Central Mass Jazz Fest improvises with virtual and “pop up” shows
WORCESTER – The Central Mass Jazz Fest kicked off in June 2019, as a free one-day event at Cristoforo Colombo Park (East Park) on Shrewsbury Street. It rained a bit, but “we thought it went very, very well,” said festival organizer Mauro DePasquale.
A fundraiser (with sponsors) for the WCCA TV public access television station and media center, 415 Main St., where DePasquale is the executive director, the event was also intended to be a highlight for music lovers and to show the commitment of WCCA in Worcester.
The festival hoped to gain a foothold on the cultural calendar. DePasquale is also a great jazz enthusiast, musician and composer who said, “I play a little jazz, it’s my passion.
Last year the festival was reportedly expanded and held in downtown Worcester Common, but it fell victim to the pandemic.
For 2021, however, the Central Mass Jazz Fest is back, although in the best traditions of jazz there has been some improvisation in terms of editing.
It will be a “free hybrid virtual event with live ‘pop up’ jazz concerts,” DePasquale said.
On Monday, several artists will come to the studios of WCCA TV to record sets that will be released in September. However, WCAA TV will be cutting its programming during the day to provide an overview of what is going on.
“We plan to perform live on WCCA TV 194, wccatv.com with live and live simulcast on Facebook throughout the day (June 14) with unannounced and random live previews of each artist. on an hourly basis, ”DePasquale said. . “We call this phase of production ‘The CMJF Swing Into Spring’ a jazz teaser.”
Performers will include Triangulation, with Mitch Seidman (noon); Gabe Abate Quartet (1 p.m.); Bill Fanning Trio (3 p.m.); Jazz trio (4 p.m.); and singer Donna Byrne (6 p.m.). Jazzed Up Trio features DePasquale on piano and has won numerous local awards.
Celebrating the return of live music
The Central Mass Jazz Fest is “also a celebration to usher in the return of concert halls,” DePasquale said, and with that in mind, there will be three free “Pop Up” jazz concerts in August.
The first concert will take place on August 4 at a location and time to be announced. Indoor concerts are scheduled for noon on August 11 at Belmont AME Zion Church, 55 Illinois St., and 5:30 p.m. on August 19 at Chashu Ramen & Izakaya, 38 Franklin St.
Acts to date for these shows include Michelle Wilson with Pamela Hines, Isosceles Groove, Bill Fanning, Jazzed Up Trio and others. The precise programming of each show will be announced shortly. Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For more information, visit wccatv.com. Those attending the AME Zion Church concert are encouraged to bring non-perishable food for the church pantry.
Then the week of September 6-10 will see what DePasquale called “the real” Central Mass Jazz Fest, with shows from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening taken from sessions recorded on June 14.
“Each day will feature a full hour of amazing jazz music, plus artist interviews,” DePasquale said.
The shows will air on WCCA TV 194, wccatv.com, Facebook live and on Roku (Worcester TV).
All material from the recordings can be edited into a documentary program that will be broadcast, DePasquale said. In addition, individual recording sessions can be published as CD or DVD
“They are all fantastic artists,” DePaquale said.
Triangulation jazz guitarist Mitch Seidman has been described by Just Jazz Guitar Magazine as “fearless, letting his solo go where it needs to go musically, breaking through the barlines and cranking up the intensity throughout.”
Trumpeter, composer and teacher Bill Fanning gives concerts and conducts workshops in the United States and abroad as a member of the Jeff Coffin Mu’tet. As an independent musician in Nashville and the Northeast, he has toured with the Artie Shaw Band, Benny Goodman Tribute Band, Max Carl and the Big Dance Horns with Glenn Frey, and performed with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
Donna Byrne has been invited by Tony Bennett to open several of his shows in the United States and abroad, most notably at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Bennett has praised her many times, saying, “It doesn’t get better than this… One of the best young female jazz singers in the country today. She’s the real McCoy.” DePasquale said: “She is known the world over.”
Greg Abate is an internationally renowned saxophonist, flutist and jazz composer. John Chan of Chan’s Chinese Restaurant and Jazz & Blues Music Club in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, awarded Abate the title of “Prince of Bebop”.
His performance was one of the highlights of Central Mass Jazz Fest 2019, DePasquale recalled.
“Greg Abate put in such an impressive performance at East Park that we are happy to see him back,” he said.
DePasquale wasn’t sure what to expect from the inaugural Central Mass Jazz Fest.
The idea for WCCA TV to have an all day jazz event came about because “the station needs to do a big fundraiser and we want to be a part of the downtown rebirth,” DePasquale said at the time. “We wanted to do something that is part of our mission and raise funds. Why not come up with something that would benefit the whole city as well as us?
DePasquale had booked a jazz series at Union Station a few years ago, but said, “It wasn’t the best place.”
Worcester has a tradition of jazz and, along with WICN-FM (90.5), is one of the few cities in the country to have a National Public Radio affiliate station which devotes the majority of its local programming to jazz. The popular Jazz at Sunset series had gone dark but was relaunched and may even return this summer.
As things turned out in 2019, “We were even successful in raising funds,” DePasquale said. The festival attracted between 700 and 800 people. “We had rain, even hail.
They huddled up, had umbrellas, and people approached the scene (remember that was before the pandemic), DePasquale said.
“The musicians loved it, so it was a really good time for the participating musicians and the jazz fans who came. We thought it was a lot of fun. We were very successful in our t-shirt sales.”
After 2019, “We didn’t really plan to have the same venue, necessarily,” DePasquale said, and for 2020 the idea was to go downtown until the event had to be. canceled.
Schedule a challenge
Planning for 2021 took place against a backdrop of ever-changing state regulations regarding performance venues in response to the pandemic.
“It was scary to sign up (for an on-site event),” DePasquale said. Some of the protocols for outdoor events had heavy restrictions, he noted. Even though at present the state has repealed many protocols, “that doesn’t mean people can’t get the disease. As far as we know, things could turn back.”
However, “When we saw them turn the corner, we thought maybe we could make it a hybrid event,” DePasquale said.
“The purpose of this is really fundraising,” he said of the festival. But musicians are paid to participate. “The music has taken a big hit (because of the pandemic),” he said.
Sponsors include public donations, a grant from the Worcester Arts Council, Berkshire Bank, THERMOLOGIC, Worcester Family Eye Care, French Music, The EcoTarium, Belmont AME Zion Church, Chashu Ramen + Izakaya and WCCA TV. There is still room for sponsors and volunteers.
DePasquale said his jazz trio lost more than 100 concerts compared to last year. As venues and concerts begin to open up, “a lot of places are new places, a lot of faces are new faces,” he said.
It’s good in a way, “but we’re noticing a little reluctance to go out.”
He also wants to see the old halls and the old faces.
Maybe all in time.
For the Central Mass Jazz Fest 2022, “We were hoping that next year we will be completely clear,” DePasquale said.
“Next year, we hope the festival will come back to life.”