Traditional Bash Celebrates Jazz Age With Weekend of Rhythm in Guilford | Connecticut Public Radio
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Traditional Bash Celebrates Jazz Age With Weekend of Rhythm in Guilford

Oct 7, 2015

It's all about fun, top-shelf spontaneous music, and camaraderie among trad jazz co-religionists.

If you love traditional jazz and an amicable, intimate setting where you can schmooze and nosh at ease with your favorite performers, you should be right at home at Jeff and Joel’s House Party, a vintage music bash that runs full steam ahead from Friday, October 9, through Sunday, October 11, at the VFW Hall, 104 Mill Road in Guilford.

The brainchild of Jeff Barnhart, a nationally noted, two-fisted trad jazz piano virtuoso from Mystic, and Joel Schiavone, an incorrigibly flamboyant banjoist/singer and entertainer/raconteur from Guilford, Jeff and Joel’s House Party emulates the ambience of the fabled Harlem rent parties of the Jazz Age where the music flowed and the good times rolled.

Unabashedly retro, happy, hip and hedonistic, it’s all about fun, top-shelf spontaneous music, camaraderie among trad jazz co-religionists, food, drink and an openness that is the antithesis of staid concert hall conventions.

Barnhart, a serious scholar of jazz keyboard history who takes enormous delight in playing ebullient, finger-popping stomps, launches the party with his power-packed quintet on Friday at 7:30 pm with a romping repertoire that might well display his grasp of Fats Waller’s genius as a pianist, singer, composer and entertainer.

To double your musical pleasure, Barnhart’s take-no-prisoners frontline features the celebrated Anderson twins, Peter and Will, red-hot reed masters and Juilliard grads.

Identical twins, the Andersons have a deep understanding of and feeling for not only modern jazz but earlier, classic styles as well. The brothers have displayed their hard-swinging, sibling sophistication on the New York scene, including as co-leaders of the Off-Broadway jazz shows, Artie Shaw at 100, The Fabulous Dorseys, and Le Jazz Hot.

Barnhart’s rhythm section mates are bassist Brian Nalepka, who’s accompanied such luminaries as Leon Redbone and Woody Allen, and drummer Jim Lawlor, a member of the Midiri Brothers bands, longtime East Coast favorites. Tickets for the opening night show are $40.00. No meals will be served; cash bar available.

On the next two days, a contingent of 15 or so top traditional jazz players will rock the hall on two separate sessions on Saturday, one from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, the other from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and in the house party’s grand finale, one session on Sunday, steaming from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Tickets are $80.00 per session for the Saturday and Sunday festivities. That includes lunch for the first session on Saturday and dinner for the second Saturday session, as well as brunch for the single Sunday session. You can go to all three of these sessions for $225. For tickets call (203) 208-1481.

Peter and Will Anderson.
Credit Lynn Redmile / peterandwillanderson.com

As the player/coach, Barnhart will mix and match his roster of players into various sized units in shifting configurations sure to inspire spontaneous conflagrations and interactions. In house parties past, Barnhart’s barn fire jam sessions -- with the tune selections called out in the moment -- sizzle into a rich musical gumbo whose savory ingredients include New Orleans traditional music, Dixieland, swing, and blues.

Since nothing is rehearsed and everything is extemporaneous, you might well be served anything from ragtime to maybe even an old-fashioned, syncopated singalong powered by Schiavone’s banjo picking and vocals.

A longtime, avid supporter and practitioner of traditional jazz, Schiavone, a natural, humorous entertainer, is the party’s genial host throughout. A Harvard MBA who played a key role in rebuilding a rundown downtown New Haven during the urban renewal surge years ago, Schiavone, among other claims to fame, is a member of the Banjo Hall of Fame, who also mounted memorably bold, colorful but unsuccessful bids for governor, state comptroller and mayor of New Haven.

Barnhart’s handpicked all-star team includes two Connecticut traditional jazz legends, reed wizard Noel Kaletsky, a deserving but yet uncrowned clarinet king, and the fiery cornetist Fred Vigorito, the longtime leader of Connecticut’s celebrated Galvanized Jazz Band.

A featured soloist on some 45 recordings, Vigorito has been heralded for his performances in Europe and has recorded with such venerated figures in the history of New Orleans jazz as George Lewis and Kid Thomas.

Molly Ryan.
Credit Collette Lash

Barnhart’s squad ranges from the illustrious music and showbiz veteran Donn Trenner, an Emmy® nominated musical director, conductor and arranger, to vocalist Molly Ryan, a rising young star on the New York scene.

She’s performed at premier Big Apple cabaret and jazz venues ranging from the legendary Café Carlyle and the Rainbow Room to The Iridium and Birdland.

At least as omnipresent as Zelig, the Woody Allen character who pops up everywhere and in the presence of virtually every celebrated figure, Trenner has for decades distinguished himself with his deep, wide-ranging musical talents that have connected him with, among many others, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Charles Mingus, Tommy Dorsey, Bob Hope (he was the comedian’s personal accompanist for seven years), Lena Horne, Ann-Margret, Nelson Riddle and the jazz-loving wit, Steve Allen. Trenner’s resume reads like a virtual “Who’s Who” of jazz and showbiz figures from the 1950s on.

