Two jazz greats perform together for the first time
Organizers of the fifth annual Northampton Jazz Festival will hold a fundraising concert from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 in the Clarion Hotel Ballroom on Atwood Drive.
The event will feature a first-time, duo performance by Saxophonist Houston Person and Vocalist Karrin Allyson, a four-time Grammy nominee. The Northampton-based Green Street Trio—featuring Paul Arslanian on piano, George Kaye on bass and Jon Fisher on drums—will perform with Person and Allyson. Tickets are $50 per person or $90 per couple.
A reception will begin at 6 p.m., when Smith Academy’s Swingset Jazz Quartet will be on hand to entertain. Food stations will be open until the start of the concert, and a cash bar will be available throughout the evening.
The concert fundraiser, which is open to the public, was the brainchild of Arslanian, who is also the co-creative director for the Northampton Jazz Festival. “Karrin and Houston have wanted to perform together for some time, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to make that happen and benefit the Northampton Jazz Festival at the same time,” said Arslanian.
“We don’t charge admission for the Jazz Festival,” Arslanian added. “It’s a free concert open to all to come enjoy live jazz. We raise funds for the festival through patron donations, corporate sponsors, vendors, and special fundraisers like this.”
For sponsorship information, go to www.njfest.org.
This year’s festival will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12, with many jazz events scheduled throughout Hampshire County during the week leading up to the main event. It is expected to attract anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 people, said Steven Campbell, president. “The Northampton Jazz Festival is committed to showcasing the art of jazz throughout the Northampton region, featuring nationally-known talent and giving opportunity for our brightest young musicians to perform as well.”
Person is a tenor saxophonist, producer, bandleader and recording artist who has performed around the world. Since he first started recording in the 1960s, he has participated in the production of over 75 albums, working with many of the jazz greats. He has won the Eubie Blake Jazz Award, the Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund Image Award and the Independent Jazz Record of the Year Award, which he won in 1990 for his recording with Ron Carter, “Something in Common.” Because of his work with late vocalist Etta Jones, Person has been honored with a “Houston Person/Etta Jones Day” in Hartford County, Maryland, and in Washington, D.C.
Allyson first emerged as a jazz singer in the 1990s, but she has already recorded 14 albums and has been nominated for a Grammy Award four times. She has performed at some of the top concert halls in the United States, including New York’s Carnegie Hall. Allyson has also performed in multiple languages, using French and Portuguese lyrics in her 1999 album, “From Paris to Rio.”
According to Arslanian, “What makes Karrin special is her great musicality—she plays piano as well—her ability to sing in many languages and styles and her ability to scat sing beautifully.” Scat singing is the difficult technique of improvising melodies and rhythms, often without the use of words.
The Green Street Trio has played with both Person and Allyson on separate occasions. Kaye toured with Person and Jones as their regular bassist for five years. Arslanian said the trio’s biggest strength lies in its ability to work well together.
“We have been backing up different artists every week for five years now and have gotten really good at working as a unit,” Arslanian said. “We are very comfortable and enjoy the role of supporting a singer or a horn player.”