Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival Returns September 23-24

By 
Nick Balkin
August 24, 2016
John Scofield
Billy Hart
Al Jarreau
Mili Bermejo
Nick Suttle
Vincent Soyez
Marina Chavez

Tens of thousands of music lovers of all ages will come together to enjoy jazz, funk, R&B, Latin music, a cappella music, and more at the 16th annual Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival—Boston’s biggest block party—September 23 and 24.

The festival kicks off on Friday, September 23 with Grammy-winning guitarist and Berklee alumnus John Scofield '73 performing music from his new album, Country for Old Men, which is set for release that day on Impulse!/Verve. Produced by Scofield and featuring Steve Swallow, Larry Goldings, and Bill Stewart, Country for Old Men sculpts jazz renditions of classic tunes by George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Shania Twain. The concert takes place at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC). For tickets, visit the Beantown Jazz Festival page on Berklee.edu

The main event, Beantown’s all-day, outdoor festival, takes place on Saturday, September 24 from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street in Boston's historic South End. Curated by multi-Grammy Award–winning drummer, composer, and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington '83, the event features three stages and performances from more than 17 artists. The outdoor festival, which has drawn as many as 80,000 music fans, is open to the public free of charge. Check Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival for updates and a full schedule of events.

Top acts on the outdoor stages include seven-time Grammy-winning singer Al Jarreau; legendary drummer Billy Hart and his trio featuring pianist Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus and bassist Ben Street; Pitch Slapped, one of the world’s premier a cappella groups; and Behind These Eyes (B.T.E.), a contemporary pop jazz ensemble featuring the original songs, lyrics, and arrangements of former Berklee professor Hal Crook '71, sung by acclaimed vocalist Débo Ray '13.

Berklee students and faculty also play a major role in the festival with performances from the Mili Bermejo Sextet, the Laszlo Gardony Sextet, the Mark Zaleski Band, the Ricardo Monzón Orchestra, Dan Moretti and the Hammond Boys, Lenny Stallworth and Black Steel, Mark Shilansky and Fugue Mill, Kaovanny and Vibe Collective, the Kevin Harris Project, Edmar Colón Quartet7th Degree, Self Portraits, and the Venezuelan Project. 

The outdoor celebration will feature a variety of vendor booths offering foods and crafts from all over the world. Also returning to the festival is KidsJam, an interactive program led by Berklee’s Music Education Department that introduces young children to a variety of musical activities, including singing and sound exploration, playing rhythm instruments, and creating, listening, and responding to music.

A second ticketed event, Beantown Afterglow, will feature the 10th anniversary of trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s Triveni, with Ben Street on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums, on September 28 at Cafe 939. The concert is part of The Checkout—Live at Berklee, a collaboration between WBGO-FM and Berklee.

For the seventh year, Berklee is the proud recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support the Beantown Jazz Festival and its theme. In awarding the prestigious Art Works grant to Berklee, the NEA cited the festival as a celebration of Boston’s diversity as reflected in the attendees, music, food, and crafts.