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Play on: Dudley Jazz Festival debuts this week

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Play on: Dudley Jazz Festival debuts this week
The Fred Woodward Collective will play in the Dudley Jazz Festival Aug. 20. (Photo: Promotional photo)

The local summer jazz lineup welcomes a new addition this week with the first annual Dudley Jazz Festival on August 20 in Mary Hannon Park, Dorchester. Organized by Fred Woodward, lead performer of The Fred Woodard Collective, the festival is free and open to all. Woodard promises an evening of skillful, local jazz. “It’s not music you’d hear on the radio,” he says. “These are people who have been performing for a long time but aren’t necessarily household names.”

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Woodard, who graduated from Berklee and teaches at the Roland Hayes School of Music, lives in Dorchester and wanted to bring accessible live music to the area. He believes the festival is a long time coming. “I felt there was a need in the community for free, high-quality concerts,” says Woodard. All the artists have strong ties to Boston and, for many, to the Roxbury/Dorchester area, which has a rich history of jazz music. Famous jazz drummer Tony Williams grew up in the area and went on to play with Miles Davis and other greats.

The setlist includes local favorite, The Makanda Project, a twelve-piece ensemble that plays unpublished works by the late Makanda Ken McIntyre. Group leader John Kordalewski studied under McIntyre and found over 300 of his unplayed compositions after his death. The music is an innovative blend of classic jazz riffs and contemporary chords. Woodard designed the festival to have a spectrum of players. The Makanda Project serves as the large group, Woodard’s band is guitar-centric, and Eula Lawrence with the John Pierce Trio brings vocals into the mix.

A native of Philadelpha, Lawrence was a 1991 Boston Music Award Nominee for Outstanding Jazz Vocalist and has been featured in festivals both locally and in France. She partners for this performance with John Pierce, a bassist, trombonist and headliner of the John Pierce Trio. He’s performed with top musicians such as Lou Rawls, Tony Bennett, Gladys Knight and The White Heat Orchestra. Stan Strickland and The Fred Woodard Collective also will be bringing their talented tunes to the stage.

Woodard created the event in partnership with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, supported by grants from the Riley Foundation and the Creative Cultural Arts, of which Woodard was a founder. Guests are encouraged to bring their own refreshments, although there may be a food truck available during the event. The rain location is the Dudley branch of the BPL. Woodward’s goal is to refresh a neighborhood that has lost many of its great jazz clubs. “The overall vibe of the event is bringing the community together to relax and listen to some great music,” he says.