Arts for All, Jazz, Public Art, Special Events

Meet Ken Field, curator for Jazz Along the Charles

When Ken Field was first contacted by Jack Wright, Director of Marketing and Communications here at the Celebrity Series of Boston, it did not come as a total surprise.  The two are both on the board of Jazz Boston and Field has an experienced reputation as a composer, bandleader, musician, event organizer, and radio host.  So, it made sense that he’d be offered the opportunity to curate a setlist for Jazz Along the Charles – A Walkable Concert.    

“The goal was to select music that was related in some way to Boston, whether based on the title, composer, subject matter, or artist,” Field recalls of his initial actions in considering that some 25 ensembles would be playing his choices.  “I also wanted to be sure that the material would lend itself to improvisational jazz performance, such that it could be interpreted by each performing ensemble in their own way.”

Along those lines, he began by simply jotting down ideas as they came to him but soon he was reaching out to colleagues in the Boston jazz scene.    

“I asked for suggestions from people like local jazz radio hosts, Jon Pollack and Brother Wayne, and jazz historian and presenter Rob Chalfen,” Field says. “ Of course I also consulted with folks from Celebrity Series to make sure that I was in sync with their vision for the event.”

What he and his collaborators arrived at was a varied collection that veers from jazz standards to more contemporary songs.

Field speaks to traditional jazz with “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” which remains a Duke Ellington classic.  

“This Ellington song is often associated with alto sax player, Johnny Hodges, who was one of Duke’s favored soloists. Hodges was born in Cambridge, and raised on Putnam Avenue. His family later moved to Hammond Street in Boston’s South End.”

The inclusion of Boston’s beloved Morphine speaks further to the local ideal.

“Mark Sandman’s Cambridge-based group Morphine was an international sensation in the 1990’s,” he said of the inclusion of their song, ‘The Night.’”  The surviving band members have continued performing as Vapors of Morphine after Sandman’s tragic demise while performing on stage near Rome, Italy in 1999.  That leads to the choice of an even more current band, Augustana, and their song, “Boston.”

“’Boston’ is a song by a California rock band, Augustana, from their debut album, ‘All the Stars and Boulevards,’ that was released in 2005 . The song propelled the group to national prominence when it was used on the television show, ‘One Tree Hill,’ and was later also featured on ‘Scrubs,’ ‘Big Bang Theory’ and a few others,” explained Field.  

“It was definitely a goal to include a diverse collection of material from diverse artists and composers, addressing style and period,” he expounded.  “Another goal was to include a mix of well-known and lesser-known pieces.”

Having put so much time into preparing for the event, he can now quite simply enjoy this truly unique event.

“I look forward to being surprised and delighted by a wide range of interpretations and treatments of this collection of music by some wonderful and incredibly creative improvisational jazz musicians!,” he enthused.

Photo by Robert Torres.

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