Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival Returns September 30

The festival is Boston's biggest block party—a free, annual, outdoor public concert that has drawn as many as 80,000 in past years with its host of jazz, Latin, blues, and funk performances, along with family activities and an array of food vendors.

September 6, 2017

The 2017 Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival will take place Saturday, September 30 from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street in Boston’s historic South End. The festival is Boston’s biggest block party—a free, annual, outdoor public concert that has drawn as many as 80,000 in recent years with its host of jazz, Latin, blues, and funk performances, along with KidsJam, an instrument petting zoo, and an array of food vendors.

Curated by Berklee Professor Terri Lyne Carrington B.M. ’83 ’03H, a Grammy Award–winning drummer and composer, this year’s event will feature Lizz WrightEmily Estefan B.M. ’16, the Blue Man Group Boston Drum-Off, Camille Thurman and the Darrell Green Trio, and Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol B.M. ’97 and Whatsnext? on the Capital One Café Stage (Massachusetts Avenue and Columbus Avenue); and Kina Zoré, the Artistry of Jazz Horn, Marko Djordjevic and Sveti, Assol Garcia, and Oscar Stagnaro and the Peruvian Tinge on the Hep C Hope Stage (Burke Street). Debbie and Friends, a Grammy-winning children's music band, will play two sets in the Capital One Café Kids Zone area (Douglas Park).

The Corea/Gadd Band, featuring music legends Chick Corea and Steve Gadd, will close out the festivities with a ticketed concert on Sunday, October 1 at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC). Tickets are available at the BPC box office (136 Massachusetts Avenue) or online at

The fourth annual Blue Man Group Boston Drum-Off, a competition to find the most talented young drummer in New England, will be held for the first time at the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival. Five selected finalists will perform in front of the festival crowd and judges’ panel. The winning drummer will perform live with Blue Man Group and receive more than $6,000 worth of prizes. Last year’s winner, Jarrell Campbell, is a student at Berklee.

Also returning to the festival is KidsJam, an interactive program led by Berklee’s Music Education Department that introduces young children to a variety of musical activities, including singing, sound exploration, and playing rhythm instruments, as well as creating, listening, and responding to music.

Check for updates and a full schedule of events.

For the eighth year, Berklee is the proud recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support the Beantown Jazz Festival and its theme. In awarding the prestigious Art Works grant to Berklee, the NEA cited the festival as a celebration of Boston’s diversity as reflected in the attendees, music, food, and crafts.

Berklee is pleased to have the support of platinum sponsors Capital One Cafés and Hep C Hope this year.

About the Artists

Corea/Gadd Band

The musical partnership between Chick Corea and Steve Gadd is the stuff of legend. But the music is always new. Since Gadd became the very first electric Return to Forever drummer (true story), these two have turned out one game-changing record after another: The Leprechaun, My Spanish Heart, Three Quartets, and Friends. Coleading a band for the first time, they pick up where they left off, this time with young stars filling out the lineup: Lionel Loueke, the Beninian genius, on guitar; Steve Wilson, Corea’s Origin protégé, on saxophone and flute; the great Carlitos del Puerto on bass; and Venezuelan master Luisito Quintero on percussion.

Lizz Wright

Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as a "vocalist of substance more devoted to song than to image," Lizz Wright possesses a remarkable ability to sing in multiple styles, including soul, jazz, and gospel. Wright has been the recipient of nonstop critical acclaim and ever-increasing audiences ever since her Verve debut, Salt, in 2003. Dreaming Wide Awake followed in June 2005. Wright released her third album, The Orchard, in 2008. In 2010, Wright returned with Fellowship, featuring guest performances from bassist Meshell Ndegeocello and vocalist Angélique Kidjo. Her new album, Grace, will be released on September 15.

Emily Estefan

Recent Berklee graduate Emily Estefan, the daughter of Latin music icons Gloria and Emilio Estefan, has stepped out with a musical style all her own. The fast-rising singer-songwriter, drummer, guitarist, and producer released her Billboard-charting debut album, Take Whatever You Want, to wide acclaim in early 2017. The Miami Herald called the album “remarkably deep and sophisticated, and the Associated Press said, “the younger Estefan combines the slinky soulfulness of Erykah Badu, the righteousness of Lorde, and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman. After graduating from Berklee in 2016, she founded the indie label Alien Shrimp Records, which signed a multiyear distribution deal with Sony’s RED division last summer.

