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In the current world of food, nothing is as holy as local. Everywhere around here there is Farm to Table, farmer's markets, community supported agriculture, and restaurants which feature local provender. The offerings cover the spectrum form bread and cheese, locally raised grass fed beef, and obviously, local vegetables in season. We do this in the belief that local is fresher and more sustainable, and because we have relationships and know and trust local farmers. Anyone who had the privilege of being at the Holiday Farmer's Markets this past season in Great Barrington got to see the extraordinary array of locally grown produce still being offered at what would normally be regarded as the end of the season. There was an amazing display of bok choy, broccoli, spinach, as well as many colored root vegetables.
So, if local is good when it comes to food, why isn't local music similarly as well regarded? Locally grown food is considered to be of the highest quality, while far too often, local musicians are referred to as being "local" in a disparaging way, as if they are only good enough to play around here, and not beyond. Saxophone great Roland Kirk can be heard on a live recording telling a crowd his band usually played at the same local club most of the time, but that they went out On The Road every once in a while, just to make people think that they had been away, and were therefore somehow more important, and not just a "local band."
The phrase "starving musician" is a part of the lexicon for good reason. Almost none of these people make a living performing, and since there is no cover charge, musicians do not make a big paycheck playing at Castle Street. Most do it for the sheer love of the music. There is a dynamic and thrill to live performance which is unique.
Thirteen years ago when I first had the idea of offering live jazz in Great Barrington, I wasn't at all sure that there was enough local talent to support it. Years later, I know how deep the musical treasure is in the Berkshires, and surrounding areas. Perhaps the best example of "local talent is our very own high school music department, including former employees. Very few public school systems are fortunate enough to have
teachers as enormously talented and inspiring as Rob Putnam, Rob Kelly, and Jeff Stevens. To snidely refer to them as "just local" musicians is an injustice-and you need only hear them for yourself, on the first Friday of every month.
It should come as no surprise that given the area's deep ties to music that there are some extremely talented people who chose to reside here. Lincoln Mayorga has played with Barbara Streisand and Quincy Jones, as but now plays for us here in the Berkshires. (lincolnmayorga.com). We are also lucky to have someone with the depth of experience as Lee Shaw play, who has accompanied the great Sara Vaughn, and is still releasing original new CDs in her 8th decade.
(albanyjazz.com/musicians/leeshaw.html). Both of these great players have been guests on NPR'S Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland.
The dearth of jazz clubs even in New York City means that up and coming musicians there can't get a date in their own city, and are therefore wiling to travel to Great Barrington, where they can get an opportunity to perform. George Schuller, son of Tanglewood conductor and Miles Davis band mate Gunther Schuller, has deep musical roots in the Berkshires, going back to the days of the old Music Inn, is one of those who regular play here. (a href="http://www.georgeschuller.net">georgeschuller.net)
The list could go on and on. Retro indie jazz band Lucky 5, blues legends The BTUS, swing jazz violinist Teresa Broadwell (teresabroadwell.com), and Armen Donelian, Grammy nominated composer and pianist with Sonny Rollins, (armenjazz.com), are just some of the many gifted local musicians who play here.
Just like local vegetables, local musicians can be the best.
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