JOSA Returns December 9

The 16th annual Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series commences December 9, and runs every other week through April 6 (except for a 3-week break after Christmas).

The shows are held at Bistro Nouveau at Eastman.  The restaurant’s award-winning appetizers, entrees, drinks and desserts will be available for all performances, which begin at 4.

This season’s lineup includes familiar faces from past years, along with some exciting newcomers.   

Dec. 9             Al and Elizabeth Alessi – Jazz Vocalist & Entertainer and his talented   daughter. making her JOSA debut
Dec. 23          Jody Ebling – Captivating Jazz Vocalist
Jan. 13           Greg Abate – International Saxophonist
Jan. 27           Fred Haas & Sabrina Brown – Saxophonist & Vocalist Extraordinaire
Feb. 10           Cercie Miller – Jazz Saxophonist 
Feb. 24           Tiger Okoshi – International Trumpeter
Mar. 9             Shawnn Monteiro – International Vocalist
Mar. 23           Steve Marvin – Jazz Vocalist & Entertainer (Easter Show)
Apr. 6              Richie Cole – World-Class Alto Saxophonist (Season Finale) 


All performers are backed by the JOSA Ensemble:


Pianist, Bill Wightman, from Sunapee, NH, is the Instrumental Music and Music Technology Director at Proctor Academy.  He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and, since the mid 1970s, has been performing, teaching, directing and producing in music and theatre both in education and for the public throughout New England and New York.  

Bassist, John Hunter from the Portsmouth, NH area has performed from coast to coast accompanying such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Milt Jackson and Joe Williams to name a few.  His playing is always highly intuitive, his repertoire extensive, and he’s a great listener and all around human.  The Rockingham Gazette says, “[John is] fast emerging as one of the most respected bass soloists in the country.”

Percussionist, Tim Gilmore from Lebanon, NH, attended Berklee College of Music, and studied with both drum legends Max Roach and Alan Dawson.  Having performed with such jazz greats as Mary McPartland, Dick Johnson, and Warren Vache among others, Tim is a recipient of the Presidential Arts Scholarship.  He brings to JOSA an up-beat and delightful attitude, and is known for his occasional, intricate and sometimes epic (never to be missed) drum solos. 

Reedman and flutist, Richard Gardzina from Barnstead, NH, has a BA and MA. in music composition from both the University of North Texas and UNH.  His performances include dates in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New England with such jazz greats as Red Garland, David “Fathead” Newman, Little Feat, and “Blue” Lou Marini to name a few.  With two CD releases to his credit, Richard brings consistent freshness and innovation to JOSA with solos that support and compliment the performance of each featured artist.

Local Rhythms – Finding the Sweet Spot

dubac.jpgI don’t envy tavern owners faced with the task of booking talent to their establishments. How do they know what their clientele want? From what I’ve gleaned, it’s a hit and miss affair where “learn from your mistakes” tends to be the operative phrase.

Sophie & Zeke’s, the downtown Claremont hot spot du jour, tried everything from shoe-gazing singer-songwriters to unplugged heavy metal when they began offering music last year. For some reason, jazz, with an emphasis on crooner styles popularized by Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, seems to get people moving towards, and not away, from the stage. There’s also a serious bluegrass contingent that turns out every third Friday to hear the Spiral Farm Band play.

On Washington Street, the opposite’s true at Bistro Nouveau, where “solo on a stool” acoustic musicians hold sway, and not much more than a microphone requires electricity. Performers like pianist John Lovejoy and singer/guitarist Jason Cann regularly entertain appreciative diners.

It’s even harder when you’re trying to fill a 700-seat room like the Claremont Opera House, which is why it was so gratifying to see a sellout last Saturday night for Bob Marley’s stand-up act. This is the third or fourth time that comedy has drawn a big crowd there. That’s encouraging news, because the next Opera House show, on Thursday, February 8 also features a very talented comedian.

Robert Dubac transformed his club act into a one man show, “The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron?” I’m a long-time Dubac fan, going back to the days when he used to warm up crowds at Eagles and Jimmy Buffett concerts. When I learned he was coming to Claremont, I immediately blocked out the date.

Dubac’s that rare combination of funny and smart; during his show there are as many “ah-hah” moments as “ha-ha” moments. “The Male Intellect” is a 90-minute, multi-character look at the differences between the sexes, offering hilarious insights like this:

“What do women want? They want men to feel more and think less. Feeling more will take some practice, but we can think less right away.”

Maybe it’s cabin fever – laughter warms the body as well as the soul – but comedy seems to be the sweet spot for the COH. Hopefully, that means more funny folks like Bob Marley and Robert Dubac are on the way.

What’s coming up this weekend?

Thursday: Billy Rosen Jazz Quartet, Sophie & Zeke’s There’s been a lot of different music here, but for some odd reason, this is the first time a saxophone has ever made an appearance. Rosen’s a fine guitarist, and a veteran of the Upper Valley supper club circuit. Tonight, he’s joined by Norm Yanofsky on keyboards, Jim McNutt on drums and Nick Scalera on sax. Tomorrow, another new duo – Have Blues Will Travel – stops by S&Z’s.

Friday: Stonewall, The Underground – Chester native Brendon Thomas started this club in a space below the music store where he worked. It’s become a magnet for area musicians, many of whom learned from Thomas (who performs live and on record as foreverinmotion). Tonight, rising stars Stonewall headline a three-band show which includes political metal from d’Brotherhood, who are kind of an anti-Hanson, and Orange Juice.

