Baby Jane Dexter, a consummate and passionate cabaret performer who can wring every torrid ounce of emotion out of classic romantic ballads or edgy original songs with searing social messages, returns for another one of her perpetually power-packed performances at 7:30 pm on Saturday, April 12, at the Music@Japanalia series at Japanalia Eiko, 11 Whitney Street in Hartford.
Recognized as one of the grand divas of New York’s cabaret scene, Baby Jane, a mighty contralto with a dramatically riveting stage presence, strides back into Hartford bearing material from her new show, “More Rules of the Road,” which was greeted with resounding critical acclaim right from opening night late last year at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan.
Along with her flawless diction—words and meanings are absolutely sacred to this singer/songwriter—her darkly expressive voice and her theatrically smart and well-crafted delivery, you can expect a Vesuvian flow of visceral emotions from this red-hot momma whether she’s digging deep into an earthy blues, waxing eloquent on a Gershwin classic, or unearthing new nuances in an obscure Randy Newman tune. Or she might reach into her bag of melodic narratives and sing an original number, which rages against machismo arrogance, high-testosterone tyranny and the brutality of rape. A born storyteller, she’s a mix of Janis Joplin, Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, Etta James, Bessie Smith and Bette Davis all rolled up into one explosive entertainment package.
At the same time, however, she’s a rugged individualist who marches to her own her original take on singing, always, like Frank Sinatra, doing it her way. As part of her signature sense of theater, she has an uncanny ability to immerse her entire being, both body and soul, into a song’s words, melody, and storyline.
Her patter between songs is often personal and amusingly irreverent. And her fearlessly open-ended repertoire can leap in a single bound from an explosive version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s suave, uplifting “Something to Live For.” Along with raw emotions come flashes of a razor keen intelligence, well-honed to slice through what she views as hypocritical, phony or morally reprehensible.
As a veteran of four decades of campaigning without compromise in the rough-and-tumble music business, nothing gets past this resourceful fittest of survivors of the Darwinian struggle, or ever slows down her creative, emotional whirlwind of a performance.
Dan Blow, the presenter of the Japanalia series, an aficionado and avid observer of the cabaret scene, has brought the celebrated Manhattan performer to his West End venue numerous times, and is still awestruck, a Baby Jane convert and true believer after all these years. No doubt, the savvy impresario is also ecstatic over the consistently robust turnouts by her devout fans and the box office bounce these Baby Jane Boomers generate.
Tickets: $48.00 stage-side table seating; $28.00 general row seating; BYOB encouraged. Reservations: (860) 232-4677.
New Jazz Club Opens Up for The Singin’ Dentist
Dr. Steve Lipman, a Windsor dentist who sings Great American Songbook material under the stage name, The Singin’ Dentist, is the opening act April 19 for a new jazz club in Windsor called 226, a small, intimate venue located at 226 Broad Street.
The brainchild of Lipman—yes, a real dentist who can also actually sing—his wife Shelley and arts advocate Pat Fahy, the club has announced an ambitious schedule that stretches well into the fall and features such notables as flutist Ali Ryerson and guitarist Joe Carter, guitarist Joshua Breakstone (for a matinee master class) and vocalists June Bisantz and Nicki Mathis.
"A lot of people we’ve talked to are really excited about the opening of a new jazz club, as we are too," Fahy said. "We’re focusing on Connecticut artists, but have some coming from Boston and one from New Jersey. The space is about 900 square feet and seats about 40. It’s in a historic building that many years ago was a post office and, most recently, was a barbecue place, and before that, a donut place. With the ticket price, patrons get free coffee and desserts. Eventually, we’ll get a liquor license."
The new spot will be a coffee house with a focus on the visual arts, with work exhibited on the walls. "I got the idea for the name from the old 880 Club, the legendary Hartford jazz venue that took its name from its street address number," said Fahy.
Dr. Steve Lipman
Lipman, whose dental office is nearby, got hooked on Frank Sinatra at a young age, even though he also enjoyed contemporary music of his own generation. "It is my love to be a dentist," he said on his blog, "but it is my passion to sing." At times, he said, his love for his profession and his passion for singing can intersect.
"Some folks get turned on by fancy cars and a big house," Lipman wrote. "For them, it’s all about what they can buy. Honestly, what I dig most in this world are people. There is nothing finer than making that elemental human connection with another individual."
Here’s the new club’s lineup: The Singin’ Dentist, April 19; trumpeter Saskia Laroo and pianist Warren Byrd, April 26; Ali Ryerson and Joe Carter, May 10; trumpeter Ricky Alfonso, May 24; vocalist June Bisantz, June 14; saxophonist Mike Casey, June 28; guitarist Sinan Bakir, July 12; guitarist Joshua Breakstone, master class, July 17.
Also, guitarist Gerry Beaudoin, August 9; pianist John Kordalewski and saxophonist Kurtis Rivers, September 6; guitarist George Lesiw (pronounced Less-sue), September 20; vocalist Nicki Mathis, October 11; and trumpeter Nick DiMaria, November 8.
Cuneiform Artists Wedge Their Mark
Celebrating the release of its new self-titled album on Cuneiform Records, Thumbscrew, a cooperative trio which includes the great guitarist Mary Halvorson, performs at 8:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, April 11, at New Haven’s Firehouse 12, 45 Crown St. Besides Halvorson, a Firehouse favorite, the cohesive chamber unit features the equally dedicated instrumentalist/composer/bandleaders: bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Halvorson’s most recent release is Illusionary Sea on Firehouse 12 Records.
