(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) — Grace Kelly, Phil Woods, Armen Donelian, Gregory Caputo, and the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble will be among the performers at the 2011 Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, October 7-20. Now in its seventh year, the festival comprises some two dozen concerts and events throughout downtown Pittsfield.
In addition to headline concerts on Oct. 14-15, this year’s festival introduces a jazz prodigy series and continues the popular jazz crawl.
Highlight of this year’s festival will be the Oct. 15 reunion of Phil Woods and Grace Kelly on the Colonial Theatre stage where, during the second festival in 2006, NEA Jazz Master Woods gave his iconic leather cap to the 14-year-old prodigy Kelly, who had been invited to sit-in with Woods and the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors. The event has become part of jazz lore, and earlier this year Woods and Kelly commemorated it by releasing their duo recording, Man with the Hat.
Among the festival’s major events are the following:
• The festival gets under way on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 7-9 with Jazz About Town, when several restaurants and lounges in downtown Pittsfield offer a variety of instrumental and vocal jazz performances, both indoors and outdoors. As many as a dozen venues have participated in this “jazz crawl” during previous festivals. The full schedule will be published at BerkshiresJazz.org and elsewhere in days prior to the kickoff.
• The festival is inaugurating a Jazz Prodigy series with pianist Alma Macbride, winner of the Mary Lou Williams Competition at Lincoln Center. Now a high school junior, Macbride will appear in a free concert at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
• Making his Pittsfield debut is one of the Northeast’s performing and composing treasures, pianist Armen Donelian, who was described by the New York Times as having “a crystalline touch, but a penchant for avant-gardism.” He is composer of more than 90 works and has produced 12 critically acclaimed recordings. Donelian is a Fulbright Senior Scholar for work in Armenia, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden. He has received six Jazz Performance Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. His trio includes Dave Clark on bass and George Schuller on drums; they will appear on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 pm in the new performance space at Baba Louie’s, 34 Depot St., Pittsfield.
• The festival moves to The Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield, on Oct. 15, for the 8pm concert with Grace Kelly, Phil Woods, and the Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble. Their return to Pittsfield marks the end of a yearlong tour, performing works from their new recording. In addition to being the title of their CD, Kelly’s composition “Man with the Hat” is a tribute to her mentor, Woods. They have received rave reviews for their performances at this year’s Montreal and Newport Jazz Festivals.
• Drummer Greg Caputo will appear as a special guest with the Grace Kelly ensemble. Caputo’s big band recording features Phil Woods as soloist, and Grace Kelly has also performed with the Caputo band, making this an extraordinary reunion. Besides his work as a big-band drummer and leader, Caputo toured this summer with Sheila Jordan.
Kelly has been named to Down Beat magazine’s critics’ poll as “Alto Saxophonist Rising Star” for the past three years, the youngest person to receive that honor. She also won “Best Jazz Artist” by the Boston Phoenix this year, and for the past four years she has received the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award. She has seven CDs to her name, including one with Lee Konitz and her latest with Phil Woods.
At the age of 80, NEA Jazz Master and multiple Grammy winner Phil Woods is still touring, performing, and making recordings. In addition to this year’s release with Kelly, his latest is a duo with New York pianist Bill Mays. A native of Springfield, Mass., he has performed with a broad spectrum of artists and probably has the most-frequently-played alto solo on record, backing Billy Joel on “Just the Way You Are.” He won the Downbeat Magazine new star award in 1956, and in 1994 was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame.
The festival concludes on Oct. 20 with various indoor and outdoor musical events as part of Pittsfield’s Third Thursday block party.
The Colonial Theatre box office, website or 413-997-4444, is handling tickets for both headline concerts (Armen Donelian Oct. 14 at Baba Louie’s and Kelly-Woods Oct. 15 at the Colonial). Most of the other events are free.
Berkshires Jazz, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose twofold mission is to present jazz events and promote jazz education in Berkshire County, in western Massachusetts. Its signature event is the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival.
Full details on Jazz About Town and other events are continually updated at http://www.BerkshiresJazz.org.