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.

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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.

Eric Devine

Reports of the death of traditional jazz have been greatly exaggerated -- at least, that’s the incontrovertible evidence presented right here in Connecticut when you examine the robust life-signs of the increasingly popular trad jazz bash called Jeff and Joel’s Jazz House Party.

Sakurai Toshi

On the jacket cover of his latest CD, The Vigil, Chick Corea, portrayed as an ever vigilant knight on horseback, is equipped with a new suit of shining armor with a trusty lance at his side, a jazz Lancelot whose Holy Grail is, was and always shall be the pursuit of constant renewal and enlightenment.

Maurice Robertson / Hartford Jazz Society

For more than a half-century, the Hartford Jazz Society’s annual riverboat ramble on the Connecticut River—the state’s biggest, longest-running, most celebratory floating jazz concert—consistently features indelible shipboard solos that might forever dwell in your nostalgic jazz memory bank.

Vincent Oneppo

Willie Ruff, the celebrated French horn player and double bassist, venerable Yale School of Music professor, founder/director of Yale’s prestigious Duke Ellington Fellowship Program, award-winning author, documentarian, historian, linguist, ethnomusicologist, and voracious autodidact, is a man of so many intricate, smoothly running, coolly calibrated cerebral parts that he is, indeed, one of the jazz world’s true Renaissance figures.

Brian Wittman

Many years ago, a young pianist named Bill Evans recorded an LP called Everybody Digs Bill Evans, one of those rare album titles that is forever memorable and also somehow a concise summation and mini-portrait of the artist himself.

Kavita Shah

An artist of many parts, Kavita Shah, an ascending, young singer/songwriter of Indian descent, applies her keen, empathetic intelligence, ethereally beautiful voice and adventurous spirit by using global music and multi-cultural influences as sources of inspiration for expressing her personal and cultural identity on her adventurous debut album aptly titled Visions.

Alan Nahigian

“With the wind at his back, he can sound like an ocean roar.” Using meteorological and oceanographic allusions fit for portraying a mythic hero, jazz critic Gary Giddins described the powerhouse pianist Harold Mabern, a life force on the jazz scene for more than half a century.

Cyrus Chestnut

Graced with the robust technique of a premier concert hall pianist, Cyrus Chestnut is totally absorbed in exploring and celebrating the seemingly unlimited sonic potential of his grand instrument, using its keyboard and pedals to generate resonant, thickly-textured, amazingly agile, nuanced orchestral effects. 

nojazzfest.com

Elated to be alive and once again playing at the top of her game after a debilitating, three-year struggle with a life-threatening brain condition, the whirlwind New Orleans singer/dancer and entertainer Charmaine Neville is looking forward to performing with her famous father, saxophonist Charles Neville, on August 9 at the first Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival in downtown Springfield’s historic Court Square.

James L. Amos

Even though the guitar had been at the heart and soul of his existence since age seven, the future great jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini went to the prestigious University of Notre Dame in the mid-1950s to study architecture.

Javon Jackson

Javon Jackson, a top-seeded modern jazz tenor saxophonist, has plenty to celebrate this weekend as he brings his A-game to The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, a free, outdoor bash that’s expected to draw more than 50,000 fans to Bushnell Park on its 23rd annual run from Friday, July 18, to Sunday, July 20.

Litchfield Performing Arts

Maybe what accounts for Vita West Muir’s stunning success with founding and leading the celebrated Litchfield Jazz Festival since 1996 is the way she was taught by her Jesuit professors to think in a clear, cool, logical manner while she was majoring in biology and philosophy at Fordham University.

David Newman / photobynewman.com

Hartford assumes its traditional summer role as the Connecticut state capital of free, high quality, mega-outdoor jazz festivals this month as Monday Night Jazz in Bushnell Park and The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz camp down once again on their scenic stomping grounds on the city’s historic Bushnell Park.

