Terri Lyne Carrington gives the BeanTown Jazz Fest the blues
It makes sense that when the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival — which concludes with two big concerts this weekend — looked close to home for an artistic director, it would turn to Terri Lyne Carrington. Not only does the 44-year-old Medford native have home-town cred, but her career has been broad and far-reaching, both in jazz and in pop, as a player, a composer, and a producer. In short, she's connected. A child prodigy who studied with Boston drum legend Alan Dawson, she received a scholarship to Berklee at age 11. She did stints as a TV band drummer (Arsenio Hall in the '80s, Quincy Jones's Vibe in the '90s), and she's been a regular in Herbie Hancock's bands since 1997. Her own More To Say . . .(Real Life Story: Next Gen) (E1 Entertainment) came out earlier this year. Four years ago, she started teaching at Berklee, and in 2006 she moved back to town from LA — after 22 years away.
Berklee had jobbed out production since taking over the nine-year-old festival — which was started by South End impresario and restaurant owner Darryl Settles ? in 2007. When I get her on the phone at her Stoneham home (she's in the midst of moving to Woburn "as we speak"), she says Berklee vice-president of academic affairs Larry Simpson talked with her about getting a Berklee faculty member with local roots to take over. "And it might be cheaper for them too!" she speculates with a laugh.
This year's festival officially began last week with the Regattabar appearances of Ahmad Jamal, but the signature events take place this Friday with the "Kickin' the Blues" concert at the Berklee Performance Center and then on Saturday with the event that started it all: an afternoon-long free South End block party at Columbus Ave between Mass Ave and Burke Street, with music on three stages.
"Basically I wanted to have a blues-themed festival," says Carrington. "I guess I felt that so many of us have the blues these days," she laughs, "with the economy and things going on in the world. But I like the blues, and I feel it's actually uplifting. I wanted a feel-good kind of festival musically, and not get too heavy."
Representing the different "shades of blue" ("Hey, we should have named it that!") at the Friday-night show: singer and keyboardist Amina Claudine Myers, who's done a Bessie Smith tribute and has deep gospel roots; singer Kevin Mahogany, who's been working on a Big Joe Turner project; Sanborn, who paid tribute to his R&B singer Ashanti Munir, who appears Saturday. "She's done the festival before," Carrington explains. "Her manager sent an e-mail, and they [the Berklee BeanTown committee] asked me if I knew her. She's my cousin! It's not like I went to them and said, 'Put my cousin up!' "
KICKIN' THE BLUES | Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass Ave, Boston | September 25 at 7:30 pm | $25-$45 | www.ticketmaster.com | BEANTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL OUTDOOR CONCERT | Columbus Ave between Mass Ave and Burke St | September 26: noon-6 pm | free | www.beantownjazz.org
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