BeanTown Stirs It Up

Danielle Dreilinger
October 15, 2010

No such thing as too many cooks: Performers brewed up a big ol' pot of musical gumbo for the 10th anniversary Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival.

The event extended over two weeks with concerts every night. The Bad Plus, Paula Cole, New Orleans native Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, and Kurt Rosenwinkel—to name a few—packed rooms at famed clubs around town and the college's own Berklee Performance Center.

Terri Lyne Carrington, Berklee professor and festival artistic director, put a particular emphasis on celebrating New Orleans's rebirth five years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "Without the music of New Orleans, there is no Berklee," she said.

For Bostonians, the highlight was the annual outdoor all-day street party along Columbus Avenue, September 25, which drew over 70,000 people, including Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick—whose father Pat Patrick's musical archives are now at Berklee. Highlights included Nona Hendryx, who gave a sizzling performance of her disco hit "Lady Marmalade"; rising star Grace Kelly, a Berklee student saxophonist; alumnus Julian Lage's trio; the Berklee City Music All-Stars, composed of students who got their start in the college's program for underserved youth; and New Orleans heir Jon Baptiste. The festival was funded in part by a National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence grant, created to share and preserve the country's cultural heritage.

Watch videos from the festival and read student perspectives in English and Japanese.

The next generation got a taste of making their own music at the instrument "petting zoo," as well as flavors from around the world thanks to the many food vendors from a range of cultures. Other activities for kids of all ages included inflatables, rides, face painting, and balloons.

The afternoon thrilled audience members and performers alike. Said Lage backstage, "The whole point is to spread the wealth . . . and spread the music."

The college is already starting to brew up next year's fest: Organizers will be accepting submissions from artists in January 2011.

Student performer Jonathan Ong talks about the outdoor concert. Watch more videos from the event.