Berklee Musicians Stack Killer Newport Jazz Festival Lineup
The 2017 Newport Jazz Festival is primed to draw traditional jazz aficionados—with acts such as the quartet led by Berklee alumnus Branford Marsalis ’80—while also opening its doors to fusion-friendly forays by the likes of the Roots and Béla Fleck & the Flecktones—featuring virtuosic bassist Victor Wooten, a visiting scholar in performance studies at Berklee and summer bass program leader—and Snarky Puppy, featuring Marcelo Woloski B.M. ‘07, Keita Ogawa B.M. ‘07, and Bob Reynolds B.M. ’00, all of whom received Grammys this year. (Woloski and Ogawa also tour as part of rising world music sensation Banda Magda.)
The Newport lineup also includes Hudson, a quartet featuring Grammy winner John Scofield ’73, who delighted crowds at the Berklee Performance Center as part of Berklee’s Signature Series this past fall. Behind the kit for Hudson will be Jack DeJohnette, who recently spoke as part of a Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) panel at the college. The BGJI will also take the stage at Newport in the form of a workshop ensemble comprising students from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival summer program, and BGJI Zildjian Chair in Performance Terri Lyne Carrington '83 '03H will perform in an ensemble featuring fellow alumna Esperanza Spalding B.M. ’05 in a tribute to Geri Allen, the influential jazz pianist, composer, and recipient of a 2014 Berklee honorary doctorate, who passed away one month ago.
Watch Allen perform at Berklee's 2014 commencement concert:
BGJI founder and artistic director Danilo Pérez will also deliver a much-anticipated performance with Jazz 100, a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaría, and Thelonious Monk. Pérez is artistic director of Jazz 100, which also includes BGJI artists in residence Adam Cruz on drums and Ben Street on bass.
Watch a Jazz 100 open rehearsal at Berklee:
Drummer and composer Antonio Sanchez B.M. ’97, a former Berklee artist-in-residence whose percussion and composition was on full display in the Oscar-winning film Birdman, will lead his group, Migration, at Newport. Sanchez and Spalding collaborated on the soundtrack to Miles Ahead, the Miles Davis biopic starring Don Cheadle. Also leading a group at Newport is Sean Jones, chair of Berklee’s Brass Department, whose quintet will take the stage on the festival’s final day. Joanne Brackeen, who just recently received the National Endowment of the Arts’ Jazz Masters Award—the nation’s highest honor in jazz—will deliver a solo piano set. Meanwhile, Jason Palmer, assistant professor of ensembles and brass, will perform with the George Burton Quartet and also lead his own Berklee septet. The latter group consists of students under Palmer’s mentorship: Zach Auslander (guitar), Domi Degalle (piano), Emery Mesich (alto saxophone), Benjamin Bass (guitar), Stefano Battaglia (bass), and Alex Weinstein (drums).
Listen to a recent podcast with Palmer:
While the above is not an exhaustive list of all members of the Berklee community playing the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival, clearly the attentive jazz crowd won’t have a hard time finding Berklee-trained musicians sharing their skills and practicing what they have learned or preached in the classroom on one of jazz’s biggest stages.
"Berklee's strong presence at the Newport Jazz Festival this year is indicative of all the magical and creative energy that Berklee attracts and fosters," says Carrington, a Grammy-winner who graduated from Berklee and later returned to teach at the college. Carrington says that "the Berklee experience has helped me to become a better musician" and notes that she appreciates the institution's "ability to nurture the creative spirit and promote conscious and visionary thought in regards to the arts."
Berklee students interested in attending the festival have the added bonus of signing up to ride in style on jazz radio mainstay WBGO-FM's luxury bus, which will take students directly to the festival gates. The longstanding partnership between Berklee, WBGO, and the festival has allowed students an affordable and memorable means to get as much out of Newport Jazz Festival as they can.
Students Learn from Jazz Masters at Newport
That visionary artistry will be on display at the Newport Jazz Festival, which was launched by legendary promoter George Wein in 1954. In 2015, Berklee created the George Wein Impresario Award to recognize individuals who bring music to life through their dedication to discovering, mentoring, presenting, and promoting creative musicians and their work. The first Wein Award went to veteran Boston jazz promoter Fred Taylor (Berklee has recently established the Fred Taylor Endowed Scholarship Fund, and will host an all-star jazz salute to Taylor on September 12). Subsequent Wein Awards have been given to Tim Jackson, artistic director of the Monterey Jazz Festival; Carlo Pagnotta, founder and artistic director of the Umbria Jazz Festival; and Luis Alvarez ’83, founder and executive producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest.
With support from Wein via the Newport Festivals Foundation and the Joyce and George Wein Foundation, Berklee established the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival, a full-scholarship, five-day intensive jazz program that enables aspiring young musicians, including vocalists and nontraditional instrumentalists, to learn from world-renowned Berklee faculty during the festival. The program, hosted on the campus of Salve Regina University, is also supported by the Mary Hailer Scholarship Fund, established by John and Maureen Hailer.
“There are so many young people in the world who want to play jazz, so this was a natural fit and I am very grateful for what Berklee has done,” Wein said after the program’s inaugural run in 2016. “I hope the program continues for many years.”
Several Berklee alumni, students, and faculty are also playing at this year's Newport Folk Festival, including jazz guitarist Julian Lage B.M. '08, Margaret Glaspy '07, and those in groups such as Associate Professor Darol Anger's Berklee Instant Strings (which will also perform with singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega); the Berklee Gospel and Roots Choir, led by Assistant Professor Nichelle Mungo; indie rock band Big Thief; eclectic instrumental group Steelism; and neo-folk trio Ballroom Thieves.