The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival celebrates music and diversity

The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival celebrates music and diversity

Written by Drefnie R. Limprevil, photos by Elizabeth Torres 

The usual Boston stomping grounds, where residents walk to class, work, or go to school was replaced by food, music, and celebration on Sept. 29 at The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival. The festival is a free community event that is hosted annually by the Berklee College of Music, taking place along Columbus Avenue and stretching on for six blocks. There were two main stages — one at both ends of the festival, along with a children’s stage which could be accessed off the main path, each with performers playing a different form of jazz to eager audiences.

Greeting festival goers was Darcel Wilson and her band, who performed at noon on the Mass Ave. Stage. Her passionate riffs over the band’s mellow tones created a more bright and powerful take on traditional jazz, breaking open the narrow scope that many may consider this genre of music to be. As Wilson sang, many swayed and a few danced along closely with the music, something that would only increase as the day went on. In between the spirited singing, Wilson took the time to introduce all the members of her ensemble to the crowd. Among them, were seasoned professionals, fellow colleagues, and students at Berklee, all embracing the acceptance of different musical approaches to the genre and the diversity of people performing at the festival. 

Darcel Wilson performing on the Mass Ave. Stage

Walking up the festival path, the sounds faded and the smell of various dishes intertwined into one pleasant scent that filled the air. Not only were vendors selling food, but also clothing, accessories, and other eclectic items. Some vendors also took the opportunity to provide services to the community, one table including voter registration and another couple providing healthcare education and services.

When reaching the other stage, upbeat trumpets, snappy drums, and the smooth voice of Diego Joaquin Ramirez and his band SULA could be heard. The band played a more traditional form of jazz, but with a modern, upbeat twist, allowing the music to move on its own. Throughout the day, attendees heard a range of different types of jazz, from Jason Palmer, the Marco Pignataro Almas Antiguas Quartet, Ralph Peterson, Aggregate Prime, Catherine Russel, Gerschlauer/Fiuczynski with Utar Artun, Drew Gress, and Jack DeJohnette, the Gregory Lewis Organ Monk Trio, Tia Fuller, and Debbie and Friends.

David Fiuczynski on fretless guitar performing on the Burke Street Stage

As the sun beamed down on the crowd, the number of families and college students alike only increased. The scene of people embracing, laughing, and dancing together became a familiar sight, and the strong sense of community had a presence of its own on the city streets. To a college student accustomed to dorm life, defined by mere cohabitation, it was a pleasant feeling to be in a space where people felt a connection not only to their friends and to those familiar to them, but also to those unknown — the diverse citizens of Boston. The festival serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of connection to others and the Boston community.

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