(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Rising international star Blitz the Ambassador and the Berkshires’ own Misty Blues headline the seventh annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival on Friday and Saturday, February 3-4, 2012. The festival takes place at various venues on or near the MCLA campus in North Adams.
According to Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA, audiences can expect a little old school, a little new school, and an all-around weekend of great music and musicians.
“We kick it off old school style with Gina Coleman and Misty Blues channeling the great women of the blues – from the great Etta James, who we recently lost, to Bessie Smith. Gina and the band will bring their interpretations of the great women who have signified the blues,” Secor said.
Friday’s show begins at 9 p.m. Opening for Misty Blues will be MCLA’s Student Jazz Band. Chantel Baptista ’13, too, will lend her unique voice to the evening. This evening of blues will take place in the intimate setting of the newly opened Public Eat and Drink restaurant, 34 Holden St., in North Adams.
At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, MCLA’s Venable Gymnasium plays host to the proceedings, to allow for plenty of room to dance when composer-producer Blitz the Ambassador performs. Opening for Blitz will be the MCLA Jazz Band, the College’s Alegrettos and MCLA favorite The Smokey Wambas.
Blitz is a Ghanaian-American hip-hop and visual artist based in Brooklyn, N.Y. “He is truly an amazing performer,” Secor said. “With a lightning-fast mind, the political boldness of Chuck D and the sixth groove sense of Fela Kuti, Blitz the Ambassador calls on old school hip hop and shifts between English, West African and Ethiopian jazz, never stumbling over his words and messages. You don’t want to miss this party.”
In late 2009, Blitz was selected as of one Beyond Race Magazine’s “50 Emerging Artists.” His music career began while studying business administration at Kent State University in Ohio. There, Blitz developed his skills as a live artist, performing at several live shows and opening for rappers such as Rakim. He recorded a self-released album, Soul Rebel, in 2004.
After graduation, Blitz moved to New York City and recorded another album, Double Consciousness. More recently, he released Stereotype, a live, instrument-heavy musical exploration that draws on hip hop.
According to DJ Booth, Stereotype is one of the best albums of the year. “A testament to the power of live instrument hip-hop, Blitz the Ambassador’s latest effort is intelligent without being pretentious, complex without being inaccessible and rooted in hip-hop history without being stuck in the past,” he wrote.
Misty Blues will pay homage to the great female jazz singers of yesteryear on Friday. Its lead singer, Gina Coleman, formed the group after she performed in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production of Raisin in the Sun, and actor Rubin Santiago-Hudson told her that her voice was made for singing classic female blues.
Coleman, a Williams College alumna, performs the work of blues musicians such as Billie Holiday, Big Mama Thornton and Dinah Washington. The group includes guitarist/vocalist Jason Webster, bassist/vocalist Bill Patriquin, drummer Mike Basiliere, harmonica player Matthew Swanson and guitarist Jeff Dudziak.
Admission to the Seventh Annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival are specially priced at $15 for both nights. Tickets for a single night are $10 for general admission, $8 for MCLA alumni, $5 for MCLA faculty and staff. Members and MCLA students are admitted for free.
Tickets may be reserved by calling MCLA Presents! at 413.662.5204. For Friday night’s 9 p.m. event at Public Eat and Drink, Secor suggests calling the restaurant ahead for special dinner seating and reservations at 8 p.m. to get the best seats.
For more information, 413.664.8718, or go to MCLA Blues and Funk Festival.
MCLA Presents! is a program of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), a collaborative project with Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the City of North Adams. The BCRC provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world.