MBTS Jazz Fest is Back, Supersized


Get ready, because the hopping energy of the MBTS Jazz Fest returns next month for its third year, with an expanded lineup of local musical talent that promises to tap into back-in-the-day memories while raising money for the town’s 4th of July Parade.

MTBS Jazz Fest was started by local residents Greg Cook, John Filias, and Scott Milne, and it was designed to recreate the musical spirit they grew up with that flourished around Manchester and Cape Ann in the 1970s and 1980s. 

This year the festival will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 20 overlooking the inner harbor at the American Legion Hall, providing a perfect backdrop for an evening of exceptional jazz and features a significantly expanded music lineup.  This year’s program includes HDRnB, featuring the celebrated Henley Douglas Jr., Jay Aptt and the MaliCaminos, and the Cape Ann Youth Big Band.

A Nostalgic Journey

For Cook, Filias and Milne, creating MBTS Jazzfest was a nostalgic journey.

“We wanted to bring back that sense of community and shared love for music that was so prevalent for us,” says Cook.

For those who remember it, bands like SHADE, the John Donelan Band or Grapevine Road featured home-grown talent—real, good talent—that regularly turned locals out to the Legion, Castle Hill, Masconomo Park, or The Landing (when it was in Marblehead).  It was a time that offered great music for little or no money where you could dance and hang with old friends.  Or meet new ones.

“We’d get together all the time, just to see a local band or dance,” said Milne, a 1976 Manchester High School graduate who said today the emphasis may be too much on social media and staying home playing video games.  “For us, it was just about having fun, and seeing great music live.”

While Manchester’s Music at the Park offers great outdoor music every week, the idea of a night of blues or jazz at a place like the Legion seemed like an opportunity.  And that’s exactly what Filias, Cook, and Milne were thinking on a spring evening in 2022 when they were together, at Pickering Wharf in Salem taking in — what else? — a local show.

“It seemed like an idea that kept coming up and, suddenly that night, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s finally do this … really’,” said Filias, who graduated Manchester High in 1983.

“And we had to scramble to get it done,” laughed Cook. 

Within mere months, they got it done.  First, Cook, a 1977 Manchester High School graduate, reached out to some top local musicians who promised to be a big draw while Filias and Milne focused on venue, and vendors.  Soon, the three had organized the budget, tickets, and decided on the perfect beneficiary for their fundraising: music in Manchester’s 4th of July parade.

The first Manchester Jazz Fest featured Jambalaya Horns, the New Orleans-flavored blues, soul, and funk band headed up by Carlos Menezes Jr. and Henley Douglas Jr. of Marblehead, a renowned local jazz, funk and blues saxophone player who’s played on stage with the Neville Brothers and Red-Hot Chili Peppers, among others. After its first year, MBTS Jazz Fest donated $3,000 to the parade.  Last year’s jazz fest produced another $2,450, which is the single biggest of the 171 donations received this year.  That’s a big help, said MBTS Parks & Rec Director Cheryl Marshall, especially since the cost of fireworks alone have ballooned the town’s 4th of July celebration budget by $10,000.

“I love MBTS Jazz Fest,” said Marshall.  “It’s an amazing summer event that does so much good.  With this donation we are able to have two extra bands in the parade!”

Spotlight on Local Talent

Next month’s MBTS Jazz Fest lineup is now set, and it’s definitely upped the ante on local musical acts.

Henley Douglas Jr.’s jazz and blues band, HDRnB, is headlining and this year Douglas is adding to the repertoire in his former band mate from the Boston Horns, trumpet extraordinaire Garrett Savluk.

“I like to go out and play all kinds of music—jazz, funk and blues,” said Douglas.  “But my favorite experiences are when I play in
groups that combine all of those things. Original, grooving music.”

“We’re excited,” said Milne.  “It’s going to be great.”

Community Spirit, Community Support

The Manchester Jazz Fest is more than just an evening of great music; it’s an event with a purpose. 

This symbiotic relationship between the festival and the parade underscores the community spirit that drives the event.  And as the Manchester Jazz Fest continues to grow, so does its impact on the community.  That’s something that Cook, Milne and Filias like. “We’ve been thrilled with the support and enthusiasm from the community,” says Filias. “Each year, we’re working to make the festival bigger and better, and we’re excited about what the future holds.”

Manchester Jazz Fest (mbtsjazzfest.org)

$30 general, $20 food—all proceeds benefit music at the MBTS 4th of July Parade

Saturday, July 20, 4 to 10 p.m.

American Legion Hall, Manchester