Thumbscrew is a triple alliance that grew out of the musicians’ mutual roles while working in the rhythm section for a Taylor Ho Bynum band. Its aesthetic rule of thumb is all about individual invention woven into collective harmonious interplay and shared compositional skills, collaborative ties that both bond and liberate the diverse talents of its three members. Tickets: $18, first set; $12, second set. Information: firehouse12.com and (203) 785-0468.
Monk Slakes Thirsts at Oasis
Drummer/composer/bandleader T.S. Monk, the swinging scion of the legendary Thelonious Monk, returns for an encore performance at 8:00 pm on Saturday, April 12, at the refreshingly cozy Oasis Room at the Garde Arts Center, 325 State Street in New London. Last year, maestro Monk played before a sold-out crowd of grateful fans slaking their thirst for jazz in the Oasis. Admission: $45.00. Box office: (860) 444-7373, ext. 1.
Vita Muir Named 2014 Jazz Hero
Vita Muir, the founder and executive producer of Connecticut’s prestigious Litchfield Jazz Festival and its successful spinoff, The Litchfield Jazz Camp, has been named a “2014 Jazz Hero” by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), one of two dozen national jazz heroes ranging from musicians to producers.
Muir, who singlehandedly created and transformed the Litchfield Jazz Festival since its debut in 1996 into a nationally acclaimed event, shares the Jazz Hero title with such luminaries as Harold Battiste, a New Orleans-based saxophonist/composer/arranger/producer and pianist Peggy Stern, co-founder/producer of the Wall Street Jazz Festival, Kingston, NY.
Considering the overwhelming odds that Muir had to overcome and the amazing results she has produced, the JJA award might well have been better called Jazz Miracle Worker.
Bethel Bistro Serves Jazz Slices
Jazz@the Pizzeria, a series of steamy Sunday jazz sessions served with Neapolitan cuisine and wood-fired pizza from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, continues this Sunday, April 13, with pianist Jeff McGill leading his group featuring saxophonist Ken Gioffre at Pizzeria Lauretano, an Italian bistro at 291 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel.
The pizzeria’s musical menu ranges from Trio Shalva, which mixes hot jazz elements with saucy Middle Eastern, Israeli and Jewish ingredients, to the savory vocals of the powerhouse diva Maydie Myles.
Here are Lauretano’s complete remaining spring series offerings:
Jeff McGill Group featuring Ken Gioffre, April 13: Billy Cofrances, a well-known New Haven saxophonist, with his quartet, April 27; saxophonist Andrew Beals heading his quartet, May 4; soulful singer Maydie Myles and drummer Tom Devino’s trio, May 11; woodwind specialist Ruth Ahlers fronting her quartet featuring the notable Nutmeg guitarist Joe Carter, May 18; and Trio Shalva (Hebrew for serenity), May 25. Cover charge varies at $10.00, $15.00, or $20.00, plus a $10.00 minimum. Information: pizzerialauretano.com. Reservations: (203) 792-1500.
Have Bass, Will Travel
Brad Barrett, a skilled, versatile bassist who proclaims that he will play any genre, any venue, clambers aboard the swift, open-ended Improvisations--Celebrating Free Music series, which sets sail again at 3:00 pm on Sunday, April 13, at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford.
Barrett collaborates with Improvisations curator/creators and regular performers, guitarist/bassist Joe Morris and cornetist Stephen Haynes. Everything is extemporaneous, including the audience’s chance to have a colloquy with the performers about the nature and mystery of improvisation. Admission: $15.00, general public; $12.00, members. Information: realartways.org and (860) 232-1006.
Jazzin’ with the Stars
The Heartbeat Dixieland Jazz Band performs at 1:30 pm on Saturday, April 12, at the John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River, in a benefit concert whose proceeds go to Autism Services and Resources Connecticut and Dog Days Adoption.
The third concert in the Jazzin’ with the Stars series, it features the popular trad band, which is led by its founder, the drummer and philanthropist Bill Logozzo, jamming with Heartbeat’s guest star, Dave Somerville of the ’50s group The Diamonds. A meet-and-greet with the stars follows the concert. Tickets: $30.00/$10.00 for children under 12. Information and tickets: jazzinstars.com and (860) 767-1663.
Notes from Here to Infinity
Sonny and Perley, a bright keyboard and vocal duo with myriad musical tastes, entertains at 3:00 pm on Sunday, April 13, at the free Baby Grand Jazz Series at the Hartford Public Library. Information: (860) 695-6295.
On the Connecticut shoreline, the red-hot Cuban-born pianist/composer Manuel Valera and his turbo-powered, Grammy nominated New Cuban Express roll into The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme on Friday, April 11, followed by vibraphonist Christos Rafalides leading his quartet, Manhattan Vibes, on Saturday, April 12. Tickets: New Cuban Express, $30.00; Manhattan Vibes, $25.00. Downbeat time: 8:30 pm. Information: thesidedoorjazz.com and (860) 434-0886.
John Brighenti and Friends pairs pianist John Brighenti with bassist Lou Bocciarelli at 6:00 pm on Thursday, April 10, at Casa Mia On the Green, Rocky Hill. Admission: free. Information: (860) 563-7000. Trumpeter Nick DiMaria leads his quartet at 2:00 pm on Saturday, April 12, in the admission-free jazz series at Ed Krech’s Integrity ’n Music in Wethersfield. Information: (860) 563-4005.
Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Norfolk presents the award-winning Manhattan Transfer at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, April 9, and the durable guitarist Larry Carlton at 8:00 pm on Saturday, April 12. Tickets: Manhattan Transfer, $85.00/$110.00; Carlton: $55.00/$70.00. Information: (866) 666-6306.
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