Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend
Vocalists Roberta Donnay and Alexis Cole
By: Ed Bride - May 18, 2023
What a stirring spring it’s already been, and the jazz activity heats up in June, with downtown Lee’s annual jazz festival. A joint presentation of Berkshire Gateway Preservation, Inc. and Berkshires Jazz, Inc., the Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend is sponsored by Canna Provisions, with generous support from Jim Chervenak.
The headline concerts include two striking vocalists: Roberta Donnay with the Prohibition Mob Band, and the first pairing of vocalist Alexis Cole with the Amherst Jazz Orchestra. Free “jazz-al-fresco” takes place on Saturday, June 10, and there will be two jazz brunches.
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Award-winning vocalist and songwriter Roberta Donnay is that rare species of musician who almost lives in another time, as she and her Prohibition Mob Band exist to revive the Jazz Age of America. Performing and recording for more than two decades, her music spans multiple genres, including writing for film and TV. As the leader of the Prohibition Mob Band, her repertoire runs the gamut of the jazz era, ranging from Louis Armstrong to Blossom Dearie, as well as her own original material.
The Prohibition Mob Band is a vintage jazz and swing band presenting 1920-1930s swing, blues, and roots music in the jazz tradition. The ensemble's mission is to explore, celebrate, and promote America's jazz roots by interpreting vintage material as well as contributing original works reminiscent of the Jazz Age. This is a rare East Coast occasion to catch Roberta and the Prohibition Mob Band. Here's a sneak peek.
Award-winning vocalist Alexis Cole may be the best-kept secret in jazz, a status that’s rapidly changing as more people are discovering her for themselves. A dozen albums into her career, she has become a sought-after international performer, appearing with her trio and as a frequent guest with big bands and pops orchestras including the Boston Pops and the Detroit Symphony. This capstone concert of the 2023 Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend marks her debut with the Amherst Jazz Orchestra, one of the most exciting big bands in the northeast.
Alexis’ recent appearances have been at celebrated venues like The Carlyle, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Blue Note. She also contributed a guest turn on pianist Harold Mabern’s star-studded album Afro Blue, alongside the likes of fellow guests Norah Jones, Gregory Porter, and Jane Monheit. This will be her debut with the Amherst Jazz Orchestra.
The Amherst Jazz Orchestra is a professional big band whose mission is to explore and preserve the music of America's original art form. Formed in 1996 by trombonist, arranger and leader Dave Sporny, the AJO membership includes the finest jazz musicians in the northeast. The 17-piece ensemble has had distinguished guest conductors such as Gunther Schuller, Herb Pomeroy, David Berger and Andrew Homzy. In addition to backing Alexis Cole, tonight’s concert will feature the AJO’s unique treatment of familiar and original big band selections.
Here's a hint at her big-band work.
For a full schedule of free and ticketed events, go to www.BerkshireGatewayJazz.org.