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ZUMIX hosts East Boston Jazz Week

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  April 25, 2011 03:11 PM

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ZUMIX firehouse.jpg

(Jeremy C. Fox for

The ZUMIX firehouse at 260 Sumner St. will host East Boston Jazz Week.

East Boston will swing its way into spring during the upcoming Jazz Week, with performances by local musicians and visiting artists scheduled for the final Thursday, Friday and Saturday in April and the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in May.

This is the second year for Jazz Week but the first at its new home, the ZUMIX firehouse on Sumner Street outside Maverick Square. Founded in East Boston in 1991, ZUMIX is a nonprofit organization that helps city kids ages seven to 18 to explore their interest in music and theater as a way to keep them off the streets and educate them on issues of social justice.

Madeleine Steczynski, co-founder and executive director for the organization, said after participating in the first East Boston Jazz Week in 2010, ZUMIX picked up the torch following the closing of the coordinating organization for last year’s events, the 80 Border Street Cultural Exchange Center.

Through six shows spread over 10 days, jazz fans can catch performances in a variety of styles and moods, from very young talents the ZUMIX Jazz Allstars and old pros like 89-year-old Al Vega, a legend of Boston jazz who began his career playing clubs like the Hi-Hat and Storyville alongside performers including Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker (

Vega, his jazz ensemble and singer Steve Marvin will open the week’s events with a performance on Thursday, April 28. Steczynski said the organizers hope the veteran pianist’s broad base of fans will help build an audience that will return throughout the series.

“What we’re really hoping is that some of the folks who come to see Al Vega will be curious and will want to come back to see Marlene or to see Brad and Laura and Ben the following night, or will come back the following week to see some of those folks,” Steczynski said.

Friday night’s performance by Marlene del Rosario will be a benefit concert for victims of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. A vocalist, pianist and composer in addition to being a piano instructor at ZUMIX, del Rosario will perform original compositions that blend jazz with more folky singer-songwriter sensibility (

“She’s an incredible, gifted musician and really, I think, a lifted spirit,” Steczynski said. “Her profound connection to the mission at ZUMIX is that as much as she loves music, she really sees it as a tool for healing in the world. And when she saw this as an opportunity, she immediately asked us if she could do it as this benefit for Japan, and we were completely all over it.”

Saturday night will feature modern jazz from two groups. First, New England Conservatory graduates Brad Barrett and Laura Grill will perform original music and covers arranged for acoustic bass and vocals. Then ZUMIX percussion instructor Ben Paulding and pianist Kelly Sciandra from Reign of Kindo, who only recently began collaborating, will play a set of original, contemporary jazz inspired by artists such as Vijay Iyer, Brad Mehldau and the Bad Plus.

“It really runs the gamut in terms of the length of time that people have been together and playing together and the styles that they’ll be bringing,” Steczynski said. “I think it’ll be quite interesting.”

The series will then take a few nights off and pick back on Thursday, Cinco de Mayo, with performances by the ZUMIX Jazz Allstars, one of the program’s performance groups for young musicians, and the Nick Grondin Group, led by the eponymous ZUMIX instructor and two-time ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award winner (

On Friday, May 6, Dominican-born Leo Colon, a longtime ZUMIX guitar instructor, will play his particular brand of laid-back Latin jazz (

On Saturday the series will close with a special appearance by New York-based trumpet player and singer Bria Skonberg and her band at the monthly Maverick Swing dance night (

All events are alcohol-free and open to all ages. Light refreshments will be served. Advance tickets are available at ZUMIX and online through the donation page on their website. For most shows in the series, there is a $10 suggested donation, though Maverick Swing has a required $15 cover charge. For more information, visit

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