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Arts & Culture
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.

Pianist Danny Green Presents Master Class and Concert at Middletown’s Buttonwood

Danny Green's eloquent eclecticism illuminates his sparkling new trio release, Altered Narratives.

Before settling down and committing himself to jazz, blues, classical, and Brazilian music, the rising, young West Coast pianist/composer Danny Green immersed himself for long periods of time in numerous genres, artists, and composers. 

He fell in love with and romancing everything from ska and the grunge flights of Nirvana, to the musings of Mahler and epic grandeur of Wagner operas.

"All these different musical phases have helped shape who I am as a pianist and composer,” Green said modestly of his evolution into a rising force on the Southern California jazz scene. 

His eloquent eclecticism -- a gift that includes writing anything from celebratory blues to meditative reflections to composing for a string quartet -- illuminates his sparkling new trio release, Altered Narratives.

Danny Green Trio Altered Narratives CD cover.

As part of his coast-to-coast, ten-city tour to promote his disc on OA2 Records, the award-winning, San Diego-based pianist leads his tight-knit, hard-swinging trio on Saturday, April 2, at 8:00 pm at Middletown’s jazz-friendly Buttonwood Tree at 605 Main Street.     

Green’s first love, he said, was grunge rock, which led to two years devoted to studying the music of the iconic grunge band, Nirvana.

Following his own bliss from his Nirvana experience, he fell hard for Jamaican ska, an affair yielding his first taste of torrid, freewheeling improvisation, a foreshadowing of the seductive allure of jazz freedom.

In what he describes as “something of an epiphany,” he saw "The Buena Vista Social Club" documentary, which sparked a yen for Cuban son, which led to his romance with Latin music and working in local salsa bands and writing in a Latin jazz idiom.

Credit Mary Lou Cooke / WNPR
The Buttonwood Tree, a performing arts and cultural center in Middletown, Connecticut.

All these serial love affairs, plus his academic studies (he has both a bachelor’s and master’s), his individual sensibility and a variety of musical assets -- including a bright touch and swinging, articulate phrasing -- come together on the moods and grooves that dance through Altered Narratives, his fourth recording as a leader.

Right from the opening track, Chatter From All Sides, the crisp, interactive sound of the trio is center stage, a dramatic motif throughout.

The combination of Green’s keyboard craft, bassist Justin Grinnell’s booming tones and drummer JulienCantelm’s continuously sizzling commentary make this band of three far more than the sum of its parts.

The collaboration soars to its brightest heights on Green’s "I Used to Hate the Blues," a blues-drenched, vibrant studio piece. Its crackling, interactive energies might well make you anticipate an even higher sizzle rate in a live performance stoked by playing in a warm, empathetic venue like The Buttonwood.

Credit Ann Braithwaite / Braithwaite & Katz Communications
Braithwaite & Katz Communications
The Danny Green Trio.

Besides being a guru of grooves and blues, Green can also write pensive, dreamy ballads, as on his aptly named, deeply autumnal tune, "October Ballad." As a maestro of morphing moods, he creates an evocative, eye-opener called "6 A.M.," which awakens from a fading reverie, becoming suddenly caffeinated and, with all senses heightened, joyfully dances to a sexy Brazilian groove.

As a sign of Green’s love for European classical music -- his favorite composers include Mahler, Ravel and Wagner -- he’s written three pieces for his trio and a string quartet, the centerpiece being a dark, mystery-shrouded number called Katabasis. The title for this exotic piece, we learn, takes its name from a Greek literary term for visiting the underworld.

Green’s notes from the underground narrate a mini-odyssey unfolding from a mournful, minor blues feel to illuminating chords leading to the light at the end of the tunnel. Cellist Anja Wood, who has performed with artists ranging from Pearl Jam to Ray Charles, plays a lush, luminous solo, shedding light and the promise of resurrection from the Stygian, yet miraculously pleasant, murky depths.

Green and his trio-mates conduct a master class prior to the show from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Tickets: concert, $12.00; master class and concert $22.00, general; $15.00, students, available at the door. Information: buttonwood.org and (860) 347-4957.

Bakir’s Gallery Exhibition

Using his painterly skills with tonal colors, lines and textures, Sinan Bakir demonstrates his fine art of the guitar on Saturday, April 2, at 6:00 pm at Passages Gallery at 509 Farmington Avenue in Hartford. 

Credit Sevin Yolacti / Sinan Bakir
Sinan Bakir

Turkey’s blue-chip jazz export to the United States is joined by his fellow jazz craftsmen, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer George Mastrogiannis. Information: (860) 523-3232.

Dwonszyk plays a couple nights later with Jocelyn Pleasant and Medusa at the Monday Night Jazz Jam session on April 4 at 8:00 pm at Black-eyed Sally’s, 350 Asylum Street in Hartford.

The industrious, seemingly omnipresent bassist joins Pleasant, the aptly surnamed drummer, saxophonist Mike Casey and tap dancer and all-round hip hoofer Corey Hutchins in the ongoing jazz/jam series.

An open jam session begins after the first set. Information: blackeyedsallys.com and (860) 278-7427.

Cabaret Benefits Ritual Magic

Steve Mitchell is not only a much respected professional church musician, but is also blessed with a gift for singing pop and cabaret songs as well.

Credit Courtesy of Anne Cubberly
Courtesy of Anne Cubberly
Night Fall is a lavish brew of music, dance, theater, spoken word, ritual, pomp, pageantry, myth, mystery and magic

Switching to his secular music mode, Mitchell, who recently retired as the minister of music and arts at Hartford’s Asylum Hill Congregational Church, presents a benefit cabaret concert on Friday, April 1, at 7:30 pm at Christ Church Cathedral rectory, 45 Church Street, in support of Night Fall 2016, Hartford’s free, annual communal celebration of seasonal change.

Credit Courtesy of Anne Cubberly
Courtesy of Anne Cubberly
Night Fall 2015 photo.

A lavish brew of music, dance, theater, spoken word, ritual, pomp, pageantry, myth, mystery and magic, this year’s Night Fall festivities -- graced with giant, wildly imaginative puppets created by the brilliant sculptor Anne Cubberly -- will be celebrated on October 8 in the idyllic, by then autumnal, Druidical setting of Elizabeth Park.

Mitchell, who embraces an ecumenical pop repertoire, will be backed by his old-standby collaborators, pianist Dan Campolieta, bassist Lou Bocciarelli, and drummer Charlie Dye. Among his special guests are singers LB Munoz and Christen Hernandez.

Tickets for the cabaret performance are $40.00. For $75.00, you can enjoy the cabaret show as well as a congenial pre-concert reception at 6:00 pm with Cubberly in the artist’s private residence above the church auditorium. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Tickets: https://foolfornightfall.eventbrite.com.     

Please submit press releases on events at least two weeks before publication date to omac28@gmail.com. Comments 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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