Jazz festival hits streets of South End on Saturday

This Saturday, jazz aficionados of all ages will pack the South End for the 13th Annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival (BBTJF), a free outdoor event offering national and local jazz, Latin, blues, and soul acts on three stages.

Berklee College of Music Professor of Ensembles Lawrence Watson, who has lived in various Dorchester neighborhoods since 1984, will be epitomizing this year’s theme of “Jazz: The Next Generation” as he performs as part of Larry Watson & The WorkForce. Besides being an outstanding educator, Watson is also a civil rights activist who writes socially significant lyrics that chronicle and document the social history of the post-’60s era.

The Franklin Park-area resident recalls a life-changing moment in 1990 that jumpstarted his musical career. He tells the Reporter, “I was the performer chosen to sing for President Nelson Mandela during his visit to Boston.  I sang before 250,000 people on the Esplanade, and their response affected me profoundly.”

Watson wants to afford the same kind of inspirational opportunity to his current students and recent alums, who comprise the current “Workforce.” The name , he explains, comes from the Washington think-tank term ‘Workforce 2000’— in which the Hudson Institute predicted that our workforce would be much more ethnically diverse and people of color would be the majority even in Boston.

“My band is a tribute to ethnic and racial diversity of hard working everyday people,” Watson says.

This Saturday, he says, “I will showcase a freshman student who is a superstar on drums, an international student on Pans, and the next generation of soon-to-be-nationally-known artists. It is my way of passing the baton to this generation and hoping they will enjoy the kind of love and support I have received from Bostonians.” 

Also performing at this year’s festival are Dorchester students Michaela Nelson and Desmond Hankins with the Berklee City Music All-Stars Big Band Jazz Ensemble. Nelson is a trombone player. Hankins plays the alto saxophone. The 18-piece ensemble is composed of young talent from Boston who received Berklee City Music scholarships to attend after-school and summer programs on Berklee’s campus.

Broader scope festival highlights include ten-time Grammy nominated Meshell Ndegeocello; Will Calhoun Trio, led by the Grammy Award-winning drummer of the band Living Colour; and Robin McKelle & the Flytones.

Natixis Global Asset Management, one of the world’s leading asset managers, is the presenting sponsor. Past Jazz Festivals have drawn 80,000 music fans. The festival takes place this Saturday, September 28, noon to 6 p.m. on Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street. The Natixis Family Park will transform Carter Playground on Columbus Avenue with activities including inflatables, face painting, and an instrument petting zoo. The park also hosts KidsJam, an interactive program led by Berklee’s Music Education department, introducing young children to a variety of musical activities.
Get the full scoop on “Boston’s biggest block party” at beantownjazz.org.