Marsalis Berklee Jams Continues with Claudia Acuña, April 21 - 22

Joyce Linehan
April 9, 2010
Claudia Acuña is the next exciting artist in the Marsalis Berklee Jams series.

Berklee College of Music and Marsalis Music present Marsalis Berklee Jams, an innovative combination of concert performance, jam session, and classroom interaction. The program brings up-and-coming jazz artists to Boston for performances and jam sessions with Berklee students, as well as master classes and clinics. The series is produced in partnership with Marsalis Music, the Cambridge-based record label founded by Berklee alumnus Branford Marsalis.

The featured artist for this fourth installment of Marsalis Berklee Jams is Claudia Acuña, a Chilean singer/songwriter who Newsday called  "the voice of an angel." On April 21 and 22, Acuña will present two master classes in the afternoons, and two performance/jam sessions at 8:00 p.m. While the master classes and participation in the jam sessions are open to Berklee students only, tickets for the concert/jam sessions are available to the public. The Jams take place at Berklee's Cafe 939, 939 Boylston Street. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $10. For tickets or more information, call 617 923-8487 or visit Shows at Cafe 939 are all ages. 

Marsalis Jams was conceived by Branford Marsalis as an initiative to provide meaningful interaction between established musical ensembles and dedicated student musicians at the high school and college levels. The program consists of mini-residencies that include classroom interaction and culminate in performance/jam sessions in which the visiting band follows an opening set of its own music by inviting student musicians on stage to play. Since 2003, the program has been successfully presented in colleges and high schools in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Texas. This is the fourth Marsalis Berklee Jams, following programs in 2009 with Fly and the Dafnis Prieto Si O Si Quartet.

"The partnership between Marsalis Jams and Berklee College of Music has allowed the program to reach a new level," says Marsalis Music president Sherry McAdams. "Each participant has delivered both great music and a unique way of communicating with student musicians. We anticipate that Claudia Acuña will offer yet another fascinating and rewarding experience."

Acuña, who sings primarily in Spanish, was born in Santiago, Chile. She moved to New York in 1995, and began to frequent the city's jam sessions and clubs, meeting other young musicians. A series of part-time jobs led to work on the staff at the Blue Note nightclub, where she heard many legendary artists who strengthened her determination to find an original voice.

"I had heard Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra in Chile, and felt that if he could embrace Latin music, then I could bring my own background to jazz," says Acuña.

It was at the original Small's in Greenwich Village, a hotbed of young talent, that Acuña made the greatest strides, meeting and working with such artists as Jeff Ballard, Avishai Cohen, Frank Hewitt, Guillermo Klein, Jimmy Lovelace, Brad Mehldau, Harry Whittaker, and the man who became her musical director and closest collaborator, pianist Jason Lindner.

Record companies began to show interest in Acuña after a tape of one of her live performances circulated without her knowledge. She was signed to Verve Records in 1999, where she recorded two albums, Wind from the South and Rhythm of Life. A third disc, Luna, was recorded for MAXJAZZ in 2004, and her debut on the Marsalis Music label, En Este Momento, was released in April 2009.

Acuña has recorded and toured with a host of performers including George Benson, Joey Calderazzo, Billy Childs, Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrell, Christian McBride, Danilo Perez, and Pablo Ziegler. In addition to her music career, she acts as a spokesperson for child-focused relief agency World Vision Chile.