Beantown Jazz Festival opens in Northeastern’s backyard

By Rani Pimentel

With a mix of horns and drums, the colorful sound of jazz music will fill the air when the sixth annual Beantown Jazz Festival hits Boston this weekend.

Sponsored by Sovereign Bank and produced for the first time by Berklee College of Music, the two-day festival begins with a kick-off concert Friday at the Berklee Performance Center. This show will feature performances by The Story of Impulse Records and The McCoy Tyner Septet.

Larry Simpson, senior vice president for academic affairs at Berklee College who is overseeing this year’s festival said its founder, Darryl Settles’ goal for the event was to encourage the community to come together.

“Settles wanted to thank his customers and do something outdoors featuring local artists. As it has grown, it has grown beyond what one person could do,” Simpson said.

Saturday is filled with free concerts on three different stages lining Columbus Avenue. With 15 performances on Saturday, the festival will feature artists like The Mike Tucker Quartet, Carmen Lundy and the New Songbook Artists, and Hot Like Fire.

There will also be more than 50 vendors supplying food, arts and crafts and face painting on Saturday. Carter Playground will provide entertainment for families.

For the first time since the festival began, the Sunday Gospel Jazz Brunch will be held at the Westin Copley Place Hotel on Huntington Avenue. This includes performances by Kendrick Oliver and the New Life Orchestra with special guest vocalist Kevin Mahogany.

Simpson said the festival will feature a much higher caliber of music than previous years.

“[The Beantown Jazz Festival] has changed in many ways this year. The number of outstanding performers and the national and international reputation is higher than the years before,” he said.

Playing guitar in the New England Conservatory Jazz Composers Ensemble on Saturday, junior Jesse Ward said he hoped college students like himself would attend the festival.

“I think that if you enjoy music, it’s good music,” he said. “I don’t know what a lot of kids do on the weekends, but you could walk around with close friends outside and enjoy the music.”

Jazz will not be the only musical genre represented. Gospel, hip-hop, Afro-Cuban jazz, electronic and blues will also be played at this year’s festival.

Simpson said the eclectic mix of music will be the biggest draw at the festival this year.

“You can’t go wrong no matter what you see,” he said.

Proceeds from the festival go toward the Boston Medical Center’s Prostate Cancer Screening Initiative and the Berklee Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is geared toward high school seniors participating in the Berklee City Music Program, taught by Berklee College music professors. If they are successful in the program, they can receive the Berklee Scholarship to attend Berklee College after graduation.

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