Jazz Corridor

Owen McNally writes about jazz and other music events in Connecticut's Jazz Corridor, stretching from the tip of Fairfield County, right through New Haven and Hartford, and on up beyond the state into the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Keep up with the best our area has to offer in music.

Noah Baerman

If you knew absolutely nothing about Noah Baerman except for the music you heard on his nine triumphant recordings, you’d never suspect for a minute that the brilliant pianist/composer from Middletown has struggled for years with the debilitating pain caused by a rare and incurable connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

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When Jeff Barnhart, a ragtime and traditional jazz piano virtuoso, and his wife Anne, a classically-trained flutist, got married in 2000, one might have thought the sectarian differences between the faiths of jazz and classical music would prevent this Connecticut couple from ever hitching up in a harmonious professional musical partnership.

Liron Joseph / Jovan Alexandre

At just over six-foot-five, the modest but immodestly talented musician Jovan Alexandre speaks softly but carries a big-toned tenor saxophone that speaks with a deeply expressive personal sound full of towering promise.

Steven Sussman

Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice climbing through the looking glass, Cyrille Aimee, a future jazz princess, was instantly transfixed after scrambling through her bedroom window as a child in France. Quite magically, the little girl found herself in a fantastical cultural kingdom of Gypsies from all over Europe happily encamped nearby at a festival celebrating the legacy of the legendary Gypsy jazz guitar genius, Django Reinhardt.

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Long before Cassandra Wilson became an iconic and iconoclastic diva, her preternaturally beautiful voice and naturally charismatic way with phrasing and lyrics earned her comparisons with Billie Holiday, the most deeply expressive and tragically doomed jazz singer of the 20th century.

Guillaume Laurent / Creative Commons

Kyle Eastwood, a hard-swinging bassist and gifted jazz and film score composer, continues to carve a brilliant career all his own, an ongoing success story that makes the day for his proud father, the legendary Hollywood actor/director, Clint Eastwood.

Guillaume Laurent / Creative Commons

The Hartford Jazz Society and New Haven’s Firehouse 12 celebrate the end of the winter of our discontent with sunny, regenerating concerts on the first official day of spring on March 20.

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Relaxing in a cozy recliner back home in Columbus, Ohio, the nonagenarian trombonist Arthur Baskerville can, through the miracle of live streaming, sit back on Friday night and watch his brilliant, young grandson, the phenomenal pianist Aaron Diehl, perform with his trio in New Haven, more than 600 miles away, at Yale’s prestigious Ellington Jazz Series.

Richard Conde

Laszlo Gardony, Hungary’s great gift to the world of jazz piano, celebrates the lush, orchestral possibilities of the instrument at the Hartford Public Library’s free Baby Grand Jazz series at 3:00 pm on Sunday, March 1, collaborating with his trio, a hard-swinging, cerebral chamber jazz unit that grooves on deep emotion and bold invention.

Bill Mays

A consummate jazz pianist, Bill Mays is so good, in so many varied ways, in so many diverse settings -- from chamber group to big band -- that his dazzling versatility and multiple talents sometime seem to outshine his luminous skills as a compelling solo concert pianist.

Mays, a globe-trotting musician, California native, and resident of Shohola, Pennsylvania, travels to the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts this weekend to shine a well-merited, bright light on his first-class solo piano artistry at 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 21, at the city of Pittsfield’s fourth annual 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival at Baba Louie’s Backroom, a noted Berkshire County jazz spot at 34 Depot Street. Tickets: $15.00 in advance, $20.00 on day of event at berkshiresjazz.org

diannereeves.com

Just one week after winning a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, the dynamic diva Dianne Reeves will be even more electrifying than ever as she presents a celebratory victory performance at 7:30 pm on Sunday, February 15, at Hartford’s Infinity Music Hall.

Reeves, 58, received the fifth Grammy of her career for her album Beautiful Life on Concord Records.  Her triumphant release edged out stiff competition from albums by singers Tierney Sutton, Gretchen Parlato, Rene Marie, and composer/arranger Billy Childs’ eclectic compendium of vocalists paying homage to Laura Nyro.

All the jubilant Grammy Award winner has to do to bring down the house in Hartford on Sunday night is launch into the passionate, a cappella opening bars of her wordless tour de force on an original song called "Tango," a mesmerizing power number that helped propel Beautiful Life to beautiful victory.

katiethiroux.com

Katie Thiroux, 26, a gifted string bassist and singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, celebrates the release of her fine debut disc at 8:30 pm on Friday, February 6, as she leads her tight-knit quartet at The Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme.

If you’ve never even heard of this melodic, rich-toned bassist and fluent singer -- a two-in-one instrumentalist/singer package in the swinging, non-commercial mode of the early recordings by singer/pianist Diana Krall -- then you’re in for a pleasant surprise at the popular shoreline jazz spa.

You might even be doubly pleased by both Thiroux and her swinging, simpatico sidemen, tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann, guitarist Graham Dechter, and drummer Matt Witek. A genuine working band, this is the same lineup heard on Thiroux’s plainly titled new disc, Introducing Katie Thiroux.

Gulnara Khamatova / wayneescofferymusic.com

Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, one of the best and the brightest of New Haven’s major contributions to the international jazz scene, hopes that his many friends and fans in Connecticut will show up to help him celebrate several major milestones in his life and career as he leads his new band in a six-night stint from February 3 to February 8 at the Village Vanguard.