Ryan, who has been praised by The Wall Street Journal’s Will Friedwald, an authoritative critic and prolific chronicler of jazz and pop vocal styles, has sung with the Grammy-winning, vintage orchestra, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, and with the gypsy jazz group, Fete Manouche.

Besides being the toast of the town for her sparkling Big Apple performances, she’s been hailed for her appearances in such famed Paris jazz nightspots as Le Petit Journal and Autour de Midi. The singer is married to the multi-talented bandleader and reed player Dan Levinson, who is also a headliner at the house party.

Among other Barnhart all-stars are the rock-steady New England bassist Genevieve Rose, a freelance musician from Massachusetts who has built up a loyal fan base in Connecticut, and trombonist Jim Fryer, who has appeared with such notables as Doc Cheatham, Bob Wilber and Anat Cohen, and performed on Garrison Keillor’s radio show, A Prairie Home Companion.

Also listed in the lineup for Barnhart’s swinging batting order are: Scott Philbrick, trumpet and banjo; Gordon Au, a formidable trumpeter fluent in both modern and trad jazz, a young man with a horn who’s much at home with such early masters as Bix Beiderbecke; the industrious, inexhaustible drummer Kevin Dorn, and the smooth sailing trombonist Tom Boates. The VFW Hall is at 104 Mill Road, Guilford. For more information: jeffandjoelshouseparty.com.

Weekend Jazz in Middletown

Doug White.
Credit DougWhiteJazz.com

Doug White, a tenor saxophonist, singer and composer who toured throughout Europe and the East Coast with the storied bebop diva Annie Ross of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross fame, leads his quintet on Saturday, October 10, at 8:00 pm at The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main St. in Middletown.

Founder of the indie jazz label Juniper Records, White, who’s now based in Connecticut, has gained recognition as the leader of his own combos since the early 1970s. He’s entertained in venues from New York City to London and Paris and at such international festivals as Ireland’s blue-ribbon Guinness Jazz Fest.

Mentored early in his career by Miles Davis and Warne Marsh, he has performed with Milt Hinton, Tommy Flanagan and Joe Puma, and been praised by critic Gary Giddins as “a very solid tenor saxophonist.” His working quintet, which has played in venues throughout Connecticut, features pianist Chris Casey, bassist Steve Porter, trumpeter Pat Casey and drummer Tido Holtkamp. Tickets: $10.00 at the door. Information: (860) 347-4957.

Also in Middletown this weekend, the adventurous pianist Fred Simmons, who has assisted such superb stratospheric saxophonists as Dewey Redman and Anthony Braxton in their expansive explorations, leads his Turn of the Century Quartet in a free concert on Sunday, October 11, at 3:00 pm at the Russell House, corner of Washington and High streets at Wesleyan University. Simmons and his allies, including the noted vibraphonist Jay Hoggard and percussionist Pheeroan akLaff, bring their 21st century sensibilities to the unfairly under-recognized maestro’s original compositions as well as highlighting works by other composers, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck.

You Can Go Home Again

Tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm and pianist Gregg Kallor, two acclaimed jazz musicians who studied their craft early on in West Hartford public schools, return home again to perform as special guests at the twelfth annual Celebrating Gifts of Music Benefit Concert on Saturday, October 24, at 7:30 pm at the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Auditorium at the Intensive Education Academy, 840 North Main St., West Hartford.

Gregg Kallor.
Credit greggkallor.com

The Big Apple jazz artists will be joined by two other distinguished alumni of their hometown’s public school system, percussionist Rob Gottfried, widely known as Rob the Drummer, and actor/vocalist Tom Zemon.

Presented by the school system’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the concert will feature more than 60 student performers. These include the Jazz All Stars, musicians from Conard and Hall High schools; I Giovani Solisti, a chamber orchestra of string musicians, also from both Conard and Hall; and classical music students from the school system who participate in the Gifts of Music program. The benefit concert supports current Gifts of Music students studying classical and jazz music.

In another local connection, Frahm and Kallor, two busy players, performed together earlier this year in New York City at SubCulture, a Greenwich Village performance venue run by Marc and Steve Kaplan, who are also alumni of West Hartford public schools.

Frahm’s versatility, musical savvy, fluent, hard-swinging qualities and lyrical expressiveness have made him one of today’s top-seeded tenor saxophonists. Praised for originality and wit, Kallor is a pianist and a composer whose music fuses classical and jazz traditions with what the New York Times has called “unaffected emotional directness.”

Gottfried, a versatile drummer, popular entertainer, noted musical educator and motivational speaker, has appeared on the Nickelodeon Network, MTV, Sesame Street, Kids World, Entertainment Tonight and other national television programs.

Zemon’s Broadway credits include "Les Miserables" and "The Scarlet Pimpernel." His regional credits, among others, include "Children," "Pericles," and "Androcles and the Lion" at Hartford Stage. His numerous TV appearances range from "Law and Order" to "Guiding Light."

Gifts of Music encourages and provides access to private music lessons for students who would otherwise not have the resources to pursue such instruction. Concert tickets: $25. For more information and to order tickets: giftsofmusic.us.

Please submit press releases on upcoming jazz events at least two weeks before the publication date to omac28@gmail.com. Comments left below are also most welcome.