Music festivals small and large: Jazz Shares mini-fest and a new outdoor indie rock festival are headed to Northampton

Cellist and composer Tomeka Reid, left, brings her quartet to 33 Hawley in Northampton Feb. 22 as part of a mini-fest of concerts produced by Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares.

Cellist and composer Tomeka Reid, left, brings her quartet to 33 Hawley in Northampton Feb. 22 as part of a mini-fest of concerts produced by Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares. Image courtesy Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares

Alexis Marcelo, who studied with the late Yusef Lateef at UMass Amherst and later recorded with him, plays at 33 Hawley on Feb. 23 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.”

Alexis Marcelo, who studied with the late Yusef Lateef at UMass Amherst and later recorded with him, plays at 33 Hawley on Feb. 23 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.” Image courtesy Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares

Kris Davis, a Grammy winner and celebrated pianist/composer who’s won top jazz honors in recent years, comes to 33 Hawley on Feb. 24 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.”

Kris Davis, a Grammy winner and celebrated pianist/composer who’s won top jazz honors in recent years, comes to 33 Hawley on Feb. 24 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.” Image courtesy Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares

Rob Schwimmer, who PVJS co-founder Glenn Siegel calls “a chameleon who can play anything,” comes to 33 Hawley Feb. 25 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.”

Rob Schwimmer, who PVJS co-founder Glenn Siegel calls “a chameleon who can play anything,” comes to 33 Hawley Feb. 25 as part of the PVJS series “A World of Piano.” Photo by Steve J. Sherman/courtesy Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares

Local indie and folk-rockers Love Crumbs will play at Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1.

Local indie and folk-rockers Love Crumbs will play at Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1. Image courtesy Peter Hamelin

The Heavy Heavy, a British retro-rock band, will play Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1.

The Heavy Heavy, a British retro-rock band, will play Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1. Image courtesy Peter Hamelin

Butcher Brown, a jazz/funk/fusion band from Virginia, will play at Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1.

Butcher Brown, a jazz/funk/fusion band from Virginia, will play at Field Day, a new outdoor music festival, in Northampton May 31-June 1. Image courtesy Peter Hamelin

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 02-16-2024 3:54 PM

It’s still winter, but music festivals, small and large, are in the works. Here’s a look at some coming events, one that’s imminent and one further down the road.

First off, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares is offering a mini-fest next weekend, Feb. 22-25, at 33 Hawley in Northampton, with four shows featuring five ensembles/performers. All will be staged in the flex space managed by the Northampton Center for the Arts.

The series begins on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. with performances by two ensembles — 7 Poets, and the Tomeka Reid Quartet — that have two common denominators: cellist/composer Tomeka Reid and drummer/composer Tomas Fujiwara.

The latter is the leader of 7 Poets, a trio that includes himself, Reid, and vibraphone player Patricia Brennan. The Tomeka Reid Quartet includes Reid and Fujiwara, guitarist Mary Halvorson, and bassist Jason Roebke.

Glenn Siegel, co-founder of Jazz Shares, says both groups are built around some degree of improvisation, though he’s less familiar with 7 Poets. But Reid, he notes, brings a number of influences to her work in her quartet — she initially studied classical music — aside from simply playing an instrument rarely associated with jazz.

“Some of her pieces sound a bit like chamber music, and some can have some swing to them,” he said. “Tomeka has become a pretty big part of the Chicago jazz scene … she’s a composer of note who’s gained a lot of recognition in the last several years.”

Another interesting note about her quartet: Both Reid and her guitarist, Mary Halvorson, won MacArthur “genius grants” in the last several years for their work in expanding musical boundaries and sounds, both on their instruments and in their compositions.

“That’s quite a bit of talent in one group,” said Siegel.

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The Jazz Shares weekend continues Feb. 23-25 with “A World of Piano,” a series Siegel first staged in the mid-1990s at the Northampton Center for the Arts’ old location on New South Street. The series also ran there from 2003 to 2013, then was revived last year at 33 Hawley.