Saturday: Spare Change, Salt Hill – One of my favorite bluegrass bands, led by multi-instrumentalist Joe Stallsmith of Joe’s Waterworks fame. When anyone asks me to name the one kind of music I can’t live without, it’s inevitably a combination of acoustic guitar, mandolin and fiddle, because you can’t fake any of those instruments. If you’re awaiting word on Newport’s Salt Hill Two in the old Eagle Tavern space, wait no more. Opening day is February 5.

Sunday: Roger Marin, PK’s Tavern – I mentioned in my blog a couple of weeks back that Ezra Veitch, an angel of the Bellows Falls scene, was still in town. Lately, he’s mixing a Mr. Burns album while he recovers from hand surgery. He also sent word that he’d put together a quick show this weekend with Marin, the longtime Fred Eaglesmith guitarist who went solo about 18 months ago, and Adam Carroll, a Texan with the gift for weaving a story into a song. By the by, Boccelli’s February calendar is filling up – check out for more info.

Wednesday: Jason LeVasseur, New England College – This is the future of music. Not this guy, though he’s very talented, but the way he brings his music to the people. MySpace, mailing lists, independently produced records made on a shoestring with musicians who are equal parts hired guns and fellow travelers, and a ton of solo touring. The aforementioned foreverinmotion is doing it, as is LeVasseur, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter with a touch of sandpaper in his voice, and a nice balance of pop and plaintive.

Local Rhythms – Happy Birthday Bistro Nouveau


There was a time not so long ago when a fine dining experience inevitably required a trip across the river. Oh, you could find a decent steak or a piece of fish in Claremont, but if you craved a dish that deserved to be photographed as well as eaten, you had to leave town.

Until Bistro Nouveau opened. Even then, it was a long shot. “Most restaurants close within three years,” says chef Doug Langevin. “You wouldn’t believe the number of people who told me this would never work here.”

But he was confident that the area was ready. “There had been a few in the past, like Annie McCassars,” he says, “and I always looked at Todafrali’s – they were a successful eatery, even if they weren’t doing what we were. “

“It’s a growing area, I knew there would be people here who would support us. I knew it was here,” he adds.

The challenge, Doug says, was “re-exciting them to come out and have dinner.”

Bistro Nouveau also bucked the odds through the support of Langevin’s family. His mother, father, sister,  and brother-in-law are all involved with the restaurant. He and wife Isabel couldn’t do it without them, he says. “Whenever something happens, there’s a family member to help out.”

This week, the restaurant celebrates its third anniversary, and shows no signs of slowing down. The locals embraced it heartily, but the surest sign of success is without a doubt the many Upper Valley and Sunapee residents who make a special trip to enjoy dishes like horseradish encrusted cod and their award-winning desserts.

On Saturday, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Brooke Brown Saracino appears, one of the many performers who’ve serenaded diners since Bistro introduced live music in late 2004. “People love the music and dinner ,” Doug says. Jason Cann provided a transcendent moment recently when he invited a friend up to sing. She started out slowly but by the third song, he says, “she was moving up and down the register like Christina Aguilera. People were clapping like crazy.”

Langevin is a local boy who got his start in the Sugar River Tech culinary arts program, and his hometown commitment is admirable. “I’m a big supporter of the tech center, I think it’s a great program,” he says.

He’s even given students there cooperative education opportunities at Bistro – the former pupil is now the teacher.

So, here’s to the faith that made it happen. Happy Birthday, Bistro Nouveau, from one of many grateful palates.

What’s out there to satisfy musical appetites in the coming days?

Thursday: Dominique Eade, Woodstock Town Hall Theatre – Fans of Diana Krall will enjoy this well-regarded chanteuse, who’s joined by talented pianist Jed Wilson. Her recent CD , “Open,” includes scintillating originals like “Open Letter” alongside astute covers like Leonard Cohen’s “In My Secret Life.” This performance is presented under the Pentangle Arts umbrella.

Friday: Nobby Reed, Middle Earth Music Hall – Another day, another delayed court date for Bradford’s music haven. Tonight, local hero Carey Lee Rush sits in with Reed, a sizzling blues guitarist who did time with the Rick Davis Band way back when. He and Rush were re-acquainted at the recent Davis Band reunion in White River Junction. Reed’s got a bit of Stevie Ray in him. It should be a hot night.

Saturday: Hexerei, Claremont Moose Lodge – A new venue for Claremont’s hardcore heroes, currently at work on a third album. Four songs are written, but they’re picking up the pace since “finally” signing a record deal . The band is relentlessly pursuing the next level of success, but they’re always top of the bill in their hometown. Hitchelfit, One Less and one more band also appear.

Sunday: A New Kind of Blue, Canoe Club – Thursday regulars at Sophie & Zeke’s, their traditional jazz and sultry vocals head to the Upper Valley for a three-hour Sunday set. Emily Lanier has a wonderfully relaxed stage manner, and the coterie of musicians she works with are smooth as maple syrup on pancakes. The band is winning new fans everywhere they go.

Monday: Little Steven’s Underground Garage Festival, Axis (Boston) – Mr. Van Zandt is a multifaceted guy. He plays with Springsteen, acts on the Sopranos, and emcees a rock and roll party with the New York Dolls headlining, supported by other rave-up stalwarts. It’s 1974 all over again. The Dolls’ recent comeback album is a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday: Jewel, Calvin Theatre – You either love her or … If you’re a fan, you cut her a ton of slack when she tries to out-wet T-shirt Fiona Apple. Jewel thanks Steve Poltz for writing her biggest hit, “You Were Meant For Me,” by bringing him along for this tour. I’m a big fan of him. Her, not so much.