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BeanTown Jazz Festival to celebrate female artists

Jacquinn Williams
BeanTown Jazz Festival to celebrate female artists
(Photo: Tracy Love)

Berklee professor and Grammy Award winner Terri Lyne Carrington will perform at the BeanTown Jazz Fest. (Tracy Love photo)

This Thursday through Saturday, accomplished performers and instrumentalists from near and far will converge on Columbus Ave for the 12th annual Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival.

Darryl Settles, owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen, launched the long-running festival 12 years ago. The event has been produced by Berklee College of Music since 2007.


Berklee alum and Grammy Award-winning singer Lalah Hathaway performs at this year’s BeanTown Jazz Fest. (photos courtesy of Berklee College)

On the big day, locals and tourists alike can crowd Columbus Avenue, jam to their favorite musicians and enjoy food and wares from local vendors.

This year’s theme is Celebrate Women in Jazz. Performers include Lalah Hathaway, velvet-voiced Berklee alum and daughter of the legendary soul singer Donny Hathaway, and Terri Lyne Carrington, Grammy Award-winning drummer, composer and producer.

Carrington’s album, “The Mosaic Project,” pays homage to powerful women in jazz and features artists such as Nona Hendryx, Esperanza Spalding, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson and Patrice Rushen.

Famous for its improvisational spirit, jazz is a long-celebrated genre with many musical pioneers behind it, from John Coltrane to Thelonious Monk to Ella Fitzgerald.

Carrington calls jazz music “one of the highest forms of spontaneous creativity.”

That might be true, but jazz as a business has taken a hit. According to data from the Recording Industry Association of America’s 2008 Music Consumers Profile, jazz sales fell from three percent of total record sales in 1999 to slightly more than one percent in 2008.

The decline isn’t limited to jazz, Hathaway noted, as the entire music industry is in flux. She said that in some ways, it’s a terrible time for artists, but a great time for innovative thinkers in the industry.

Hathaway, for one, uses social media in creative ways to personally engage with fans and create new music.

“I do all my own social media,” Hathaway said. “I answer a whole bunch of people every day and I try to give them an experience.”

Hathaway even got some of the lyrics for the song “We’re All in this Together” from one of her Twitter followers, Ingrid Woode. She also had a remix contest on Facebook for the song “My Everything” that featured a $500 grand prize.

Despite the volatility of the music industry and falling jazz sales, both Carrington and Hathaway remain optimistic.

“As with any high art, [it may be] harder to get support from audiences … but true art forms never dissipate,” Carrington said.

“As long as people love something, it will never die; whatever is true will always remain,” said Hathaway, who counts Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carrington and Spalding as some of her favorite female artists.

Hathaway is sure that jazz’s unique brand of storytelling will never go out of style.

“In terms of music, musicians and artists are alchemists,” Hathaway said. “We see what’s happening and we try to tell the story. Music is the magic art to tell stories in ways that others can’t tell it.”