This year’s BeanTown Jazz Festival felt a lot like the summer block parties I had known (and loved) as a kid growing up in Bed-Stuy. Massachusetts Avenue not only offered an array of food and clothing vendors on every corner, but on this unusually warm fall day, it also shed light on an often overlooked aspect of American history.

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Photo by Phil Farnsworth

“This is where African-Americans could stay in Boston because it was very segregated back then,” said a member of the Berklee College of Music’s Media Relations. “This is the strip where Martin Luther King lived and Coretta Scott was three or four blocks down from here. Billie Holiday and Miles Davis played at clubs all along this side of Mass. Ave.”

Just around the corner from the start of the festival, on the intersection of Massachusetts and Columbus Avenues, stands Wally’s Cafe, which according to Boston locals is the oldest jazz club in America. It opened in 1947. And on the other side of Mass. Ave. is where the High Hat stood, another venue for the top big band acts of the day like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Today it is now known as the Harriet Tubman House, which is where I met up with the festival’s closeout performer, trumpeter (and Berklee alum) Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. He was just one of the many talented artists on hand to help continue the rich jazz legacy that still exists in Boston.

Bloco AfroBrazil

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Bloco AfroBrazil, Boston’s own percussion troupe, certainly helped to kick things early on in the festival. Combining traditional samba rhythms with more contemporary sounds of rock and hip-hop, it was obvious to see why Bloco AfroBrazil was a local favorite.

Berklee P-Funk Ensemble – The Parliaments “(I Wanna) Testify”

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Led by Lenny “the Groove Master” Stallworth, bassist for Roy Hargrove’s RH Factor and an associate professor, these Berklee students were “tearin’ the roof off da sucka” quite literally!

Meshell Ndegeocello 

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Vidoegraphers: Ryan Barndt and Sam Harchik,

Post production: Wes Yurovchak and Nicole Egidio

Matt Savage Quartet featuring Bobby Watson

Savage has already carved out a distinctive path as a talented, young pianist. Now leader of his own quartet, he can now call on greats like alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, who served as musical director for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, to help round out his overall sound.

Christian Scott Quintet

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Videographers: Jose Sanchez, Cara McCarthy, and Katerina Tolkishevskaya

Post production: Wes Yurovchak and Nicole Egidio

Words by Shannon Effinger (@ShannonEffinger)

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