By Max Fillipson
BU News Service
Berklee College of Music’s Ninth Annual Beantown Jazz Festival transformed six blocks of Boston’s Columbus Avenue last Saturday, September 26, for a day-long block party featuring Jazz, funk, blues and Latin performances. With acts ranging from local musicians and Berklee College professors to international superstars, the festival offered a medley to choose from, and all of it a pleasure to listen to.
Berklee alumni, students and professors were prominently featured in the festival’s line-up. Marty Walsh, a Berklee professor and guitarist who has worked with musicians like Supertramp and John Fogarty, spent an hour on stage with his band The Total Plan. After two fast and funky tracks of their own composing, the band invited Berklee student Jackie Foster onto the stage, where she took the audience by storm. Following tight on her heels, student David Stewart Jr. brought a level of energy to the crowd rarely seen at jazz festivals.
Walsh said he feels the festival offers a way to give back to the next generation of musicians by offering these up-and-coming artists an opportunity to get on stage and learn to perform.
“You know what young musicians like these need the most? Time and groove,” he said.
Time and groove was given to all performers at the festival, but not enough to satisfy the crowd. After magnetic performances, Marty Walsh & The Total Plan and performers Alissia & The Funketeers inspired chants from the audience for more, but both were turned down by festival organizers in the interest of time.
Music was far from the only draw of the festival–walking down Columbus Avenue, vendors attracted both eyes and nose. The smells of sweet BBQ-smoke and garlic filled the space between stages, and the sizzling of grilling meat over hot fires was at times louder than the music. Foods from all over the world were represented, from India to Jamaica. Traditional American festival foods like corndogs, hotdogs, and turkey legs fought for elbow room among jerk chicken, curry, and gyros.
And the crowd reflected a similarly diverse origin, but was of a far less rowdy character than festival crowds tend to be. College students mingled with families on impromptu dance floors, thanks to the mesmerizing performances that demanded to be danced to.
For a festival themed “Jazz: The Voice of the People,” Beantown showed that it was not just the voice, but also the party of the people.