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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.

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.

gracekellymusic.com

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.

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