JazzTown festival to bring nationally acclaimed jazz acts to Williams campus

JazzTown ’99, a new four day jazz festival, will be coming to Williamstown on April 8. The scheduled events will include performances from the Mingus Big Band, Ted Rosenthal Trio, Art Lande Duo & Joe Mulholland Sextet, and the 8th Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival. The festival is a joint venture of the Williams College Department of Music and Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.

Andy Jaffe, an artist-in-residence in jazz at Williams said, “[JazzTown is expected to be] a great four days of jazz featuring some of the best young talent of jazz today.” Jaffe was the main driving force behind the conception and realization of JazzTown.

David Kechley, co-chair of the advisory board for JazzTown and chair of the Williams College Department of Music said, “I think this festival has great potential because it brings together the College, the business community, alumni of all ages and the town in general around a common theme: enjoying some great music, in this case, jazz.”

In addition to various jazz performances, Williams alumnus Tom Piazza ’76, a leading author and expert on jazz, will lecture on jazz and its social components. Also, Mingus artist-in-residence Nicole Rustin will give a pre-concert lecture before the Mingus Big Band performance.

“It is great that we can bring in the lecture component as well with Nichole Rustin, who is here as a Bollin Fellow, and Tom Piazza, a jazz authority and writer who is also an alum. I met him some years ago and I wished for an opportunity to bring him to campus,” said Kechley.

A great deal of time and planning was invested by all groups involved in order to bring and find spectacular talent to the festival.

“Finding the talent certainly requires expertise, which I am happy to say we have in our department with Andy Jaffe, Ernest Brown, Ernie Clark and others,” said Kechley.

Stuart Shatken, co-chair of the JazzTown advisory board and former president of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, said, “JazzTown represents a winning opportunity for the Williamstown community and college to work together on an event that will provide celebrated jazz performances for the community, and also will attract interest from music fans all over the country. We are indebted to Williams President Harry C. Payne for his enthusiasm for this project.”

JazzTown will feature the Ted Rosenthal Trio with bassist Reggie Workman on Thursday, April 8 in Chapin Hall.

Rosenthal, a pianist known for his novel harmonic design, has toured four years with Gerry Mulligan. He has performed with Jon Faddis, Benny Golson, Randy Brecker, and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and was the first winner of the Thelonious Monk Jazz Piano Competition.

The Mingus Big Band will play April 9 in Chapin Hall, preceded by a lecture by Rustin.

The Los Angeles Times heralds the Mingus Big Band as a “spirited blend of the lush harmonies and boisterous blues sections, interwoven ensemble passages and sudden tempo shifts that made the late bassist Charles Mingus one of the most challenging and celebrated artists in jazz.”

Beginning on April 9 and continuing through April 10, the 8th Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival, featuring bands from Amherst College, Brown University, College of St. Rose, Community College of Rhode Island, Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, Schenectady Community College, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Williams will take place in Chapin Hall. Saxophonist Vincent Herring and bassist Boris Koslov of the Mingus Big Band will adjudicate the Jazz Festival. There will be an alumni jam session that Saturday night at 10p.m. in Goodrich Hall.

To wrap up the festival, the Art Lande & Joe Mulholland Sextet will perform on April 11 at Chapin.

All performances are free to Williams students, except the Mingus Big Band. Lectures are free for students and there is a small admission charge to the public. On April 10, the jazz bands will be playing gigs at the 1896 House, Main St. Café, and Water St. Grill. Dinner reservations are recommended.

Major sponsors include Hoosac Bank, Williamstown Savings Bank, South Adams Savings Bank, New England Newspapers, Inc., Massachusetts tourist department and First Massachusetts Bank.