Coming Attractions in Jazz: Early Summer Festivals 2012

Heading north this weekend? Whether you’re traveling all the way to Burlington, VT or just to the left bank of the Charles, summer 2012’s jazz festival season is off to a fine start. Then, the action mid-month shifts south to New Haven.

Sing the Truth!

Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and Diane Reeves Sing the Truth!

By J. R. Carroll.

Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Burlington, MA,  June 1–10.

While not the sprawling omnivore that is its neighbor across our northern border, the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival has evolved into a remarkably rich and embracing event in its own right. Kicking off on Friday, June 1, with the intriguing pairing of banjoist Béla Fleck and the trio of pianist Marcus Roberts (followed by Brooklyn’s boisterous avant-brass band, the Asphalt Orchestra), and concluding on Sunday, June 10, with elder statesman Lee Konitz, the roster ranges from Latin jazz (the Stefon Harris-Nicholas Payton-David Sánchez “Ninety Miles” project and the manic mashups of Chicha Libre) to New Orleans grooves (Jonathan Batiste and Trombone Shorty) to edgy experimentation (Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer, Donny McCaslin, and Mary Halvorson) to well-known and well-loved headliners (Bonnie Raitt, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, and Jimmy Cliff).

Cambridge River Festival. Cambridge, MA, June 2.

The second of June’s Cambridge River Festival bookends (with September’s Beantown Jazz Festival) a summer of open-air jazz in and around Boston. Starting at noon with the intricate chamber jazz of Tre Corda (cellist Eugene Friesen, trumpeter Greg Hopkins, and pianist Tim Ray—a somewhat surprising choice for an outdoor venue), the afternoon brings together pianist Joanne Brackeen with saxophonist Marco Pignataro’s Jazzet and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington with the Kevin Harris Project, as well as the trios of drummer Ron Savage and pianist Joel LaRue Smith.

International Festival of Arts and Ideas. New Haven, CT, June 16–30.

New Haven’s International Festival of Arts and Ideas, running from Saturday, June 16, through Saturday, June 30, is without a doubt the most intellectually ambitious of New England’s festivals. This year the headlining appearance of vocalists Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, and Lizz Wright and their “Sing the Truth!” project has inspired the inclusion of very timely reflections on the civil rights movement by Rev. Bernard Lafayette and artist Winfred Rembert. While the festival reaches well beyond jazz, the 2012 edition does include a soundscaping encounter between poet Robert Pinsky and the Ben Allison Band, scheduled and spontaneous performances by the Asphalt Orchestra (following a long march down from Burlington), and world jazz fusion by the Hector Del Curto Tango Quintet, double-neck mandolinist Snehasish Mozumder and his band S.O.M., and the provocative pairing of bhangra-inspired Red Baraat with Pakistani Sufi-rockers noori.

New Hampshire Bass Fest. Manchester, NH, June 20–23.

A festival devoted entirely to bass players may not be on your radar (or, perhaps more accurately, sonar), but don’t just drive by it on your way to the White Mountains. While the daylight hours of the New Hampshire Bass Fest in Manchester may be devoted to workshops and master classes, the free 8 p.m. concerts on June 20–23 bring together practitioners (both acoustic and electric) drawn from diverse genres (Brazil’s Ebinho Cardoso, classical bassist Ryan Ford, rockers Chris Mewhinney and Everett Pendleton, jazzmen Bruce Gertz, Michael Manring, Dave Buda, Rob Gourlay, and Shane Allessio, and two generations of Stinnetts: father Jim and son Grant) in interesting combinations—with a little help from drummers Dom Moio and Tom Arey.

Paulie’s New Orleans Jazz and Blues Festival. Worcester, MA, June 22–24.

Worcester’s love affair with the Crescent City continues when Paulie’s New Orleans Jazz and Blues Festival returns on Friday, June 22. Running through Sunday, June 24, this year’s lineup leans less to second lining (Soul of a Man, Henri Smith, Amadee Castenell, Bonerama, and Chief Juan Pardo of the Golden Commanche Mardi Gras Indians) and more toward blues, funk, and Cajun, but it’s going to be one hell of a weekend for guitar-lovers (Mem Shannon, Anders Osborne, Eric Lindell, Tab Benoit, Billy Iuso, Sonny Landreth, and the Royal Southern Brotherhood).

Concerts in the Courtyard. At Boston Public Library, Boston, MA.

In addition to these “destination festivals,” June is the start of several ongoing (and mostly free) concert series in and around Boston. The Boston Public Library’s lunch-hour Concerts in the Courtyard roar right out of the gate on the first of June with the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble.

Summer in the City. At various locations.

Hot on their heels, Berklee’s Summer in the City series has events all around town from Sunday, June 3, through early September. A highlight of the month is Jonah Francese’s 18-piece Thinkin’ Big band at Atlantic Wharf on Thursday, June 14, at noon. (A bit of caveat emptor here, by the way, regarding the term “City”—you’ll find musicians on the event list playing everywhere from Toronto to Honolulu.)

Dates and schedules for several festivals are still being firmed up, so check back here for upcoming previews of events in July and beyond.

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