Jaffe discusses history, previews Jazz Town festival

As part of the Faculty Lecture Series, Andrew Jaffe, Lyell B. Clay Artist-in-Residence and director of Jazz Performance, delivered a talk on the history and evolution of the Williams Jazz festival last Thursday. Titled “The New Millennium: Looking Back to the Roots of Contemporary Jazz,” the lecture also provided an overview of this year’s upcoming festival.

This year marks the eighth year of the Williams College Intercollegiate Jazz Festival. Each April, bands from throughout the region come and perform for adjudication, for professional performers and for one another. Schools come from as far away as New Hampshire and Rhode Island to participate. The festival allows school without conservatories to play and share music with other jazz musicians. “A lot of these institutions don’t really have outlets like this,” Jaffe said. “Liberal arts institutions have a different program than schools with a conservatory.”

Many professional players come and perform as well. This year’s festival is presented by the Williams College Department of Music, the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, and MASS MoCA and will take place April 4-9. To provide an overview of the upcoming festival, Jaffe gave a brief introduction to several of the performers by playing recordings and showing video clips.

The dance department is getting involved this year, coordinating a dance workshop with Frank Manning, considered by many to be the father of modern swing dancing. “[His] is really original creative work; there’s no precedent for that really,” Jaffe said. “Having him here is obviously quite an experience for all concerned.”

Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra will also be performing this year. One of the premiere jazz orchestras in the country, tickets for the event that were set aside for students sold out a few hours after they went on sale. Other major performers performing at the festival are the Boyer Brothers, Billy Taylor and Tom Harrell, all whom have played a major role in defining their respective musical genres.

The surrounding area is also becoming involved in the jazz festival. Various restaurants around Williamstown will be transformed into jazz clubs for a night with performances by Williams alumni. Also Mezze will be hosting a Jazz Tap Evening and a Jazz Night.

With the wide variety of performances and workshops this year, Jaffe is excited for this year’s festival. “Basically everything is a highlight,” he said. “The bases we’re covering are really quite extraordinary.”

For ticket information, call the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce at 458-9077.

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