LEE, Mass. — The summer jazz season opens in the Berkshires June 5-8, when the third annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend brings marquee performers and local jazz musicians to downtown Lee. Sponsored by Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc., in collaboration with Berkshires Jazz, Inc., the weekend event will be highlighted by the appearances of Sonny & Perley; The Sounds of Shearing; and the New Black Eagles Jazz Band.
Festivities also include a jazz brunch, an outdoor art show, and “jazz about town,” featuring local performers in an outdoor setting. Additional details will be announced as the event nears.
The festival opens on Thursday, June 5 with the exciting duo of Sonny Daye and Perley Rousseau. After a successful performance at last year’s event, Sonny & Perley return by popular demand. The duo achieves a rare musical symbiosis, having spent the last several years developing and perfecting their unique blend of jazz, bossa nova, American songbook standards, and international cabaret, which has become their musical signature. (Spectrum Playhouse, 8pm, $15 advance seating, $20 at the door).
The weekend gets into full sway on Friday, June 6, with the northeast debut of “The Sounds of Shearing,” the only tribute band authorized by the legendary pianist to carry his signature sound forward. For nearly 30 years, the George Shearing Quintet created a distinct jazz sound that defines a U.S. musical movement. Today five master musicians - including members of the original quintet- are bringing back the magical sounds of the jazz great. The ensemble, led by Charlie Shoemake on vibraphone, includes Joe Bagg on piano; Ron Anthony, guitar; Luther Hughes, bass; and Bill Goodwin, drums. (8pm, First Congregational Church; $20 advance; $25 at the door).
The Sounds of Shearing kicks off its first-ever northeast tour in the town where Sir George spent his summers for 10 years (in fact, the band will be staying at the very residence where Shearing stayed, the home of Dee Dee Fraser). Sir George Shearing was one of the most beloved and honored jazz pianists of all time. His widow Ellie will introduce the band via video. The vibraphonist Charlie Shoemake played with one of Shearing's premier quintets, and is now leading the tribute group.
The June 7 concert marks the return of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band to the Berkshires after a five-year hiatus Perhaps the country’s most renowned exponent of traditional jazz, this seven-piece band has delighted audiences all over the world for more than 30 years, with their huge and eclectic repertoire of jazz from the 1920s and 30s. (First Congregational Church; $20 in advance; $25 at the door).
The Black Eagles have a mature mastery of this great American music —from Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton to early Duke Ellington to Cole Porter; from blues to rags to popular songs of the era. In fact, the New York Times' John Wilson wrote that the Black Eagles are so far ahead of other traditional bands...there is scarcely any basis for comparison."
The Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend had its premiere in 2012, under the direction of Rich Vinette. In 2013, Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc. and Berkshires Jazz, Inc. combined efforts on this event, which has quickly become a signature event of the summer cultural season.