Stars Offer BeanTown Tribute to Joyce Wein

  From the left: Kenny Werner, Ray Drummond, Regina Carter, Howard Alden, Joe Lovano, Lew Tabackin, Jon Faddis, Herbie Hancock, and Esperanza Spalding were among the performers at the BeanTown Jazz Festival concert at Boston's Symphony Hall.
  Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Much excitement surrounded this year's BeanTown Jazz Festival that took place September 27 through September 29 at a variety of indoor and outdoor venues. Boston's best-known jazz impresario George Wein produced the festival's flagship event "A Celebration of Jazz and Joyce at Symphony Hall," to establish an endowed Berklee scholarship in the name of his late wife, Joyce Alexander Wein. He enlisted a distinguished array of jazz musicians spanning three generations who performed before a packed house at Boston's Symphony Hall.

Serving as the emcee, radio host Ron Della Chiesa welcomed the crowd and gave the first of several tributes to Joyce Wein, whom he characterized as representing "the best of American jazz and womanhood." Joyce Wein served as her husband's business partner in the creation of such events as the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the Hampton Jazz Festival, and the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France.

The all-star lineup for the show's first half included pianist Geri Allen, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Ray Drummond, trumpeter Jon Faddis, and saxophonist Lew Tabackin, who played spirited versions of Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You" and Tadd Dameron's "Hot House." In duet mode, pianist Joey Calderazzo provided a thoughtful accompaniment on "Amanecer" for Chilean jazz vocalist Claudia Acuña before launching into a notey and energetic version of his tune "Breeze Dance" with saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

Joe Lovano and Marsalis engaged in a saxophone showdown on an uptempo "Softly As a Morning Sunrise" and a medium-tempo "Body and Soul" with backing from pianist Kenny Werner and the Drummond-Cobb rhythm section.

Pianist Michel Camilo gave an astonishing solo rendition of his tune "Caribe," introduced as a favorite of Joyce Wein. Camilo's dynamic and artfully textured performance was a tour de force of classical, Latin, and jazz permutations that brought the audience to its feet. To close the half, guitarist Howard Alden and Jon Faddis gave a playful reading of Eubie Blake's "Memories of You."

Highlights of the show's second half included an appearance by jazz violin virtuoso Regina Carter in a quartet setting with Allen, Drummond, and Cobb playing Luiz Bonfa's "Black Orpheus" as well as a trio performance with Allen and vocalist Lizz Wright for the song "Reaching for the Moon." Toshiko Akiyoshi played solo piano versions of her compositions "The Village" and "Un Poco Loco." Herbie Hancock improvised a meditative piano piece titled "Here's to the Elegant Lady." Then, together with bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Roy Haynes, Hancock stretched out on his tune "Dolphin Dance." The concert closed with a send-up of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" featuring Werner, Drummond, Cobb, Alden, Lovano, Faddis, Tabackin, and Carter. All told the event raised $250,000 for Berklee's Joyce Alexander Wein Scholarship fund.

The next day, the festival continued on a half-mile stretch of Columbus Avenue in Roxbury and drew 70,000 people. Numerous food, art, and jewelry vendors sold their wares to the throngs making their way between the festival's three stages. Corporate partners Sovereign Bank and Target sponsored stages that showcased such artists as Bobby Hutcherson, the Mike Stern Band with Richard Bona, the Charles Tolliver Big Band, and several acts drawn from the Berklee community, including the City Music All-Star Ensemble, the Greg Hopkins Jazz Orchestra, the Berklee Rainbow Band with Phil Wilson, Blues after Dark, and more. In the afternoon, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino publicly thanked President Roger Brown and the corporate sponsors for providing such an extensive free cultural event for the citizens of the city.