Coming Attractions in Jazz: Midsummer Festivals 2011

Tornadoes in the Connecticut River Valley haven’t stopped this summer’s festivals in Springfield, Hartford, and Greenfield. Plus, Boston celebrates Latino and African culture.

By J. R. Carroll.

Hoop City Jazz Festival 2010

Hoop City Jazz Festival 2010Photo by tambrieann

As Springfield, MA and surrounding communities recover from the devastating tornadoes that struck in early June, it’s welcome news that the annual Hoop City Jazz & Art Festival is taking place as scheduled on Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10. The opening featured A Night in Treme, hosted by actor Wendell Pierce and presented trombonist/vocalist Glen David Andrews and the Soul Rebels Brass Band. The festival continues today and wraps up nicely on Sunday with Kendrick Oliver & the New Life Orchestra featuring Nicole Nelson at 3:30 p.m., New Orleans vocalist Samirah Evans & Her Handsome Devils at 5 p.m., and percussionist/bandleader Poncho Sanchez at 6:30 p.m.

Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH, is the venue for the 16th annual Tommy Gallant Jazz Festival on Sunday, July 10. The festival kicks off at noon with the George Garzone Trio and finishes up with the Seacoast Big Band at 4:30 p.m.

Somerville’s ArtBeat paints it red this year. Musical highlights include the Maghrebian funk of Atlas Soul at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 15, Afro-Pop band Koliba at noon, and Latin powerhouse Curubande at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 16.

Across the river in Boston’s South End, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción hosts a two and a half day celebration of Latino culture, Festival Betances, at Villa Victoria beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 15. Saturday’s events culminate with a performance by salsa legend Larry Harlow, and the festival concludes with Oscar Hernández and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra at 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 17.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, July 16, Boston’s African community will congregate downtown on City Hall Plaza from 9 a.m to 10 p.m. for the second annual African Festival. Featured musicians include Kina Zori (Mozambique / South Africa), Offiong Bassey (Nigeria), Gael Amour (Gabon), Naomi Achu (Cameroon), the Silimbo D’Adeane West African Dance and Drum Company (Senegal), the Akwaaba Ensemble (Ghana), Krystaal (Democratic Republic of Congo), Rumbafrica (Democratic Republic of Congo), 2kee (Liberia) and ACCO – the AS220 CrissCross Orchestra (Ghana/Irish/USA/Trinidad).

The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz turns 20 next year and, although the festival is only operating one stage this year, its roster is impressive. The evening of Friday, July 15, is highlighted by pianist Zaccai Curtis and his Latin Jazz Quintet, featuring bass master Andy Gonzalez, trumpeter Ray Vega, drummer Dafnis Prieto, and percussionist Reinaldo de Jesus at 8:30 p.m. The festival culminates on Sunday, July 17 with the formidable sextet of trumpeter Josh Evans (with trombonist Frank Lacey, tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, pianist David Bryant, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Ralph Peterson) at 6 p.m., followed at 7:30 p.m. by the Al Foster Quartet and special guest trumpeter Wallace Roney.

Further upriver, Greenfield’s Green River Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17. The delightfully eclectic schedule includes NOLA stalwart Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers at 3 p.m. on Saturday and the exiled “Lion of Zimbabwe,” Thomas Mapfumo, and the Blacks Unlimited at 2:25 p.m. on Sunday.

Afro-Caribbean drummers will cast their spell when the Salem CultureFest comes to Salem Common on Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24. The high-energy gathering peaks on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. with Zili Misik.

From Friday, July 29 through Sunday, July 31, this year’s Lowell Folk Festival unfurls a big tent over a diverse cast of performers including the Ethiopian azmari funk of Debo Band (teaming up with the dance troupe Fendika), the Afro-Columbian Grupu Rebolú, bandonéon master Hector del Curto’s Tango Quartet, the salsa dura of New York’s 12-piece ensemble La Excelencia, blues powerhouse Shemekia Copeland, and the Creole groove of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas.

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