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.

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).

jeffbarnhart.com

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.

YouTube

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.

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