By Sara Feijo
Posted Jul. 23, 2014 @ 8:31 am
Updated Jul 23, 2014 at 8:32 AM
Cambridge is known for its River Festival, Central Square Dance Party and dragon boat races, but the city has never before held a major festival just dedicated to jazz.
Larry Ward, a former Cambridge city councilor, decided it’s time to fill that void. With the help of an eight-member volunteer committee, Ward is throwing the city’s first major free jazz festival on Sunday, July 27, at University Park Commons on Sidney Street.
"Cambridge never had a jazz festival when they do everything else," Ward said Thursday, July 17. "We should have our own jazz festival!"
Ward, who grew up in a household where jazz was the preferred genre of music, started envisioning the festival two years ago. But with less than a week until the big day, he feels both anxious and excited.
"It’s so exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time," he said. "I’m up basically 24-7 because it’s so exciting to be a part of something that’s an absolutely incredible experience. I get excited just talking about it. I can’t even sleep."
When Ron Savage, of the Ron Savage Trio: Modern Impressionism, found out about the jazz festival he jumped right in, helped organize it and made a point to join the lineup.
"I’d like to think that we have really great performers and I’m over the moon that we were able to get the musicians that we have," said Savage, who is the chair of the Berklee College of Music Ensemble Department.
The Cambridge Jazz Festival will kick off at noon and feature a line-up of local and international artists, including Terri Lyne Carrington, a two-time Grammy award-winning jazz drummer; Motown legend, Valerie Simpson; Dominique Eade, a two-time Boston Music Award-winner; and the Berklee Brazilian All-Stars.
"These artists don’t usually play at first-time jazz festivals, but Ron knows everybody in the business," Ward said. "I feel so lucky that we’ve been able to bring together this magnitude of talent. It speaks to the commitment we have in Cambridge."
The festival will also feature multiple vendors, a beer café and food trucks, including Mediterranean, barbecue and slush lemonade trucks.
The goal, Ward said, is to share jazz with Cantabrigians and raise enough money to sponsor scholarships for youth. He said proceeds would benefit local schools.
"Our goals are to have great music, provide scholarships to Cambridge students, and we want people walking away saying, ‘I can’t wait until next year,’" Ward said. "Any money we make above paying our expenses goes to the scholarship fund."
Eric Jackson, longtime WGBH radio host of "Eric in the Evening," and Rev. Brenda Ann Henry-Brown will host the event, which is expected to attract up to 2,000 people, Ward said.
According to Ward, the festival will cost $60,000. He said he had raised about 80 percent of that as of July 17.
People interested in donating should make a check payable to Cambridge Jazz Festival and mail it to Cambridge Community Foundation, 99 Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139.
The festival will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, at University Park Commons on Sidney Street.
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