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.

Courtesy Atla DeChamplain

Atla and Matt DeChamplain, former high school sweethearts who have become one of Connecticut’s premier jazz power couples, debut their first album done together at a festive CD release concert on Friday, October 2, with shows at 7:00 and 9:00 pm at the Palace Theater Poli Club at 100 East Main Street in Waterbury.

Michael Crommett / Courtesy of Amir ElSaffar

Hailed by Down Beat magazine as “an exquisite alchemist” for his magical blend of traditional Middle Eastern motifs with free-wheeling jazz elements, the Iraqi-American, Chicago-born trumpeter/composer Amir ElSaffar has made a breakthrough discovery with his latest album, Crisis (Pi Recordings).

John Abercrombie

Perhaps best known for his long, amazingly fruitful relationship with Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records, guitarist John Abercrombie has enjoyed such a diverse, distinguished career that you can’t lock up his restless, lyrical artistry into any one air-tight, neatly convenient category, not even with the venerable ECM label.

Rory Anderson / Quincy Jones Productions

The close teacher-to-pupil, father-to-son-like relationship that developed between the dying, nonagenarian trumpet great Clark Terry and his last protégé, the young, gifted blind pianist Justin Kauflin, was the highly moving, emotional core of director Alan Hicks’s excellent, award-winning documentary, "Keep On Keepin’ On."

Daniel Feingold / Hartford Jazz Society

More than a half-century ago, a small, devout band of jazz-loving members of a then obscure, but courageous group called The Hartford Jazz Society launched HJS’s first riverboat jazz cruise on the Connecticut River.

Carlos Hernandez Chavez

Renowned region-wide since 2007 for its abundant servings of savory, red-hot Latin sounds and friendly, festive communal vibe, the free, outdoor Ray Gonzalez Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival presents its annual sizzling summer celebration in downtown Hartford on Saturday, August 29, from 5:00 to 10:00 pm at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza.

Corey Lynn Tucker Photography / Courtesy Isabella Mendes

Just as she’s fluent and elegantly at ease in both Portuguese and English, the rising, young Brazilian-born, singer/songwriter and pianist Isabella Mendes is also much at home with her seemingly contradictory dual careers in music and engineering.

Courtesy of Chuchito Valdes

If Cuban pianist Chuchito Valdes is intimidated by the burden of being the heir apparent to his family’s dynasty of world-renowned keyboard kingpins, you’d never know it from his regal virtuosity and royal touch and tone crowned by a majestic expressiveness that can hurl sonic thunderbolts and release endless torrents of joy.

Avery Sharpe

When Avery Sharpe, the standout standup jazz bassist, was a little boy growing up in the still segregated South, he’d often tag along with his mother, a gifted gospel pianist and devout member of the Church of God in Christ, when she played sacred music everywhere from emotionally powerful services in sanctified churches and tabernacles to fervent tent revival meetings.

Stephane Colbert / Dan Brubeck

With heartfelt devotion, drummer/composer Dan Brubeck pays tribute to his parents, the pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and the lyricist/librettist Iola Brubeck, with his new, consummately crafted, unpretentious release, Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave and Iola Brubeck.

David Redfern / Getty Images

Miles Davis, the innovative trumpet genius, and George Wein, the visionary festival producer/impresario, were not exactly as close, say, as Damon and Pythias, what with the seemingly inevitable bumps and disagreements that popped up now and then over the long, fruitful friendship and professional relationship between these two titanic forces in jazz.

Dennis Stock

Although Bill Crow has been an excellent and industrious bassist and consummate sideman since the height of the Golden Age of modern jazz in the 1950s, the 87-year-old jazzman might well be most celebrated for his groundbreaking accomplishments as a writer and grand master compiler and preserver of classic jazz humor in his famously funny and invaluable collection, Jazz Anecdotes.

Joyce DiCamillo

Classically trained and a member of the elite International Roster of Steinway Artists, the Stamford-born-and-bred pianist Joyce DiCamillo is most celebrated for her three decades of consummate mastery of the fine art of the jazz piano trio.

Summer in Hartford just wouldn’t be the same without the sizzling sounds and celebratory mood generated by the Monday Night Jazz Series and the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, two free, major outdoor festivals that for decades have drawn tens of thousands to the city’s downtown Bushnell Park in July and August.  

Brad Berger

Although Johnny O’Neal is a veteran pianist with prodigious chops and a singer with a rough-hewn kind of soulful elegance, he’s never been elevated to a household name, a superstar niche that supporters like Oscar Peterson and Mulgrew Miller felt he should have achieved many years ago.

Eric Antoniou / sueauclairpromotions


Dr. Eli Newberger, a renowned pediatrician and celebrated tuba virtuoso and keyboardist, has a new, bouncing baby to care for thanks to the recent birth of his all-star trad jazz band called Eli and the Hot Six.

Courtesy of the artist.

With her ecumenical embrace of everything from traditional to contemporary genres, bassist/vocalist Mimi Jones is soaring to success on a victorious mix of musical verve and a voracious appetite for variety and versatility.

Bill Morgan / Creative Commons

When J.J. Johnson, “the father of the modern jazz trombone,” first heard trombonist Steve Davis playing with the Jackie McLean Sextet some years ago at a jazz festival in Brazil, the great brass master had the highest praise for young Davis, then a rising musician who had idolized the jazz legend for years.

Kevork Imizirian

It’s been five years since the big-toned, Israeli-born tenor saxophonist Benny Sharoni made his recording debut with an acclaimed album called Eternal Elixir.

Bengt Nyman / Creative Commons

Looking every inch a silver-maned patriarch of Biblical grandeur, Sonny Rollins, the 84-year-old genius of the jazz tenor saxophone, was especially elated last weekend to receive an honorary doctor of music degree from the University of Hartford at graduation ceremonies on its West Hartford campus.

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

As a child prodigy, the now adult, prodigious drummer Johnathan Blake made an appearance on “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” the legendary children’s series on PBS created and hosted by Fred Rogers.

John Abbott / russnolan.com

Without ever sounding the least bit formulaic, saxophonist/composer Russ Nolan makes his musical calculations by using his favorite working equation, which is: Latin rhythms + post-bop harmonies = infinitely expanding quantities of energetic expression.

William P. Gottlieb / U.S. Library of Congress

Maybe the best way to celebrate Billie Holiday’s centennial year is to pay Lady Day a one-hour visit by listening to the 20 signature songs on Columbia/Legacy’s new, fine and mellow single-CD tribute called Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection.

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).


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.

Ojah Media Group

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.