Over the past few years, the Beantown Jazz Festival has grown from a solid grassroots effort to a major venue for student and professional players and fans. Now with the combined blessing of the Berklee College of Music and Festival Productions founder George Wein, the Festival took Jazz to the next level, assembling a dream team of legendary and contemporary artists the likes of which have probably never been seen on the same stage at the same show.
While the main reason behind the show (i.e., the passing of Wein’s beloved wife Joyce) was unfortunate, the master of musical mixture was able to put a positive spin on even this most tragic impetus by having proceeds from the sold-out (and THEN some!) show go to a new scholarship that has been created in Joyce’s name (www.berklee.edu). The list of participants was impressive to say the least A gathering that only George could assemble.
From long-time family friends like octogenarian percussionist Roy Haynes and thunder throwing pianist Michele Camilo to some former band mates of Miles Davis named Herbie Hancock and Jimmy Cobb, the concert featured combinations of names and sounds that would make any Jazz fan drool. Representing the home school were pianist Toshiko Ayikoshi, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and sax master Joe Lovano (whose duet with Branford Marsalis included a fun game of “Can you out-squonk this?”), as well as scores of students who hooted and hollered for every impressive interval.
From an appropriate offering of Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You” by far-reaching trumpeter Jon Faddis and guitarist Howard Alden to Lew Tabackin’s fluted two-step take on Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” to Camilo’s blinding breeze through “Caribe” that brought the house down and the crowd to their feet, the show contained many of Wein’s faves, but every song wowed the crowd as the superstars pushed each other to take it to the next level.
By the time the entire squad assembled for Wein’s personal appreciations, the audience was stuck standing, awed by the magical and meaningful display they had just witnessed.
©2007 Matthew S. Robinson