Saturday: 5:20 PM on the Charles Neville Main Stage.
See the full schedule

Nat Reeves Quartet


For more than 40 years, Nat Reeves has been one of the top bassists in jazz. His supportive and stimulating playing has uplifted a countless number of sessions and recording dates (most notably with the great altoists Jackie McLean and Kenny Garrett) and he has led his own recordings State of Emergency and Blue Ridge. Both as a performer and an educator, he has made a strong impact on the jazz world.

“As a bassist it is my function to concentrate on the band’s foundation. To become a better bass player and learn more about the instrument, I started listening to jazz. In jazz there is much more freedom to create one’s own bass part and develop a distinct sound. It is my job to project more than my notes and always sound fresh and alive.”

In 1979, Reeves moved to New York City. “I listened, played on the streets, listened some more, and learned.” He first toured with Sonny Stitt in 1982 in Japan during what would be the great saxophonist’s last tour. The same year he met Jackie McLean, who became his mentor. Soon after, he began teaching at the University of Hartford and touring the world with Jackie McLean and other jazz masters, including Kenny Garrett, Harold Mabern, Eddie Henderson, Steve Davis, Eric Alexander, Rene McLean and Pharoah Sanders.

In 2001 Nat began a full-time teaching career at The Hartt School, Jackie McLean Institute. “I build on what my students already know and try to convince them to be more aggressive with learning. I think of teaching like playing a gig: being well organized, accomplishing goals and solving problems. It is a lot of fun, and it makes me a better musician.” Although Nat retired from the University in 2021, he continues to perform and teach. Nat’s performance career is supercharged. “I’m excited for what is ahead.”


Craig Handy is an accomplished musician on both alto and tenor saxophone and flute, bandleader, composer and arranger, actor, and teacher. Inspired by Dexter Gordon, he graduated from the acclaimed Berkeley High School Jazz Program and then studied at North Texas State University with a Charlie Parker Scholarship.

A strong player in the New York jazz scene since 1986, Handy began his career performing with jazz masters such as Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Abdullah Ibrahim, and the Mingus Dynasty Band. By his late 20s, Handy was already known for his technical mastery and prodigious post-bop talent, as well as the versatility demonstrated by performing with vocalists like Betty Carter and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Handy has since toured and performed in the front line of bands with numerous jazz masters, including Herbie Hancock, Cedar Walton, Wynton Marsalis, The Cookers, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Palmieri, Hilton Ruiz, Orlando "Maraca" Valle, Elvin Jones and many others. He has amassed performance and recording credits with many top artists and jazz masters, and has produced five albums as a leader. Handy’s screen credits include his work as the featured soloist for the Cosby Show music themes and his acclaimed portrayal of the legendary Coleman Hawkins in Robert Altman’s 1994 film “Kansas City.”

Handy now leads a new project entitled Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, drawing on New Orleans music and the groove-filled re-imaginings of originals and standards by the late, great organist Jimmy Smith.


Two-time Grammy nominee Benito Gonzalez is an internationally beloved pianist who combines a long lineage of American jazz traditions with rhythms from around the world.

Today a rising tide of young jazz pianists are attempting to find their distinct voices by taking cues from their elders. But only a few take their artistry beyond their predecessors to make bold 88-key statements on their journeys to new vistas, fresh sounds, inspired expressions. That personal-touch devotion to the wonders of the instrument brings with it a certitude of intuitive creativity.

That fortitude fuels Benito Gonzalez, an exhilarating pianist who won the 2005 Great America Jazz Piano Competition and was honored in 2020 to be a Steinway & Sons artist for “his sound [that] is recognizable for the powerful rhythm section and Afro-Latin patterns he prioritizes across his projects.” The Venezuela-born, New York-based artist grew up playing traditional Venezuelan folk music with his family before absorbing the inventiveness of such pianists as Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner,Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett who inspired him to join in the explorations on the instrument.

Gonzalez made his way to the U.S. by a serendipitous route when an American cultural ambassador caught one of his trio gigs and later invited him to come to Washington, D.C. He was enlisted to play shows with Ghanaian master drummer Okyerema Asante that led to a recording. “After my first six months here, I decided to stay in this country to learn the music right,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez went on to play with Jackie McLean in 2003, then joined Kenny Garrett’s quartet for seven years until 2013 – during which time he garnered two Grammy band nominations. After his stint with Garrett, he played with saxophonist Azar Lawrence’s band and then in 2019 joined saxophone legend Pharoah Sanders as his pianist and musical director.


For 40 years, "Tain" has remained a supremely consequential drummer and composer in the music – evolving the language of jazz drumming. Jeff “Tain” Watts is now one of the most in demand jazz drummers in the world today.

Watts majored in classical percussion at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University, where he was primarily a timpanist, followed by enrollment at the Berklee School of Music, where he pursued jazz studies alongside such talented players as Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Greg Osby, Aimee Mann, Steve Vai and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989. Jeff has worked in the film and television industry as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s "Mo Better Blues". Jeff joined Kenny Garrett's band after returning to New York in 1995 after three years in LA on the Tonight Show. Watts also continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr, McCoy Tyner Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Ravi Coltrane.

Along with explosive power, blinding speed and mastery of complex rhythms and time signatures, Watts brings a rare sense of elegance, tried-by-fire composure, and a gritty street funk to his music. His artistic ingenuity expresses itself in his incomparable technique, sweltering sense of swing, and an extraordinary ability to imbue his music with majestic grace and elegant repose. A true jazz innovator, Watts never fails to deliver the percussive magic that has been his trademark since his emergence on the contemporary jazz scene.

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New Location!

The Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival takes place on July 12th – 13th, 2024 in the streets surrounding Stearns Square.

About Us

This festival is produced by Blues To Green, a nonprofit organization that harnesses music and the arts to celebrate community and culture, build shared purpose, and catalyze social and environmental change.
Copyright © 2024 Blues To Green Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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