A Night of Jazz at Tanglewood

On Sunday night of Labor Day weekend, the plan was to go to the Tanglewood Jazz Festival. I have attended this event a few times over the years. The most memorable being a performance by Miles Davis which I think was the year before he died.  They have changed the format in the last few years. Instead of booking a big name and attempting to fill the shed, they have moved the entire weekend to the smaller Ozawa Hall.  When I was there for the Mark Morris performance in June, I saw on the festival schedule, Terence Blanchard performing “God’s Will” a requiem to Katrina and I knew I had to get up there for it.

I have been a fan of Terence Blanchard for a long time. He plays the trumpet and is from New Orleans. He had a great band in the 80’s with Donald Harrison and Mulgrew Miller.  He has taken to scoring the films of Spike Lee over the last several years.  One of the best parts of Spike’s When the Levees Broke documentary on Katrina included Terence and his anger over it and taking his Mother back to her house after the storm was over. 

It was a beautiful night in the Berkshires for the show. I brought my Mom along for the show. We probably got there about 45 minutes early. I was always like to leave some time to walk the grounds up there.  As we got thru the gate, I could hear some jazz coming from up over the hill behind the Ozawa Hall. We followed the music and found a nice tent back there with tables and the Alex Brown Trio playing. I had never heard of them before but they were excellent. Traditional straight ahead jazz by three young guys but they were fantastic, really enjoyed the half hour or so of them that we caught. Alex Brown was the pianist and leader.

We made it to our seats in the Hall. I know this said this in my Mark Morris review but what a beautiful building it is. I love the setup with the open back of the hall that leads to the lawn. The performance itself featured Terence’s band and a 34 piece orchestra. It was quite the setup. His band featured a  sax, drums, bass and keys. I won’t list each of the players names but it was a standout band, would love to see them in another venue.  The orchestra really added a great touch too, it definitely added the cinematic touch to the music.

Terence was an amazing storyteller and very entertaining with his between song banter. It was a tough night for the performance because Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on New Orleans and nobody knew how that was going to go.  The music overall was pretty heavy, it wasn’t an uplifting and joyful kind of evening but it was certainly beautiful and very enjoyable.

I did well this summer. I usually think if I can get to Jacob’s Pillow or Tanglewood once in a summer, I’ve done well and this year I hit Tanglewood twice and Jacob’s Pillow once, so I would say as far as the arts in the Berkshires go, the summer goes down as a home run!


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