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Cambridge Jazz Festival returns to Danehy Park

Event features local and global performing artists, food trucks, mobile jazz museum

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Cambridge Jazz Festival returns to Danehy Park
Puerto Rican percussionist Eguie Castrillo. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE CAMBRIDGE JAZZ FESTIVAL

For eight years Ron Savage and Larry Ward, founders of the Cambridge Jazz Foundation, have brought vibrant, free live music to the public during the annual Cambridge Jazz Festival. The beloved event returns this weekend featuring Mozambican performer Albino Mbie, Puerto Rican percussionist Eguie Castrillo, Grammy Award-winning Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez and many more.

“I felt like we deserved to have an event in our community that celebrates the art form and celebrated the tremendous musicians who live in this area,” says Savage. He says he and Ward were inspired to launch the event after noticing that many Boston area musicians were performing at the Newport Jazz Festival, but had no outlet closer to home.

Albino Mbie will perform at the Cambridge Jazz Festival. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

New this year, the festival is partnering with Becoming a Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW), two local organizations that provide guidance and personal growth opportunities to at-risk young people in Boston. The students from the program will be leading volunteer groups during the festival, guiding guests to various platforms and activities, managing access to the first aid tent and senior citizen seating area and performing other duties. Many of these young people have been involved in the planning of the festival for months. 

On Sunday, Grammy Award winner Terri Lyne Carrington will direct a performance of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice Ensemble, made up of students and faculty members of the institute. Providing a platform for both BIPOC and female jazz performers has been a longstanding part of Savage and Ward’s mission. “Jazz festivals themselves, there are very few led by people of color,” says Savage. “It’s important that we do our part to make sure that there’s a level playing field.” 50% of the festival’s performers are women and 50% of the headliners in the festival’s history have been women.

Prior to the festival itself, the Cambridge Jazz Foundation will host their annual gala. This year the gala honors Andrea Campbell, attorney general of Massachusetts. Campbell was the first African American woman to win a statewide office.

Boston-based Panamanian singer and songwriter Gaby Cotter. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

“We are ecstatic to recognize Ms. Campbell at this year’s gala,” said Ward. “She’s faced incredible odds and challenges throughout her life and has turned her personal trauma into purpose while inspiring others with her story.”

The Cambridge Jazz Festival takes place at Danehy Park July 29 and 30, starting at 12:30 p.m. on both days. In addition to a full afternoon of live music, guests can peruse a marketplace of diverse local vendors, sample snacks from food trucks, explore the festival’s Mobile Jazz Museum, sip a brew in the on-site beer garden and take advantage of the family-friendly children’s area. The festival is free and open to all.

Music is the core of this festival, but it goes far beyond entertainment. “We wanted to use jazz as a platform to uplift the community,” says Savage. “That’s the whole point of jazz, to feel free to be able to express yourself.”

arts, cambridge Jazz festival, jazz, music
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