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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.

Bassist Joe Fonda Packs His Connecticut Composers Festival With Top Chamber Fare

Joe Fonda will step down from his presenter's role to pick up his bass and perform in a duo setting.

Bassist/composer Joe Fonda, long an irrepressible, dynamic force in the world of cutting-edge music, outdoes himself as a bold impresario/producer with his Tenth Annual Connecticut Composers Festival, a combustible mix whose catalytic elements start crackling on Saturday, November 14 at 7:30 pm at Middletown's Buttonwood Tree.

One of the show's guaranteed highlights -- potentially providing some of the fall season's most memorable moments -- will be the solo performance by the great, Hartford-born saxophonist Jimmy Greene, a highly inventive musician. In the words of Duke Ellington's classic, critical standard, Greene is “beyond category.”

If you've heard the onetime protégé of the late Jackie McLean either live or on his many acclaimed recordings with his own bands, or as a much sought-after sideman handpicked by other notable leaders, you know Greene’s deeply expressive range. For all his enviable technical facility and musical savvy, the saxophonist/composer's musical learning and keen intelligence never slight the importance of bringing feeling, truth and beauty to his playing. Graced with eloquence, emotional resonance and empathy, his music connects on a profoundly moving level with his listeners, creating a kind of communion in the moment.

What better way to experience Greene's depth and range than in the solo format when he's having a soulful conversation with himself. And all the more so in the welcoming ambience of such an intimate, jazz and art-friendly refuge as The Buttonwood, a hip but homey roost where the congregation actually gathers to listen to the music.

At 7:30 pm, Fonda's fest focuses on the tight-knit duo collaboration uniting saxophonist Allan Chase and vocalist Dominique Eade, two simpatico performers who also happen to be husband-and-wife.

"Future historians will be surprised at the breadth of Mr. Fonda's offerings."
Anthony Braxton

Chase has cut more than 35 jazz recordings, soloed on scores for film and TV and served in top educational roles, including as dean of faculty at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music.

Eade has displayed her bold improvisational style with the Boston-based, cutting-edge big bands Orange Then Blue and Either/Orchestra, and with such rugged individualists as the great guitarist Mick Goodrick and the keyboard eminence, Ran Blake. A performing artist, educator and longtime faculty member at the New England Conservatory, she played her first gigs while in high school in coffee houses in Stuttgart, Germany, where her father was stationed in the military. Coming stateside for college, she made her first big splash in the 1980s as a young, evolving original sounding singer on the vibrant, progressive Boston scene.

At 8:30 pm, Fonda steps down from his presenter's role, picks up his bass and performs in a duo setting with the Japanese-born, globally acclaimed pianist Satoko Fujii.

Credit Andy Newcombe flickr.com/photos/jazztourist/4615071374 / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Satoko Fujii.

Hartford fans may well recall Fonda from some years back as an insatiably industrious, gifted young performer who showed great promise even back then in appearances during the Golden Age of the legendary impresario Paul Brown's free Monday Night Jazz Series in Bushnell Park.

All that early promise has been more than fulfilled by Fonda's distinguished discography and world travels as a premier peripatetic bassist/composer. Besides his own recordings and leading his own bands, he has collaborated and performed with a huge A-list of musicians, ranging alphabetically from Barry Altschul to Carlo Zingaro, including such iconoclastic giants as Anthony Braxton and Archie Shepp.

Braxton sums up the multi-faceted Fonda this way: "The music of Joe Fonda is part of a living tradition of belief and dedication. Future historians will be surprised at the breadth of Mr. Fonda's offerings. This is a real virtuoso and composer of the highest order."

Following the two interactive duo sets, the number narrows down numerically but certainly not artistically to the festival's grand finale, its pièce de résistance, at 9:30 p.m. with the solo performance featuring Jimmy Greene's explorations of his expansive, expressive world of sound.

Tickets: $15.00 in advance; $18.00 at the door. Information: buttonwood.org and (860) 347-4957. The Buttonwood is at 605 Main Street, Middletown.

Tribute Time

Peter Hand with Harvie S at the Basso Cafe in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Credit peterhandmusic.com
Peter Hand with Harvie S at the Basso Cafe in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Tribute concerts enjoy a mini-vogue down state as guitarist Peter Hand's quartet pays homage in a free concert to a trinity of demigods consisting of Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery and Chick Corea on Thursday, November 12, at 7:00 pm at the Byram Shubert Library at 21 Mead Avenue in Greenwich. Hand's dandy handymen are Don Braden, saxophone and flute, Harvie S, bass, and Steve Johns, drums. Information: (203) 531-0426.

Ben Allison
Credit benallison.com
Ben Allison

Also in the tribute groove, bassist/composer Ben Allison leads his group in a bow to the music of Jim Hall and Jimmy Giuffre on Friday, November 13, at 8:00 pm at The Palace Theatre at 61 Atlantic Street in Stamford. Allison's allies are guitarist Steve Cardenas and saxophonist/clarinetist Ted Nash. Admission: $29.00 plus per-ticket fees. Information: (203) 325-4466.

Peyroux Peruses Her Oeuvre

Although eerily evocative of Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline early in her career, singer/songwriter Madeleine Peyroux has an instantly recognizable, distinctive, even mesmerizing sound and style uniquely her own, one that she celebrates with a savory sample of her life's work on Sunday, November 15, at 8:00 pm at Hartford's Infinity Hall at 32 Front Street.

With spare bass and drum accompaniment, she'll sing pieces from her anthology release, Keep Me in Your Heart for A While, with the warmth, candor, sensuality, vulnerability, romanticism, joy, sadness, and lyricism that have become her dramatic hallmarks.

Credit Mary Ellen Mark / madeleinepeyroux.com
Madeleine Peyroux

Whether in French or English, with Piaf-like heartache or liberated, elfin, all-American abandon, or when emoting in a jazz, pop, country or cabaret vein, the onetime busker on the streets of Paris creates a luminous, aural aura with a body and soul all its own. Admission: $69.00/$89.00. Information: 866-666-6306.

Scrutinizing Spontaneity

Improvisations/Arcade, the ongoing cutting-edge chamber series at Real Art Ways on Sunday, November 15, welcomes guest artists, bassist Brad Barrett and vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou. They join series curators, guitarist/bassist Joe Morris and cornetist Stephen Haynes at 3:00 pm in a close-up look at the art of improvisation. RAW is at 56 Arbor Street, Hartford. Admission: $15.00, general; $12.00, members. Information: realartways.org.

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

Owen McNally writes the weekly Jazz Corridor column for WNPR.org as well as periodic freelance pieces for The Hartford Courant and other publications.

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