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Pittsfield CityJazz Festival Adds Guitar Master Class, Jam Session

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Headline Concerts Feature Dave Brubeck Quartet, Frank Vignola, Industrial Jazz Group, and Royal Hartigan with blood drum spirit

<Berkshires Jazz, Inc. today added two new activities to its fifth annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, a master class with guitarist Frank Vignola and a closing-day jam session. Spanning two weekends, the Oct. 7-18 festival features a series of free and ticketed events with nationally known headliners, regionally based jazz musicians, and a growing commitment to jazz education.



The festival gets under way on Wednesday, Oct. 7, with a free concert by the Royal Hartigan group at the Berkshire Athenaeum. A jazz percussionist and pianist of international renown, Hartigan is a one-time tap dancer who has studied and performed the musics of Asia, Africa, Europe, West Asia, and the Americas. A former Pittsfield resident, his local appearances are always popular. Hartigan's ensemble, blood drum spirit, takes its name from a quote by Baby Dodds: “Drumming is spirit." Hartigan says he works “to give my blood through the drum to share that spirit."

On Columbus weekend, Oct. 9-11, the festival will feature its popular “Jazz About Town" series, with restaurants and lounges presenting local musicians and all genres of instrumental and vocal jazz, all at no charge. Restaurant owners have reported increased attendance and longer visits by patrons on the nights when they have participated in this aspect.

The “headline weekend" will last for four days, starting on Oct. 15 with Pittsfield's “Third Thursday" observance, which will feature the California-based Industrial Jazz Group. Frustrated by the limitations of “Jazz, the Institution," and bored by the mediocrity of much modern pop, the IJG has slowly pioneered the concept of “avant-garde party music." They demonstrate that music can indeed be complex, sophisticated, sexy, fun, funny, critical, smart, and groovy all at once. Their free performance will take place outdoors on Pittsfield's mobile “sound stage."

The newly-announced master class with Frank Vignola will also take place on Oct. 15, and is sponsored by the Berkshire Music School, which will host the event on its campus at 30 Wendell Ave., in Pittsfield. Intermediate guitarists and above are invited to bring an instrument that can be played without amplification to the class. The master class begins at 7:15pm; admission is $20, and is open to both students and the general public.

An annual festival highlight is Jazz In Schools, spanning the 12-day jazzathon and presenting performances, demonstrations, and discussions by the Pittsfield Sister City Jazz Ambassadors. This group, which has toured Pittsfield's sister cities abroad, is headed by guitarist and teacher Andy Kelly. Thanks to generous underwriters, Jazz In Schools is provided at no cost to students or the school system, and is part of the festival's mission to promote jazz education. In addition to his Oct. 15 master class, this year's Jazz in Schools program will be enhanced by two special appearances by Frank Vignola on Oct. 16.

On Friday, Oct. 16, Vignola, a frequent performing companion with the late Les Paul, will appear at the Top of the Crowne, the lounge overlooking Pittsfield from the top floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Vignola plays all forms of music, from Django Reinhardt to bluegrass, and the variety of his performances have created a strong fan base of all ages. Tickets for the 7:30 concert are $20.

Dave Brubeck celebrating the 50th anniversary of his groundbreaking Time Out album, which included the hit “Take 5," will appear with his quartet at the Colonial Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 17. The Pittsfield CityJazz Youth Ensemble, a county-wide 16-piece big band assembled for the occasion, will open for Brubeck and will perform with him. The concert starts at 8pm, and tickets are $25 and $15.

The festival closes on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 18, with the monthly “Jazz Jam" at 3pm, at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Ave., Pittsfield. Art Niedeck, a Juilliard-educated drummer and percussion instructor, hosts these events on the third Sunday of each month. Musicians at varying levels frequent the jam sessions, which are open to the public at no charge.

In an effort to continue presenting Jazz In Schools and keep concert prices at an accessible level, the Pittsfield CityJazz Festival has successfully partnered with several local, regional, and national organizations to underwrite various components. This year's primary sponsors include the Pittsfield Cultural Council, Greylock Marketing Group, TD Banknorth, Berkshire Bank, Legacy Banks, the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Jamey Aebersold Jazz Books, The Colonial Theatre, and South Adams Savings Bank. Dave Brubeck's appearance is made possible by a grant from the Chervenak-Nunnall Foundation, in memory of Francoise Nunnall

Tickets and further information about the Frank Vignola Master Class are available at the Berkshire Music School 413-442-1411.

Tickets for the Oct. 16 and 17 concerts are on sale at the Colonial Theatre box office, 413-997-4444, and online through the festival's web site, www.BerkshiresJazz.org, where regular updates can also be found.

The Pittsfield CityJazz Festival was formed in 2005 to present mainstream and traditional jazz in a downtown setting. Over its first four years, the festival has presented such headline talent as NEA Jazz Masters Billy Taylor and Phil Woods; up-and-coming artists such as Grace Kelly; individual standouts such as TS Monk, Jr., Claire Daly, Peggy Stern, Winard Harper and Barbara Dennerlein. The New England Jazz Ensemble released a 'live' recording of that band's appearance at the festival. The festival's 2005 opening act, The New Black Eagle Jazz Band, was the first group to make a return engagement, appearing with the Pittsfield CityJazz Youth Orchestra in 2008.

In 2009, the festival steering committee established Berkshires Jazz, Inc., a non-profit organization whose twofold mission is to present 'live' jazz events and promote jazz education within Berkshire County.

Festival at a glance
Oct. 7, 7pm: Royal Hartigan with blood drum spirit
Berkshire Athenaeum (free)

Oct. 9-10: : “Jazz About Town" Local performers appearing in restaurants throughout downtown Pittsfield (free)

Oct. 15, 5-8pm: The Industrial Jazz Group
Outdoors, downtown Pittsfield (free)

Oct. 16, 7:30pm: Frank Vignola Trio
“Top of the Crowne" ($20)

Oct. 17, 8pm: Dave Brubeck Quartet with the Pittsfield CityJazz Youth Ensemble
Colonial Theatre ($25/15)

Oct. 18, 3pm: Open Jazz Jam
Lichtenstein Center for the Arts (free)

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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