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Neighborhood rhythms

The Dudley Jazz Festival returns for third year

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Neighborhood rhythms
George Russell, Jr. plays with his band. -Photos: courtesy of Frederick Woodard

The Dudley Jazz Festival returns for a third year at Mary Hannon Park on Saturday, July 28 from 12 to 6 p.m. This year, the Fred Woodard Collective, Ricky Ford, Monte Croft and Lydia Harrell will headline what is rapidly becoming a community tradition. Organizer Fred Woodard says the event will also feature vendors offering arts, crafts and food.

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A Berklee graduate, Woodard has been leading the Fred Woodard Collective since 1988. In 2016, he decided to establish a jazz festival in Dorchester to bring music into his community. The Dudley Jazz Festival also aims to stoke an interest in jazz among young people, who may go on to carry the genre forward.

Frank Lacy conducts the Makanda Project during last year’s Dudley Jazz Festival. -Photos: courtesy of Frederick Woodard

Frank Lacy conducts the Makanda Project during last year’s Dudley Jazz Festival. -Photos: courtesy of Frederick Woodard

Woodard says it was important to him to keep the festival in the Dorchester and Roxbury area. “A lot of folks in the neighborhood haven’t been exposed to jazz,” says Woodard. “When jazz musicians do come to town, they’re not playing in this neighborhood.” This is particularly poignant because of Roxbury’s integral role in Boston’s jazz history; many musicians got their start in neighborhood clubs.

Harrell and Ford both have roots in Boston. When pianist and educator Ran Blake overheard Ford playing at a Boston nightclub, he encouraged him to study music at the New England Conservatory. In 1974, Ford joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra and went on to produce his own music. Coming full circle, Ford’s latest release featured his former New England Conservatory teacher, Jaki Byard.

Boston-based Lydia “LovelySinger” Harrell lives to perform jazz and soul. Since the age of 7 she’s studied piano, clarinet and voice, and in 2007 performed with the Boston Pops. Further ingraining herself into the Boston landscape, Harrell sang the national anthem for the Celtics during both the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In addition to her solo performances, Harrell also teaches music and headlines a band that performs at events around New England.

When Monte Croft was 10 he received a drum set for Christmas and immediately began making beats. At 14 he discovered the vibraphone, and the rest is musical history. Croft also cut his teeth at Berklee and performed at Boston area clubs before moving to New York. Most recently, Croft’s work can be heard in the 2017 film “The Greatest Showman” starring Hugh Jackman.

As the festival progresses, Woodard selects unique artists to bring a new sound to Dudley. “Each year I’m trying to do something different,” he says, “so someone who’s not acclimated to jazz can get involved.”

In the event of rain, the festival will be moved to the Bruce C. Bolling building in Roxbury at the same date and time.

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