original works by Boston-area composers at 3 p.m.; and at 4:30 p.m. Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Jazz Ensemble, with guest vocalist Nicole Nelson, wraps up the afternoon.

The action moves to the other side of the Charles at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, June 11–12, as the Fireplace once again hosts its open-air Latin Music Fest; performers include the Camelia Latinjazz Sextet, Tentumbao, the Florencia González Candombe Project, Samba Trémeterra, IRESI, Grupo Fantasía, Mango Blue, Receita de Samba, and Cinco Son.

New Haven’s sprawling and provocative International Festival of Arts and Ideas runs from June 11–25; jazz events include Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke (Wednesday, June 15, 8 p.m.); Haitian vocalist Emeline Michel (Thursday, June 16, 8 p.m.); Peruvian vocalist Corina Bartra (Tuesday, June 21, noon); and a tantalizing, African jazz double bill with Freshlyground and the Mandingo Ambassadors (Saturday, June 25, 7 p.m.).

The New Hampshire Bass Festival has nothing to do with fish (or with Phish, for that matter) but everything to do with the musicians who anchor the bottom end of a performance; the festival’s workshops and free evening concerts run from June 15 through June 18 in Manchester, NH.

Berklee Summer in the City, running from June 16 through September 24, throws a big tent over a variety of mostly outdoor venues in and around Boston (including some of the Harbor Islands). June features the looping vocals of Julia Easterlin on Georges Island (Saturday, June 25, 4 p.m.), Brazilian guitarist Italo Cunha on Spectacle Island (Sunday, June 26, 1 p.m.), and Grupo Fantasia in Mozart Park (Thursday, June 30, 7 p.m.).

At the New England Jazz and Blues Festival in Middlebury, CT, the lineup on Saturday, June 18, is headed up by Dave Samuels and the Caribbean Jazz Project (5:45 p.m.) and harmonica player James Montgomery trading licks with the legendary James Cotton (7:30 p.m.). On Sunday look for veteran guitarist Elvin Bishop (2:30 p.m.), the Trio of OZ with drummer Omar Hakim, pianist Rachel Z and bassist Maeve Royce (5:30 p.m.), and Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds (7:30 p.m.).

The Marblehead Jazz Festival, which takes place more or less every other Saturday from mid-June through mid-August, kicks off on June 18 at 7:30 p.m. with a tribute to Carmen McRae by vocalist Shawnn Monteiro.

Somerville Mayor Joe[ Curtatone]’s Jazz and Blues Fest nominally spans almost a week (June 20–25), but, like Boston’s Beantown Jazz Festival, the main event is the concluding open-air concert in Powderhouse Park from noon–7 p.m. on Saturday the 25th, featuring performers including the Anderson/Hanson/Levy Trio, the John Funkhouser Trio, Toni Lynn Washington, the Spontaneous Architects, the Florencia Gonzalez Candombe Project, and Frank Morey and His Band. (The days leading up to Saturday’s concert encompass events at Somerville institutions like the Center for Arts at the Armory, Johnny D’s, Precinct and Sally O’Brien’s.)

Worcester’s little slice of the Big Easy, Paulie’s NOLA Blues and Jazz Festival, returns on Friday and Saturday, June 24–25; featured New Orleans artists include guitarist Mem Shannon, harpman Johnny Sansone, and trombonist Big Sam and his Funky Nation.

Curated by Wilco(!) and featuring, among others, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and trumpeter Dave Douglas and his Brass Ecstasy band, the eclectic and uncategorizable Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, MA, will resonate through the vast spaces of MassMOCA on the weekend of June 24–26.

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  1. Erica H. Adams on June 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Great service, journalism. Style of listing with video is the new normal. Great beginning of new journalism. Plan to be of service, soon.

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