Along with the sheer joy of playing once again at the Vanguard, a jazz shrine located in Greenwich Village, Escoffery, a formidable saxophonist, composer, bandleader and consummate sideman, is celebrating his 40th birthday on every one of those nights in the venerable venue.

Alexa Tarantino

Alexa Tarantino, a gifted, 22-year-old alto saxophonist who grew up in West Hartford, has plenty to celebrate as she performs in a duo concert with the Polish-born piano virtuoso Dariusz Terefenko at 3:00 pm on Sunday, January 25, at the Hartford Public Library’s free Baby Grand Jazz Series.

Among the causes for celebration, the versatile multi-instrumentalist/composer has recently graduated from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where she earned degrees in jazz saxophone performance and education, as well as a certificate in arts leadership.

Besides the joy of graduation, the emerging saxophonist has a new CD out with Terefenko called Crossing Paths that they’ll be promoting in March on a two-week tour of workshops, clinics, and performances in some of Poland’s premier conservatories. Later this summer, the mini-Poland tour will be followed up with the duo’s appearances in Brazil.

Jimmy Katz

Although first trained in the intellectual rigors of classical music and later well-schooled in the cerebral practices of free jazz, the exceptional Japanese-born pianist/composer Eri Yamamoto most prizes the invention of pure, basic, heartfelt melody. 

Sevim Yolacti

Guitarist/composer Sinan Bakir, a Nutmeg State transplant who’s originally from Ankara, Turkey, has set Gold Medal standards of excellence in expression in recent years with his two acclaimed recordings and live performances in many venues stretching from Connecticut to New York.

Eliyamin.com

Besides being a gifted pianist, composer, bandleader, educator and co-writer of imaginative jazz musicals for children, New York City musical maven Eli Yamin is a devout, globetrotting evangelist for jazz and blues as a universally healing and unifying communal catalyst, an inspiring historical and cultural force that he calls “the heartbeat of the American experience.”

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Every now and then, the jazz world needs a reminder that there are master musicians among us whose distinguished careers, elegant artistry, versatility, intelligence, resilience and well-honed craftsmanship are not given the recognition they so richly merit.

If you’re looking for a house-rocking, soul-drenched, exuberantly emotional concert, the place to be is Collinsville’s Bridge Street Live on Thursday, December 18, as blues master James Montgomery and his super blues band jam with the skyrocketing, young jazz saxophonist Grace Kelly in a funk-filled funfest.

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For even as distinguished a venue as New Haven’s Firehouse 12, presenting the iconic, brilliant, forever bold 87-year-old alto saxophonist/composer Lee Konitz in separate shows at 8:30 and 10:00 pm on Friday, December 12, is a real coup.

Lee Everett / Fine Line

Packed with top regional instrumentalist/composers, The New England Jazz Ensemble has long been a band for all seasons, a non-profit collective of devoted modern jazz practitioners who are also right at home celebrating traditional Christmas fare in the bright, bona fide spirit of jazz.

Deneka Peniston

With a new CD just released and herself ensconced in the middle of an extended, plum engagement at Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, Allegra Levy has many triumphant thoughts to savor. The savvy 24-year-old singer/songwriter from West Hartford flies home more than 8,000 miles for a quick stateside visit to promote her debut album in two performances, one in New York City, the other in Hartford.

John Rogers

A rare artistic species, the great pianist/composer Fred Hersch is a true original, as independent a voice and as rugged and self-reliant an individual creating in the American grain as, say, Henry David Thoreau or Walt Whitman, Bill Evans or Thelonious Monk.

Credit Jimmy Katz

Guitar gods Pat Metheny, a master maker of melody and texture, and the thunderous, Thor-like, lightning-tossing duo of Eric Johnson and Mike Stern rule supreme in the next few days in the Jazz Corridor with individual appearances ranging from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Hartford and Norfolk.

William Parker

“We’ll all be on our feet, ready to spar, to react, to move immediately and be open to the moment and what’s going to happen because I think that’s the key,” the legendary cutting-edge bassist/composer/bandleader William Parker said of his performance this weekend at the historic Aetna Theater at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Peter Gannushkin / downtownmusic.net

Devotees of the ruggedly individualistic, inexhaustibly creative Mary Halvorson have much to celebrate and cogitate upon as the rising, young, cutting-edge guitarist presents solo explorations at 8:30 and 10:00 pm on November 7 at New Haven’s Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street.

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A man for all seasons, tenor saxophonist JD Allen plays ballads with warmth, beauty and truth, grooves hard in a post-bop mode or wails in a free jazz setting with passion saturated with the soulful spirituality, grace and inspired abandon recalling the power and the glory of John Coltrane.

Jordi Herold

It’s hard to imagine what the regional music scene would have been like over the past four decades without the invaluable, energizing force generated by The Iron Horse Music Hall, the small but mighty powerhouse of an entertainment center in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Jimmy Katz

Jimmy Greene, the great jazz saxophonist whose life was shattered by the murder of his beloved six-year-old daughter, Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, a victim of the Sandy Hook school shooting, has created much triumphant, life-affirming beauty out of that agonizing loss by celebrating Ana’s life in a new album titled, Beautiful Life. A deeply moving, eloquently expressive and light-filled homage, the aptly named CD will be released November 25 on Mack Avenue Records.

Jonathan Doster

As an intrepid explorer of the human psyche and inventor of wildly imaginative, convention-defying works, guitarist/composer Michael Musillami on his new release, Pride, reveals himself to be a kindred spirit with the late, great Maurice Sendak, the renowned, wizard storyteller and illustrator of children’s books and long-time resident of Ridgefield.

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