MCLA's Blues and Funk Festival: Jivin' to old school R&B


NORTH ADAMS -- The ninth annual Blues and Funk Festival will showcase diverse ends of R&B when it returns this weekend.

The performances, featuring national and local talent, are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the college’s Venable Gym.

"This year, we’re looking at the old and the new," Jonathan Secor, the college’s director of special programs, said Tuesday. "In the past few years we’ve done world music and hip hop. This year, we’re going back to old school R&B."

The two-night event features headliners Boston’s own Jesse Dee on Friday and Walter "Wolfman" Washington of New Orleans on Saturday.

"I think what’s interesting about both of these artists is that they are the continuance of a style and genre of music that is truly American, and is one of things we can take full credit for," Secor said. "On Friday night, we’ll see the new face of that and on Saturday, the old face of that Š It’s a history lesson wrapped into a dance party.

Jesse Dee is part of a new school of artists embracing the style of classic R&B music, he said. Dee’s label debut, "On My Mind/In My Heart," was released in February of 2013 under Alligator Records.

Dee, 33, creates music that incorporates classic R&B styling and even the production techniques, he said.

"There’s a beat, there’s a rhythm, there’s a full sound," Secor said in describing the R&B genre. "It’s catchy, but there are great lyrics. There’s a sense of romanticism to it."

Opening for Dee Friday night will be local reggae-influenced band Rebel Alliance and the MCLA Jazz Band.

"Our mission is to bring the best that’s out there, to share and showcase it with our community," Secor said. "And then to also showcase our local talent."

Walter "Wolfman" Washington has performed at the college several times before, he said.

"He’s a great guitar player, songwriter, and above all else a performer," Secor said. "He comes from an old school where stage presence is important. Last time he performed here he had an impeccable red suit, red shoes Š he looked great and sounded great. He’s there to entertain and engage you."

Opening for Washington will be the MCLA Jazz Band and local blues band T-Bone Daddy.

Food and drink will be available for purchase both nights, Secor said.


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