David Borawski

After a triumphant five-year run that offered a sparkling array of top live cabaret entertainment in Hartford, the flamboyant, innovative impresario/fashion-designer Dan Blow wraps up his popular Music@Japanalia Series at 7:30 pm on Saturday, June 28, with a grand finale performance by the noted, Hartford-based diva Dianne Mower.

Hör∂ur Sveinsson

In an international cultural coup d’etat this weekend, highly-skilled jazz performers from Iceland and Israel roll into Old Lyme to seize absolute emotional and aesthetic control over at The Side Door Jazz Club, the Connecticut shoreline’s key strategic jazz center.

Eliseo Cardona

With his ability to pluck and bow powerful portraits of emotions ranging from the foot-stomping, rustic joy of a barn-packed hoedown (think of robust Regionalist murals by Thomas Hart Benton) to the contemporary solitude and loneliness of an urban dark night of the soul in New York City (think of Edward Hopper’s loners), Erik Friedlander is a one-of-a-kind cellist/composer.

Linda Oh / Facebook

Linda Oh, the phenomenal young bassist who was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents, and raised in Western Australia, performs music from her acclaimed, atmospheric and aptly-named CD, Sun Pictures, as she leads her quartet at 8:30 and 10:00 pm on Friday, June 6, at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven.

Nicki Parrott

As part of his musical legacy, the late Les Paul, the legendary guitarist, electronic wizard and iconic guitar designer, played a key role in encouraging Nicki Parrott, the gifted Australian-born double bassist, to spread her wings a bit and also become a first-rate, expressive jazz singer.

Peter Salo

While playing his weekly gig at Manhattan’s Caffe Vivaldi some four years ago, pianist Assaf Gleizner, a Tel Aviv native, decided to please his parents by mixing traditional Israeli folk music with the modern jazz fare that he and his fellow Israeli sidemen, Koby Hayon and Nadav Snir-Zelniker, were to serve that night at the popular West Village restaurant and live music hot spot.   

Asylum Hill Congregational Church

Long a welcoming haven for jazz, Asylum Hill Congregational Church embraces Duke Ellington’s sacred music Sunday, May 18, at 4:00 pm as it presents "The Best of the Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts" with full-scale, soulful re-creations blessed with four mighty choirs singing, a powerhouse jazz band swinging, and a tap dancer tapping in the historic Hartford church’s majestic sanctuary.

Sissy Castrogiovanni

In the exciting, event-packed upcoming days, jazz gets happily hitched to lyrics sung enticingly and beautifully in Sicilian dialect by the young, sensational, Sicilian-born Sissy Castrogiovanni on Saturday, May 10, at 8:00 pm at Middletown’s Buttonwood Tree. 

The Cookers

Thanks to The Side Door Jazz Club, one of Connecticut’s newest and hottest venues, and the Hartford Jazz Society, the nation’s oldest jazz society in continuous operation, May gets off to an explosive start with performances by two powerhouse modern mainstream ensembles that believe in the aesthetic primacy of unabashedly hard-swinging jazz crackling with unashamedly soulful feeling. 

J. Barry O' Rourke / Ali Ryerson

“We’ve switched over to the dark side for real now.” No, that’s not an ominous utterance from Dick Cheney. It’s the celebrated flutist Ali Ryerson joking on the phone when discussing her touring quintet’s contemporary, plugged-in sound that marks a giant switch for her from the modern mainstream palette that has long been a hallmark of her acclaimed artistry.

Marianne Solivan

Besides possessing a lovely instrument of a voice graced with rich, sensuous timbres, Marianne Solivan is a gifted, wise singer who never feels compelled to use her ample skills to push the envelope so hard that she murders the enclosed message in the song.

BabyJaneDexter.com

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.

Milt Hinton / The Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection, milthinton.com

More eloquently than the written word—including even the prose of the great Ralph Ellison or the poetry of the legendary Langston Hughes—poetically expressive black-and-white photographs taken by gifted jazz photographers can capture the elusive but soulful essence of the music and its cradle-to-the-grave love affair with life.

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