There were three free outdoor stages at Columbus and Mass Ave., and I saw an oozing mob of appreciators milling in the streets and chilling on risers in Target Family Park. This crowd was less likely to have a great experience of jazz music than a chance to sample a variety of ethnic street food in the sun and get some good people-watching in.
A wide spectrum of color and fashion were on view”"black and brown folks decked out in flamboyant Afro-Caribbean threads, mingling with white folks in outdated fedoras, adoring one of the unifying treasures of African-American culture.
This is not to diminish the musicians on hand. I thoroughly enjoyed the solid bop sax playing of Donald Harrison that went down from 1:30-3:10PM on the Dunkin Donuts Stage. I stomped and clapped every time Marcus Santos and Bloco AfroBrazil roared through the crowd with their battalion of drums.
Ignoring the cue that I was on hold or ready to select my floor, I grooved to the smooth jazz stylings of Elan Trotman on the Berklee Stage, and, despite the over-pumped bass and feedback, I rocked and swayed to the Berklee P-Funk Ensemble with Lenny Stallworth, who took the Target stage at 3:35 p.m., decked out in loud button-downs, dashikis and feather boas.
None of these acts gave me a feeling like the one I’m sure I would have gotten had I been able to afford any of the prestigious club shows put on around town the previous week.
I did, however, get to hear Mayor Thomas M. Menino, fresh off his win in the preliminary race, celebrate Berklee, “Tahget” and everyone else who helped make the event possible.
At an “instrument petting zoo” where kids could explore live drum kits, woodwinds and keys, I decorated my own free cowbell. In a street lined with stalls, I picked up some literature from the Huntington Theatre, Company One and Up Ye Mighty Race, who was touting an upcoming show at the BCA called “The Mojo and the Sayso.”
At a musicians booth, I got to meet Eric in the Evening, himself.
I also scarffed down a million free granola bars, energy drinks and lattƒ© shots, and left with a belly full of delicious jerk-chicken, well worth the half-an-hour wait, courtesy of R&S Jamaican restaurant.
I will definitely be back next year. I might even wear a fedora.