Camille Thurman

Saxophonist, vocalist, flutist, and composer Camille Thurman has been hailed for her “soulful inflection and remarkable, Fitzgerald-esque scat prowess (DownBeat) and as a “first-class saxophonist that blows the proverbial roof off the place (All About Jazz). A Fulbright Scholar and two-time recipient of the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award, Thurman has performed with Dianne Reeves, Terri Lyne Carrington, Patti LaBelle, Alicia Keys, and Missy Elliott, among others. She will be joined by acclaimed drummer and composer Darrell Green and his trio. One of the most in-demand live and session drummers working today, Green has toured with Cassandra Wilson, Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Smith, and others.

Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol and Whatsnext?

Whatsnext?, a 12-piece band led by Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol, a Grammy-nominated composer and jazz pianist, incorporates elements of Turkish music, contemporary jazz, and film noir-influenced music. The Boston Globe calls Sanlıkol’s music “colorful, fanciful, full of rhythmic life, and full of feeling, adding that it is “not touristy, but rather sophisticated, informed, internalized. The group’s self-titled debut album was named one of 2014’s best albums by Jazziz, and its critically acclaimed follow-up, Resolution, released in 2016, features Anat Cohen, Dave Liebman, Tiger Okoshi, and Antonio Sanchez as guest soloists.

Kina Zoré

Afropop six-piece Kina Zoré commands the dance floor with earthy yet electric African rhythms that echo from the Maputo, Mozambique, hometown of front man Helder Tsinine B.M. ’11. After moving to Boston to attend Berklee, Tsinine formed Kina Zoré (the band is named after a celebratory Mozambican dance) to share the stories and songs from his life in Africa. The group has attracted international attention, including features on BBC Africa and the Christian Science Monitor. In the spirit of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, and Thomas Mapfumo, Kina Zoré seeks to illuminate social issues that affect communities near and abroad. Tsinine’s composition, “Va Gumulelana (They’re Still Fighting),” which won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s grand prize in 2012, is a plea to end war, inspired by the Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992).

The Artistry of Jazz Horn

Jazzmeia Horn has a name that speaks for itself. Described by the New York Times as “a jazz vocalist on the rise who “uses a striking command to project a mix of didacticism and sweetness, Horn won the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and the 2013 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. A native of Dallas, Texas, Horn moved to New York in 2009 to attend the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. She quickly became a regular presence on the New York jazz scene, performing with Billy Harper, Delfeayo Marsalis, Mike LeDonne, and others. In 2017, she released her debut album, A Social Call, on Concord Records. She performs nationally and internationally with her band, the Artistry of Jazz Horn.

Marko Djordjevic and Sveti

Called a “world-class drummer” and “a true innovator by Modern Drummer, Marko Djordjevic has played on more than 50 albums and has performed or recorded with a long list of accomplished musicians, including Matt Garrison, Clarence Spady, Lucky Peterson, Bill Frisell, and Lionel Loueke. As the composer and leader of Sveti, “a group of absolutely monster musicians” (All About Jazz), Djordjevic writes music inspired by the rich musical tradition of his Balkan roots, with a nod to Western artists that have influenced him, from John Coltrane and Weather Report to Frank Zappa and the Police.

Assol Garcia

The winner of Best New Artist at the 2017 Cape Verdean Music Awards, Assol Garcia is considered by many to be the new voice of traditional Cape Verdean music, particularly in the morna and coladeira genres. Her debut album, Alma di Minino (Soul of a Child), produced by renowned Cape Verdean producer Joaquim “Kim” Alves, was released to critical acclaim in 2015. In May 2017, Garcia released the EP Nós Kazamentu (Our Wedding), on which her soulful and intoxicating voice is once again on display.

Oscar Stagnaro and the Peruvian Tinge

Led by Oscar Stagnaro, a four-time Grammy Award–winning bassist and Berklee professor, the Peruvian Tinge combine jazz and a variety of Peruvian musical styles, including festejo, lando, marinera, and huayno. Known for his versatility, Stagnaro has performed or recorded with Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Liebman, Danilo Pérez, Chucho Valdez, and the Boston Pops. A professor at Berklee since 1988, he has been largely responsible for the college’s development of Latin education. He was appointed executive director of Berklee Latino, the college’s Spanish-language program, earlier this year.

Debbie and Friends

From the moment they launch into their first song, “I’m Glad You're Here,” the children in the crowd understand their role: to participate, sing, dance, jump, and interact with Debbie and Friends. From that high-energy opener to an ecstatic ending, the pacing aligns well with the attention span of the bands young audience. They’ll rock out and get the kids dancing in a theatre-sized conga line, then they’ll bring them down gently to relax and engage in more attentive ways. Debbie and Friends has received 25 national awards, including the 2011 Grammy Award for their part on the Best Children’s Album that year with their anti-bullying song, “Walk Away.