Pittsfield City Jazz Festival this week

Berkshires Jazz, Inc. today announced the final lineup for its fifteenth annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival, Oct. 11-20 in various venues around the city’s Upstreet Cultural District. A signature event of the fall foliage season in the Berkshires, festival highlights include a rare pairing of mother-daughter vocalists Stephanie Nakasian and Veronica Swift, Cuban piano standout Dayramir Gonzalez, jazz prodigy Anton Kot, a “jazz crawl” that features local musicians in downtown venues, jazz brunches, and more.

Things kick off on Friday, Oct. 11, with the Jazz crawl, where six restaurants and lounges will be featuring Berkshires-based musicians. Part of a weekend of “Jazz About Town,” the jazz crawl schedule is at the end of this release. The weekend concludes on Sunday with two jazz brunches at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge (10am-2pm, with music until noon) and Hotel on North (11am-2pm).

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Anton Kot, a 16-year-old pianist and drummer, will make his Berkshires debut in the annual Jazz Prodigy Concert. The Jazz Prodigy Concert features a young artist who has not been recorded commercially and who is expected to become a force in jazz. Sponsored by the Friends of the Athenaeum, the concert starts at 7pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave. Admission is free.

From Milford, Connecticut, Kot was a discovery of the Litchfield Jazz Camp, which provides a nurturing environment for budding talent. Among his myriad honors, Kot toured internationally this year with Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz, a big band that gives outstanding young jazz from across the country the opportunity to perform as cultural ambassadors on an international stage, sharing a uniquely American musical genre with cultures around the world. He will be performing with Paul Arslanian (piano) and Steve Bulmer (bass), in a group assembled by Berkshires Jazz.

Headline weekend starts on Friday, Oct. 18, with pianist Dayramir Gonzalez and his quartet. A Cuban jazz pianist, composer, arranger and music visionary, Gonzalez has appeared at leading jazz venues worldwide, He will be performing on the Steinway at the Berkshire Museum, 39 South Street. His group includes Dean Torrey, bass; Juan Chiavassa, drums; and Arturo Stable, a master Cuban percussionist and composer.

Gonzalez’s knack for weaving a mosaic of both traditional and cutting-edge inspirations is not solely tethered to his daring blend of genres. His music embraces the pulse and mystique of New York City, as well as the allure of early 20th century Cuban sonic leanings and the cultural roots and myths of sensually fused Yoruba religious elements, elevated by his 21st century precision. 

He was the first Cuban National to Receive Berklee’s Presidential Scholarship, and also received the prestigious Wayne Shorter Award for Best Jazz Composer in 2013. He appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba in 2016.

The keystone event of this 15th annual festival features a rare pairing of legendary vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, a Berkshire favorite, with her daughter, Veronica Swift, the fastest-rising vocalist on the jazz scene today. The Oct. 19 show includes material from Swift’s newest release, Confessions. 

At just 25 years old, Veronica Swift has built a résumé that many late-career jazz singers would envy: tours as a featured vocalist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chris Botti; a guest collaboration with Michael Feinstein; engagements at A-list clubs like Birdland, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, and The Jazz Showcase; and headlined at top festivals including Monterey, Montreal and Telluride. As a child, she began performing with her musician parents, the late pianist Hod O’Brien, and the singer/educator/author Stephanie Nakasian, and in 2015, she earned second place in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, the most prestigious contest in the art form. Her command of the vocal-jazz tradition is astounding, as was demonstrated at last year’s Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. Swift so impressed the audience that she is the only performer ever invited back for a second consecutive year. Part of her appearance with Botti appears in a video that has been seen by hundreds of thousands of PBS viewers.

Known as one of the world’s leading jazz singers, Stephanie Nakasian will take listeners on a fresh and authentic swing voyage that transcends the Great Ladies of Song in both tribute and originality. Capturing the hearts of audiences with her extensive repertoire, reaching from jazz to Broadway, Nakasian creates an atmosphere of romance and excitement that will transport listeners to another place and time. It will be Nakasian’s third appearance in Pittsfield.

The Berkshires Jazz Youth Ensemble will open the concert at 7:30pm. Pre-show entertainment will be provided by pianist Ben Kohn at The Garage (the Colonial’s lobby), starting at 6pm. 

The big weekend concludes on Sunday, Oct. 20, with two more jazz brunches at Dottie’s and Hotel on North..