Jazz season to include Mattapan festival, monthly shows at Ashmont venue

Clear Audience will kick off the 2019-2020 Dot Jazz Series with a concert on Thursday, September 12 at Peabody Hall.

Folks living in Dorchester and Mattapan have a lot of jazz to look forward to in the coming months thanks to an expanded monthly format for the Dot Jazz Series--starting in September--and a newly announced jazz festival in Mattapan. 

City Councillor Andrea Campbell announced this week the creation of the Mattapan Jazz & Unity Festival, a new event that will take place on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1-5 p.m. on the Foley Greens at 249 River St. The festival will feature live music from local jazz musicians, as well as arts and crafts, food vendors, and spoken word performances. Campbell told the Reporter the event has been years in the making. 

“I’ve been wanting to do this since day one on the council, and I’m excited to finally be making it a reality,” said Campbell. “When I was a candidate door knocking across the district in Mattapan, I frequently talked to residents who cared about the arts and the power of the arts for bringing communities together and providing educational space for children and also for promoting unity and celebrating different cultures. I had attended the Cambridge Jazz Festival, which was created by Ron Savage, a relative of mine, and I thought why not do that in Mattapan? We said we’re done waiting for someone else to make it happen.”

Savage, who runs a music center in Mattapan and serves as dean of the Professional Performance Division at Berklee School of Music, will be the musical director for the festival. 

Campbell added that the event will include a focus on Mattapan’s senior community; it will be held adjacent to the Foley Senior Residences on River Street to make it easily accessible for Foley residents, and will include an oral history project made possible through a partnership with Everyday Boston, a community-building organization that promotes sharing stories. 

“A major part of this is highlighting the stories of our seniors and elders that live in Mattapan,” said Campbell. Jazz “informs all the other music we listen to, from hip-hop to pop,” she noted, “so this will be way to kind of connect the dots, and connect the music traditions of our elders with the interests of our younger residents. We want it to be all ages coming together to celebrate music and Mattapan as a whole.”

The Mattapan Jazz & Unity Festival will be free and open to the public. 

Dot Jazz to return bigger and better

The news of a new jazz festival coincides with the return of the Dot Jazz Series, which will begin a new expanded season in September. This season will feature concerts on a monthly rather than bi-monthly basis, for a total of nine shows scheduled between September and May. A season pass is available for purchase for $100, which amounts roughly to a 25 percent total discount. 

Dot Jazz Series creator Mark Redmond said the 2019-2020 lineup is even more musically diverse than in previous years.

“We have a really varied program this year which is exciting,” said Redmond. “I’m excited about the variety in terms of style, age of musicians, and demographics. We have more women and people of color bandleaders, as well as some vocal-focused stuff...there’s a little something for everybody.”

Now in its third year, the Dot Jazz Series has grown to become one of the city’s most recognized and sought-after live music series. In a time when many venues and arts studios struggle to stay afloat (the venue that hosted Redmond’s Mandorla Music jazz series in Somerville recently closed, he noted), the Dot Jazz Series offers a unique opportunity to performers.

“What’s exciting about what we’re doing is it’s a different model. We’re guaranteeing a paycheck to everyone who plays,” explained Redmond. “We have a reputation. We have an audience that is into it and attentive...there are other places in town where you can listen to music but they are essentially restaurants first. It’s not necessarily where someone can present experimental music--you need a place to do that.”

The 2019-2020 Dot Jazz Series will begin on Thurs., Sept. 12 with a performance by Clear Audience, a quartet featuring Steve Fell on guitar, Andy Voelker on saxophone, Jef Charland on bass, and Luther Gray on drums. And with the series locked into its location at All Saints’ Peabody Hall, Ashmont has become a veritable hub for jazz in Dorchester. For Redmond, and for jazz fans in the neighborhood, that’s great news.

“It’s just great to see more happening on this end of town,” he said.

For the latest on Dot’s growing arts scene, follow Dan Sheehan on Twitter at @dsheehan1890.

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