Sports & Leisure

Northampton Jazz Festival Set for Sept. 30 to Oct. 1

The Sound of Music


Bryan Lynch performs at the 2021 Jazz Festival in Northampton.

Bryan Lynch performs at the 2021 Jazz Festival in Northampton.

Ruth Griggs is a firm believer in the power of jazz.

She says this brand of music has the ability to energize people and lift their spirits. It also has the ability to bring people, and a community together, said Griggs, who had seen this phenomenon at work in Northampton during the early years of its annual jazz festival.

And she also saw what was missing when the festival took a three-year pause toward the end of the last decade, and that’s why she became instrumental — that’s an industry term — in not only bringing the festival back to Northampton in 2018, but bringing it to more of Northampton, meaning more venues across this thriving arts community.

In fact, she was honored earlier this year by BusinessWest with its Difference Makers award for her efforts to bring the jazz festival back to the Northampton — and the region.

“Live music helps lift people’s spirits and it just gives them a positive feeling; these are professional musicians, they know what they’re doing, and it’s a real pleasure for the audience to be able to experience that,” said Griggs, adding that there will be plenty to experience at the 2022 Northampton Jazz Festival set for Sept. 1-Oct. 1.

A number of local and regional artists are scheduled to perform, she said.

“On Friday night, we have what we call the Jazz Strut, held at Pulaski Park and six different breweries and restaurants, throughout downtown; there is free jazz at these establishments all night long,” said Griggs, listing venues ranging from the the park to the Northampton Brewery; from Spoleto to the Wurst Haus.

“Jazz Fest Day will be on Saturday,” she went on. “World-class musicians are playing at no charge to the public. They’ll be playing in a variety of venues in and around Pulaski Park this year.”

The main stage act, the Ron Carter Quartet, will play at the Academy of Music on Saturday. It is the one paid performance; patrons are required to buy tickets online before the show, she said, adding that ticket sales are on a record pace.

The Northampton Jazz Festival was started in 2011 by a group of enthusiasts who were looking for something to replace the “Taste of Northampton” as a way to bring people — and energy — to the streets of Northampton. The festival was staged in the Armory Street Parking Lot and had a five-year run before losing steam.

After a three-year absence, momentum started to build to bring the festival back, with Amy Cahillane, executive director of the Downtown Northampton Association, taking the lead.

“Amy had come to me in 2017 and said ‘people are talking about this jazz festival. I’m not too familiar with it, but they are really looking for live jazz downtown. Is there any way it could be brought back?’ said Griggs. “And, long story short, with Amy’s impetus, we brought it back.”

Griggs told BusinessWest that the weather for the end of September can be hit or miss, but otherwise it is a perfect weekend for the festival, with little else on the calendar to compete with the event. She is predicting large crowds and large amounts of energy.

“The festival adds a sense of vitality and energy, like things are happening here, and that’s so important after what we’ve been through with COVID,” said Griggs. “It’s important for people to see there is creativity and artistry that’s happening in Northampton that is accessible, participial, and professional. It’s good music. We’re really happy to be a part of that for people that live here as well as for people that are coming in from out of the area.”

Indeed, not only is the festival creating a stronger sense of community, but it is drawing people into the city. Griggs told BusinessWest that with the increased number of ticket sales, she anticipates a higher volume of visitors this year.

“Maybe they (tourists) have known about Northampton or have stopped in once or twice; maybe they haven’t stopped into the city before, but I hope that when people stumble across this jazz festival, they are just absolutely delighted by it. I just hope to bring more people to Northampton than we ever have before.”