Pittsfield CityJazz Festival

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The Pittsfield CityJazz Festival:

  • Samirah Evans with Charles Neville – SOLD OUT!
  • Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience
  • Jazz Prodigy Caelan Cardello
  • Annual “jazz crawl”

Colonial Theatre, Flavours of Malaysia, and various other venues in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The 13th annual Pittsfield CityJAZZ Festival runs Oct. 6-15, with a wide-ranging lineup headlined by a 100th birthday tribute to Dizzy Gillespie; an appearance of New Orleans (now Berkshires) favorites Samirah Evans with Charles Neville; the annual “jazz crawl;” and a new discovery in the organization’s Jazz Prodigy series.

Things kick off on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 6-8, with Jazz About Town, the annual jazz crawl featuring local musicians in restaurants and lounges, no cover charges. The weekend concludes with a jazz brunch on Oct. 8 at The Rainbow Restaurant. Dates, details, and locations are continuously updated at www.BerkshiresJazz.org.

The free events continue on Wednesday, Oct. 11, with the annual Jazz Prodigy Concert at the Berkshire Athenaeum, 7pm. Sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum, this year’s concert features pianist Caelan Cardello and his trio. 17-year-old Cardello is the featured pianist in both the award-winning Jazz House Big Band and small group ensemble. He has performed with a who’s who of jazz greats, including Christian McBride, Gary Smulyan, Marcus Printup, Maria Schnieder, Paquito D’Rivera, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis and Gary Bartz, among others

Onetime New Orleans vocalist Samirah Evans opens the headline weekend on Oct. 13, at Flavours of Malaysia (8pm). One of the most popular jazz and blues vocalists in pre-Katrina New Orleans, Evans dedicates time to perpetuating indigenous American music. With a mix of swampy, sultry, and soulful takes on jazz standards and originals, she first performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1990, and became a regular fixture for fourteen consecutive years.

Hurricane Katrina caused Samirah and her husband to seek out new living arrangements, and they moved to his native town of Brattleboro, Vermont in the fall of 2006. She soon found herself sharing the spotlight with the legendary Shelia Jordan as a principal in a musical theater performance, Beatnik Café’, depicting the beatnik generation.

Guest soloist Charles Neville provides a special treat. The second oldest brother of the famed New Orleans musical family, his experience on saxophone has included rhythm & blues, funk, jazz, be-bop, popular and even American Indian music.

Evans’ group includes three of the top rhythm players on the New York scene, all of whom have deep Berkshires connections: Miro Sprague, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; and Conor Meehan, drums.

Flavours of Malaysia, is the setting for many a rising jazz artist, as well as those whose star has already ascended. For the jazz festival audience, Flavours is offering special dinner pricing of $15, with three choices from their most popular entrees. For the show only, tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the show. The doors open at 7:45pm, when the special dinner pricing goes into effect.

Berkshires Jazz celebrates Dizzy Gillespie’s 100th birthday on Oct. 14 (Colonial Theatre, 7:30pm), with a performance by the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, a 6-piece ensemble led by his long-term bassist John Lee.

History has produced its share of great artists and great people, and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was both.  As a performer, he left behind an incredible record of innovation and inspiration; as a composer, a broad repository of musical masterpieces; and as a man, a legion of friends, colleagues and compatriots who remember him with the same degree of love and esteem they reserve for his work.

The Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience showcases the unique rhythms and well-loved melodies (such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo”) of Gillespie’s oeuvre of Cu-Bop, which he developed in the 40s and 50s with Chano Pozo. That music rings every bit as fresh today, which is why jazz ensembles around the world are still performing it.

The musicians are drawn from the high-caliber pool of New York-based talent that frequent the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band and All-Star groups, including trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, saxophonist Sharel Cassity, Brazilian pianist/vocalist Abelita Mateus, drummer Tommy Campbell and percussionist Roger Squitero. They perform with energy, verve, and style, putting their own fresh stamp on a well-known genre.

The Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble, comprising selected student musicians from Herberg and Reid Middle Schools, among others, opens the musical proceedings at 7:30pm. Their set will include a guest appearance by Cassity. Tickets range from $23-38.

Headline weekend concludes with another jazz brunch at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, on Sunday, Oct. 15.

Most of the events are free; tickets are now available for the two ticketed events at www.BerkshiresJazz.org. Tickets for the Dizzy Gillespie tribute can also be purchased directly at The Colonial Theatre’s box office, 413-997-4444.