Trumpeter Josh Evans Heralds New Concert Season for the Hartford Jazz Society | Connecticut Public Radio

Trumpeter Josh Evans Heralds New Concert Season for the Hartford Jazz Society

Oct 28, 2015

Josh Evans's big band features both his soloing prowess and writing skill.

Josh Evans, the Hartford-born trumpet phenomenon, launches the Hartford Jazz Society's fall Concert and Workshop Series with a compelling, powerful jolt as he leads his electrifying big band on Friday, October 30, at 8:00 pm at the Polish National Home at 60 Charter Oak Avenue in Hartford.

A member of the elite legion of highly successful, style-setting proteges of the late, great alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, Evans has performed or recorded with an impressive array of artists including Cedar Walton, Rashied Ali, Benny Golson, Winard Harper and Ralph Peterson. As a leader in his own right, he's recorded his debut album, Portrait, and his sophomore CD, Hope and Despair, which was released in September on the Passin' Thru label.

The trumpeter/composer's big band features both his soloing prowess and writing skills, showcasing his arrangements for standards and originals. A mix of established and up-and-coming musicians, the ensemble features such players as Frank Lacy, Stacy Dillard, Lauren Sevian, David Gibson, and Theo Hill. It has performed at such top Big Apple venues as Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and Smalls Jazz Club.

Since its earliest days more than a half-century ago, the Jazz Society has especially enjoyed hosting concerts featuring ascending artists like Evans who have deep roots with Hartford. Local fans have been able to watch this young man with a horn's evolution from teen phenom to artistic maturity as he demonstrates an irrepressible flair and unlimited potential for just how high his star can soar.

As part of the series' tradition, a student band will be the opening act, with the Hall High School Jazz Band II taking the stage at 7:00 pm. Also marking the Jazz Society's longtime advocacy of jazz education, there will be a free student jazz workshop held at the venue from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.

Tickets: $15.00, general admission in advance; $20.00 at the door; $10.00, seniors; $5.00 students. For HJS members: $10.00 in advance and $15.00 at the door. Tickets available at the Polish National Home, Integrity 'n Music in Wethersfield, and via PayPal at

Traneing In at Yale

Yale's prestigious Ellington Jazz Series features saxophonist Javon Jackson and his super quartet performing pieces from his John Coltrane project on Friday, October 30, at 7:30 pm at Sprague Hall, New Haven.

Javon Jackson

Jackson, who heads the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at The Hartt School, is joined on his reworking of the Trane tracks by the legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, pianist George Cables and bassist Peter Washington. Jackson's band is called We Four, despite the fact that it's actually a Big Four, a force whose X-tra large individual and collective skills obviously make it the living antithesis of wee, as in small. Tickets: $20.00/$10.00 with student ID. Information: (203) 432-4158.

Real-Time Improv at Real Art Ways

Guitarist/bassist Joe Morris and cornetist Stephen Haynes return on Friday, October 30, at 7:00 pm with their successful Improvisations/Arcade series, their vital, intimate close-up examination and celebration of the art of cutting-edge improvisation in a cozy chamber jazz setting at Hartford's Real Art Ways.

Joe Morris.
Credit Rob Miller
Stephen Haynes.
Credit Rob Miller

Indefatigable improvisers in their own right, Morris and Haynes have been co-curating their series since 2011. In their curatorial roles, they've brought some 34 artists to town for performances that feature improvised sets of unrehearsed music, mixed with informal conversations between the audience and performers.

Audience members are encouraged to ask anything about the music, its methodology and mystery, what artists are striving for and maybe even for helpful, Leonard Bernstein-like tips on what to listen for.

Improvisations at Real Art Ways.
Credit Rob Miller /

More than detached academic curator/hosts, Morris and Haynes roll up their sleeves, leap into the fray and participate in shifting group configurations with their guests, interactions generating new approaches, igniting in-the-moment inspirations for fresh ideas.

The two activist/savants of spontaneous combustion launch this fall's opener with their guests, trumpeter Nate Wooley and drummer/percussionist Paul Lytton.

Tickets for the season premiere for these sessions of real improvisations in real time at Real Art Ways are: $15.00, general; $12.00, RAW members. Information: (860) 232-1006.

Baker Samples Served at Sam's Gyro

With any luck, the savvy vocalist June Bisantz will serve savory samples from her latest release, an homage to Chet Baker called It's Always You, as she appears on Friday, October 30, at 7:30 pm and 9:00 pm at Sam's Gyro at 7 South Main Street in West Hartford.

June Bisantz
Credit Background photo Bob Willoughby of June by Harrison Judd / Chet Baker's image courtesy of the Chet Baker Foundation

Bisantz is accompanied by the Russian-born pianist Alex Nakhimovsky, a globe-trotting, Hartford-based musician/educator whose ongoing cordon bleu jazz series has been catering to the smart set at the restaurant in West Hartford Center.

Also aboard are trumpeter/flugelhornist Gabor Viragh, guitarist Norman Johnson and bassist Matt Dwonszyk. $15.00. Reservations: (860) 233-6300. Information:

Classy Jazz Take on Prokofiev Classic

The New England Jazz Ensemble presents its music director Walter Gwardyak's jazz arrangement of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev's classic Peter and the Wolf in a free concert on Wednesday, October 28, at 10:00 am at Conard High School, 110 Beechwood Road in West Hartford.

Gwardyak, a noted pianist and versatile arranger, is a founding member of the award-winning, 16-piece big band that has, among other accolades, won acclaim for its unique presentations of the Duke Ellington Jazz Nutcracker.

Walter Gwardyak
Credit Lee Everett

The NEJE's ambitious version of the enormously popular “Peter and the Wolf,” whose numerous adaptations most famously include Walt Disney's film animation in 1946, skillfully brings big band styles and a jazz sensibility to the children's favorite. Gwardyak's arrangement is a complex, evocative measure-by-measure reworking of the original Prokofiev work in a fluent, swinging jazz idiom.

Vocalist Giacomo Gates wrote and will perform the narration for the jazz adaptation. Jeff Holmes, NEJE's lead trumpeter and one of its principal arrangers, conducts the ensemble.

Presented by the 125-year-old Musical Club of Hartford in collaboration with the West Hartford Schools Arts Department, the concert also features the Conard and Hall High School Jazz Bands, which will be joined by a high school jazz band visiting from Germany.

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