First-Ever Easthampton Jazz Festival to Present Young, Local Musicians and Jazz Greats such as Andy Jaffe, Wallace Roney and Jimmy Greene
Donations sought via business sponsorships and an Indiegogo campaign to defray ticket costs
EASTHAMPTON—The first-ever Easthampton Jazz Festival will bring young musicians and world-renowned talent to the stage on Saturday, March 4 from noon to 10 p.m., and event founder and chair Carol Abbe Smith is seeking sponsorships and donations to help defray ticket costs.
The festival is divided into two performance events. An afternoon show will take place from noon to 5:30 p.m. at the 121 Club at Eastworks, with young, local musicians and singers to include Ginja Low Main; Kimaya Diggs and Friends; The Ellington Trio; Lizzie Meier, Stephen Kerr, and Mike Caudill; and the Darryl Kniffen Sextet.
The evening show from 6 to 10 p.m., emceed by Tom Reney host of NEPR’s Jazz a la Mode, will be held at Easthampton High School with the George Kaye Sextet taking the stage at 7 p.m. to perform Kaye’s adaptation of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans “Porgy and Bess” featuring Samirah Evans. At 8:30 p.m., The Andy Jaffe Octet will be performing a live premiere of Jaffe’s new CD, “Arc,” featuring Wallace Roney and Jimmy Greene, among other prominent musicians.
“This is the first time something of this scale has been produced in Easthampton,” said Smith. “The theme is ‘The Cubs meet the Lions,’ with younger professional groups and student groups playing during the day and, in the evening, the more established, professional groups.”
A creative reuse and upcycled art fair will coincide with the daytime events and take place in the lobby of Eastworks in partnership with Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse.
Smith said that close to $7,000 of the $10,000 event cost has already been raised, in part through a $2,500 Hatch Grant she received from ECA+ and with funds from: Williams College, where Jaffe led the Jazz Program for decades; local sponsorships from businesses; and an Indiegogo campaign.
If the fundraising goal is reached by Feb. 15, admission will be free, Smith said; if not, there will be a ticket fee of roughly $10. Businesses interested in sponsoring the event should contact Smith at email@example.com or 413-519-3654; individuals interested in donating can visit www.indiegogo.com and search for Easthampton-jazz-festival#.
Smith, a long-time resident of Easthampton, has long been active in the local music scene. She helped coordinate the Northampton Jazz Festival for five years, and she has been booking talent on various stages in Easthampton—and performing locally as a singer herself—for many years.
She was inspired to produce the Easthampton Jazz Festival after learning that ECA+ was offering grants for local arts events and receiving a $2,500 Hatch Grant award. “I’m really thankful to ECA+ for offering these types of grants for cultural events in Easthampton,” she said.
In producing the festival, Smith hopes to expand the already vibrant jazz community in the region, in a city that has been experiencing an arts revival.
In the 7 p.m. performance, bassist and arranger George Kaye will lead a sextet featuring vocalist Samirah Evans joined by Miro Sprague (piano), Michael Zsoldos (reeds), Eric Miller (trombone), and Claire Arenius (drums) for the opening set of the evening program. The offering is comprised of selections from the 1958 recording by Miles Davis and Gil Evans of George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.” The Gil Evans arrangements are adapted for sextet by Kaye. The 1958 recording is regarded by critics, musicians and fans alike to be the finest jazz interpretation of the opera and a pinnacle of orchestral jazz.
Kaye holds a master’s degree in music from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is a faculty member at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, Vt., and the bassist of the Green Street Trio, which hosts the Northampton Jazz Workshop every Tuesday night at City Sports Grille Northampton.
Composer, author and bandleader Jaffe will take the stage at 8:30 p.m., performing his recently released CD, “Arc,” live for the first time ever.
Jaffe has been active in music education for over 40 years, teaching at institutions ranging from conservatories and universities to liberal arts colleges throughout the Northeast as well as in Europe and Asia. He directed the Jazz Program in the Music Department at Williams College for 27 years and has served as founder and artistic director of the Williamstown Jazz Festival.
He currently teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Master of Fine Arts program in music composition. His contributions to jazz pedagogy include his books Jazz Harmony and Something Borrowed, Something Blue. His recordings include “Manhattan Projections” (The Andy Jaffe Sextet featuring Branford Marsalis, Wallace Roney and Marvin “Smitty” Smith), “Double Helix” (piano duo with Tom McClung), “An Imperfect Storm” (Bill Lowe-Andy Jaffe Big Band and Slovak Radio Orchestra featuring Richard Stoltzman, Bruce Williamson and Tom McClung), and “Arc,” featuring Wallace Roney, Bruce Williamson, Jonathan Barber, Bruce Clark, Kris Allen and Marty Jaffe.
The 121 Club at Eastworks is located at 116 Pleasant St. in Easthampton. The high school is at 70 Williston Ave.