The solo pianists coming to town all have impressive credentials and varied styles, while keeping their feet planted pretty firmly in jazz.

The Feb. 23 performer, Alexis Marcelo, who plays at 7:30 p.m., also has some close Valley connections. The New York pianist studied under the late multi-instrumentalist and composer Yusef Lateef at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and also performed and recorded with Lateef.

“He’s a very lyrical player,” said Siegel, who notes that Marcelo was part of the jazz ensemble that played last fall at a production of Anthony Davis’ opera “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

On Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m., Kris Davis, a Grammy award-winning pianist and composer who teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, comes to 33 Hawley. Aside from serving as a band leader or co-leader on 24 albums, Davis was named Pianist of the Year by DownBeat magazine in 2020 and 2022, as well as Pianist and Composer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2021.

“She’s really emerged in the last eight to 10 years,” said Siegel. “She has incredible range both as a pianist and a composer.”

The series concludes Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. with a performance by Rob Schwimmer, a New York pianist and composer who Siegel says “is like a chameleon. He can play anything,” from cabaret piano, to material from The Great American Songbook, to works with the Bang On a Can music ensemble.

Schwimmer, who’s worked with many pop musicians including Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Trey Anastasio, also plays the theremin, the early 20th-century instrument played by moving one’s hands in an electromagnetic field between two antennae.

All that aside, Siegel noted, Schwimmer “is a very serious [jazz] pianist.”

Tickets and additional information are available at jazzshares.org.

Let’s have a field day

Through years of working for Signature Sounds, Peter Hamelin piled up plenty of experience in putting together music festivals: the Green River Festival, the Back Porch Festival, and the Arcadia Folk Festival, the latter an event he conceived of and produced in conjunction with the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton.

Last summer, Hamelin decided to try his hand at producing his own festival, one dedicated more to indie rock and younger bands. The one-day Field Day fest, held in June at a fairgrounds in Guilford, Vermont, just south of Brattleboro, featured 14 bands and was “a pretty big success — we felt like it went quite well,” he said.

So this spring, Hamelin, who has his own music production company, Urgent Message Music, is bringing Field Day to Northampton for a three-day affair that will include live music at the Three County Fairgrounds and in downtown Northampton.

The festival takes place May 31-June 1 at the fairgrounds, with a smaller number of bands playing sets in the city June 2 for free. Hamelin anticipates bringing 20-24 groups to the fairgrounds to play on three stages there.

“I live in Northampton, and I walk by the fairgrounds all the time,” he said during a recent phone call. “I’ve been dreaming for years of putting on a festival there. It’s a great spot.”

Hamelin, who also handles artist management as part of his business — he continues to do some work these days with Signature Sounds on a freelance basis — said he began thinking of an event like Field Day during the worst of COVID-19.

“I remember thinking, ‘I love rock and roll and I’d really like to see more of it around here,’” he said. “I wanted to put together a festival that would be aimed at an audience of [ages] 18 to 35, but could also draw in older people — music for everyone.”

The lineup is still being assembled, but it will include a mix of up-and-coming rock bands — “bands that are starting to tour nationally and generate some buzz,” Hamelin said — and local groups. Jazz, hip hop, and folk rock will also be part of the mix.

Local favorites including Love Crumbs and Sun Parade will be part of Field Day, as will Butcher Brown, a jazz/funk/fusion ensemble from Virginia. Another group is Sapien Joyride, young rockers from Hampshire College who Hamelin saw at a Battle of the Bands competition at The Drake at Amherst late last year.

“They were great,” he said. “Lots of energy.”

Hamelin is working with the Northampton Arts Council to flesh out details about select bands performing in downtown Northampton June 2, in spots that have typically been used there for outdoor music, such as Pulaski Park.

Field Day will also incorporate the environmental footprint of the Green River and Arcadia festivals, such as prohibiting single-use drink and water bottles; audience members can instead refill their own bottles from fresh water supplies on site. Food will also be available for sale, Hamelin said.

Additional information will be added to the festival website, fieldday.rocks, in the coming months.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.