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Dudley Jazz Fest, a summer staple, returns

Afternoon of music coming to Mary Hannon Playground

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Dudley Jazz Fest, a summer staple, returns
A performance from the 2022 Dudley Jazz Fest. PHOTO: JAYPIX

Every summer, Mary Hannon Playground in the Dudley Village Campus neighborhood of Dorchester comes alive with the croons of local and national musicians performing in the Dudley Jazz Festival. Later this month, the hyper-local stage will once again host jazz performers for six hours of free live music.

Guitarist Fred Woodard established the festival in 2016 to bring accessible, high-quality music to the Dorchester neighborhood and to pay homage to Boston’s rich jazz history. Seven years later, the project is still going strong.

Fred Woodard, founder of Dudley Jazz Fest. PHOTO: JAYPIX

“I’m really happy to be able to showcase folks that want to keep growing as musicians,” says Woodard. “Events like this help musicians to thrive as artists … I feel like I’m doing a service to my neighbor and also a service to my fellow musicians.”

This year’s lineup includes saxophonist Pat Loomis, The Fred Woodard Collective, James Kamal Jones, Ron Mahdi & Rightly Guided featuring Nadia Washington, and Beacon Pop. Woodard emphasizes local performers and those with some connection to Boston. Loomis, for example, lived in Boston for decades before relocating recently to the West Coast.

This is the second year that Beacon Pop, a student group from UMass Boston, will perform. Woodard hopes to both provide festival experience for burgeoning musicians and showcase the wide range of musical programs and talent in the city. He’s an alum of Berklee College of Music himself and recalls how important that live stage time is to developing musicians.

In the early days, Woodard handled almost every component of assembling the festival. Now he’s been able to delegate organizational responsibilities like promotional flyers, electrical setup and preparing the tents for the stage. This leaves Woodard more flexible to focus on coordinating permits with the city and organizing the set list. As the festival has grown year after year, musicians now come to him requesting to be a part of the lineup. Jones, who also lives in the Dudley Village Campus neighborhood, was one such artist. The musician is particular about which gigs he accepts these days and felt Dudley Jazz Festival was important.

A performance from the 2022 Dudley Jazz Fest. PHOTO: JAYPIX

“It’s good for [audiences] to hear the music that was created by African Americans in this country,” says Jones. “People need to be exposed to a different type of music that frees you up to be creative and be in the moment.”

The Dudley Jazz Festival runs from 12-6 p.m. on Saturday, July 22 at Mary Hannon Playground. In addition to live music, visitors can sample local eats from food vendors and shop a marketplace of products by local artists and small businesses. Woodard says his aim is to create a space where the community can gather together, enjoy accessible live jazz music and celebrate the neighborhood.

“As well as it being a jazz festival, I kind of look at it as a block party,” says Woodard. “I want to really get the word out that there is something happening in the neighborhood, that’s for them, and it’s free.”

arts, Dudley Jazz Fest, jazz, music