Beantown Jazz Festival returns with blues, food and funk

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Beantown Jazz Festival returns with blues, food and funk

Sully Barrett

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Berklee College of Music held its annual Beantown Jazz Festival last Saturday, showcasing live jazz and blues music on three outdoor stages lined up on Columbus Avenue.

Starting at noon, thousands of people attended the event to enjoy the sunny weather and listen to artists such as Ralph Peterson, Catherine Russell and the Marco Pignataro Almas Antiguas Quartet. Next to the stages, local food joints served turkey legs, barbecue and fried dough.

Several organizations including Metro Boston and Art Works sponsored the festival, which WBUR, Boston’s NPR radio station, has attended for years.

“It’s fun for us to be able to sponsor festivals like this,” said Taylor Harris, a marketing specialist at WBUR. “It’s great to get out in the community and hear from people who love the station so much. It’s nice to just be able to chat with everybody.”

The festival upheld its tradition as a come-and-go block party for the entire public, with attendees visiting from all over the Boston area.

“Oftentimes, you’ll have a… kind of narrow demographic at events,” said Candice Springer, the marketing and events manager at WBUR. “And this captures families, college students and everybody else, so it’s great.”

The festival also provided many hands-on activities for children. KidsJam, a youth music education program at Berklee, offered free sessions for kids to explore a wide variety of musical instruments with faculty and students.

Reese Massey, a junior at Berklee majoring in music education, clapped along to kid-friendly songs performed by her fellow classmates.

“We’re all music education students,” Massey said, “and [the festival] is really good practice because kids are unpredictable. We all come up with a plan that works for the theme of jazz.”

Additionally, a row of tents dubbed the “Instrument Petting Zoo” provided kids with real instruments to try out. Volunteer students held demonstrations showing the proper ways to play electric keyboards, guitars and drum sets.

Well-known jazz bands such as Aggregate Prime, a four person band from New Jersey, performed on the festival mainstage.

Shea Rose, a Berklee alumna and the festival’s host, said this was her fifth year attending the concert.

“I love seeing the Boston community come out every single year to support this event,” Rose said. “And on a day like this, you see everyone that you know, so it’s kind of like the best party you could ever have.”

Rose is an acclaimed singer/songwriter who has received widespread praise from several Boston critics, as well as a scholarship from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She performed at the 2011 Beantown Jazz Festival the year she graduated from Berklee. The next year, she said, the college asked her to return as a host.

“It’s an honor, it’s a tradition now,” Rose said. “That’s the beautiful part about it.”

This year, Rose introduced artists on the Burke Street Stage, including saxophonist and Berklee professor Tia Fuller.

“I’m excited to see Tia Fuller,” Rose said. “She has an incredible career, and she performed with Beyoncé on her tour. She takes hold of that instrument and is like, ‘This is what I do.’ And I love that.”

The festival came to an close at 6 p.m., ending with Fuller performing songs from her latest album Diamond Cut.