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PREVIEW: The 18th annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival will take place April 18–28

Eleven days of events will include a swing dance, jam session, jazz crawl, jazz prodigy concert, jazz brunches, and performances from world-renowned headliners.

Pittsfield — April is National Jazz Appreciation Month, an observance the Smithsonian Institution established in 2001 to celebrate jazz music’s heritage as an American art form dating from the 1890s. Congress later recognized the observance, and the people of Pittsfield recognized it almost two decades ago with the annual CityJazz Festival, which runs this year from April 18 through 28. The festival also commemorates Duke Ellington’s 125th birth anniversary, which many of its performances will reflect.

The 10-day festival begins (appropriately) with an opening jam session on Thursday, April 18, at the Hot Plate Brewing Company. Visiting musicians will join in as pianist Dave Bartley calls the tunes, backed by bassist Pete Toigo and drummer Tom Major.

Festival weekends are anchored by the annual Jazz Crawl, sponsored by Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, where local artists perform in six different restaurants and lounges throughout the city. This is a good way to hear some of the Berkshires’ best jazz musicians at low to no cost.

The Wandering Dance Society, Mill Town Foundation, and the Don Mikkelsen Quartet will hold a swing dance at Proprietor’s Lodge on Saturday, April 20, which will include an hour of free dance instruction, and on Sunday, the 21st, Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on North Street will host a Sunday jazz brunch to conclude the festival’s first weekend.

Then, “headline week” begins with the Jazz Prodigy Concert on Tuesday, April 23 at the Berkshire Athenaeum featuring two actual prodigies, pianist Jasper Zimmerman and alto saxophonist Zach Catalano, backed by Pete Toigo on bass and Conor Meehan on drums. Sponsored by Friends of the Athenaeum, the Jazz Prodigy Concerts have provided many rising jazz stars with their very first performance opportunities.

But even the festival’s headline acts include a young prodigy: a pianist by the name of Brandon Goldberg. This 18-year-old made his Newport Jazz Festival debut at the age of 13 and has appeared at a number of jazz festivals and jazz clubs, including Jazz at Lincoln Center, Dizzy’s Club, The Side Door, and Birdland Theatre. Goldberg’s first local appearance was in 2022, when he performed for a sold-out crowd at Ventfort Hall. Reviewing the recording “In Good Time,” Downbeat Magazine wrote of Goldberg’s “… unassailable technique, advanced harmonic understanding, a deep sense of swing and, most impressively, a clarity and plethora of ideas executed to near-perfection.” Goldberg performs in support of his new CD, “Live at Dizzy’s,” at The Common Room, 74 First Street, Pittsfield, on Friday, April 26. Tickets are available here.

During the first 15 years of his career, Marcus Roberts released over 30 recordings of piano performances—solo, with trio, big band, and with symphony orchestra. Also during this time, Roberts performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with Seiji Ozawa conducting in a truly mind boggling revelation of Gershwin’s intentions that anyone can recognize as such. CBS featured Roberts in the 60 Minutes episode “The Virtuoso,” which traced his life from his early years in Jacksonville, Fla., and at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, to his career as a professional musician. Roberts performs at the Colonial Theatre, 111 South Street, Pittsfield, on Saturday, April 27. Tickets are available here.

Another jazz brunch at Dottie’s concludes the festival on Sunday, April 28.

For more details and the complete Pittsfield CityJazz Festival schedule, visit the Berkshires Jazz website.

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