The Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival Returns This Weekend

Coming to town this year: Al Jarreau, John Scofield, Mili Bermejo, and more.

Photo by Dave Green

Photo by Dave Green

Get ready to jazz up your weekend—the Beantown Jazz Festival, Berklee’s annual block party, is back. Spanning Columbus Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Burke Street, the free event will feature live performances, food vendors, and family-friendly activities.

Not too familiar with jazz? The festival’s artistic director and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington says it’s not just for jazz enthusiasts. “Every year there’s beautiful music,” she says. “Sometimes it’s Latin jazz, sometimes it’s more R&B based, sometimes it’s more blues. There’s really something for everybody.”

A three-time Grammy winner, Carrington believes that watching live performances from a young age helped her become the musician she is today. “I think it’s great for people to be able to bring their children out to hear jazz.”

Hoping to bolster the Boston jazz scene, Berklee’s festival aims to make jazz accessible to more people in the community. The event caters to all ages, with activities like KidsJam (where kids can sing, play instruments, and, well, jam) and the Instrument Petting Zoo (where festival-goers are encouraged to explore and experiment hands-on with a variety of instruments).

That being said, seasoned fans and avid jazz listeners should still check out the lineup—this year’s roster includes a number of critically acclaimed artists, from seven-time Grammy-winner Al Jarreau, to Billy Hart Trio and Mili Bermejo. The main festival takes place on Saturday, running from noon until dusk across three stages.

Prefer to be indoors? John Scofield, yet another Grammy-winning musician, kicks off the festival on Friday night. Scofield will perform his newest record, Country for Old Men, at the Berklee Performance Center (7:30 p.m., ticketed). A Berklee alumnus, Scofield has a penchant for playing in Boston. He says, “I have a really close tie with the Boston music scene. It’s really nostalgic. I really learned how to play jazz in this city.”

Although New York City remains “the main hub” for jazz, Scofield believes that Boston is “the offshoot” to which young musicians gravitate. “It’s always been thriving musically,” he says.

Drop by the South End and find out for yourself.

Free, 12-6 p.m., Saturday, September 24, Columbus Ave.,