MCLA readies for 4th Annual Blues and Funk Festival


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will banish the winter blues with its Fourth Annual MCLA Blues and Funk Festival on Friday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, Feb.7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Church Street Center. This two-night festival will feature Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman, Maya Azucena, Unfulfilled Desires, Robin O'Herin and MCLA students.

Cleary, originally from "the other side of the pond," but adopted as one of New Orleans' own, will kick off the festival on Friday night. 

According to Jonathan Secor, MCLA director of special programs, "Cleary is clearly on the track to become one of the elite group of great funk pianists coming out of the Crescent City. He recently joined Allen Toussaint and Henry Butler at the John F. Kennedy Center for a 'Keys to the City' concert, which has since traveled through Europe and the United States.

"Joined on stage by some of the best musicians from a city where this truly means something, Cleary's shows are an explosive funk party, mixing old-school soul with the rhythms of New Orleans - great hard-hitting piano playing backed by bass and drums that don't quit."

According to the Washington Post, "Cleary plays the piano as if he is revving up an engine and sings as if a line drawing his behatted self were next to 'Soul' in Webster's."

Opening for Cleary will be Unfulfilled Desires, an international indie jazz-funk-rock collective with a diverse line-up of players on both sides of the Atlantic. Well known in the clubs of Europe, they also are beginning to come into their own in the states. Unfulfilled Desires produce a fresh and eclectic sound that is the combined expression of their jazz, classical, rock, funk, and avant-garde backgrounds.

Getting the evening going on Friday night will be the Whiskey Barrel Brothers, a MCLA student band that was a favorite last year, and the MCLA Jazz Band, under the tutelage of local musician and studio owner Jamie Choquette.

Saturday night features Brooklyn native and up-and-coming superstar Maya Azucena, hailed by the New York Post as "the new Chaka Khan."

Billboard Magazine said that Azucena has "...storytelling lyrics and soulful, soaring vocals." Stephen Marley said, "Maya has a very beautiful, soul voice... and she's very convincing with what she is singing about."

Secor originally looked into her for last year's Women of the Funk and Blues, after she was highly recommended by the programmer for Lincoln Center's public programming. He saw her in New York City last January and knew that she would be great for this festival, in particular paired with Cleary. Like Cleary, she brings new life and her own sensibilities to classic funk and R &B, in her case adding hip hop and a touch of righteous indignation.

Saturday gets started with the student band Intercourse, a return of the MCLA Jazz Band, and local favorite blues-woman, Robin O'Herin.

Tickets for general admission are $12, $5 for MCLA faculty and staff and members and MCLA students are free. To reserve tickets, call (413) 662-5204. For more information, go to presents or call 413-664-8718.