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Review: Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival

Bringing a community together with crowd-pleasing music

Charles Neville, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Deva Mahal, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Donald Harrison, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Donald Harrison (l.) and Dr. Lonnie Smith, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Steven Bernstein, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Dawning Holmes, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015
Detroit Brooks, Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival 2015

The second annual Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival in Massachusetts showcased international jazz artists, local musicians, poets and aspiring younger musicians in an all-day free event. The main stage, set up in historic Court Square, faces the Springfield District Court and Symphony Hall. Perfect weather, great food and drinks, T-shirts, an art tent, farmer’s market and non-profit community groups lined the perimeter. New England Public Radio sponsored the all-day performances in the nearby Old First Church, and NEPR hosts Tom Reney of “Jazz a la Mode,” and “Jazz Safari” host Kari Njiiri served as emcees throughout the day.

One of the main goals of organizer Kristin Neville, executive director of Blues to Green, is to not only attract and introduce younger audiences to jazz, but also to present younger performers. Enriching and helping to foster youth appreciation of jazz the previous night, Charles Neville and Donald Harrison also gave a master workshop at the Community Music School of Springfield to students. Emphasizing the importance of jazz in school communities, kicking off the festival on the main stage was the Charles M. Greenlee Ensemble, joined by Sci-Tech students of the Community Music School of Springfield. Other young performers included the Khalif Neville Tree-O, playing in the Old First Church. Their enthusiastic performance featured recent Pioneer Valley Performing Arts high school graduates Khalif Neville on keyboards, Eli Heath on bass and current senior Brahm Masla on drums.

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Originally Published