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.

Blues and Jazz this Weekend

junabate.jpgTwo shows not mentioned in Local Rhythms, but equally noteworthy:

“Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” at Eastman – January 14 – Alto Sax from Greg Abate … 2005 Grammy nominee for Album of the Year, Best Instrumental Solo and Best Jazz Instrumental Album. He’s played with Ray Charles and Artie Shaw.

Joined by the JOSA Ensemble, led by Bill Wightman on piano. Featuring bassist John Hunter, Ted Gilmore on percussion and reedman/flutist Richard Gardzina.

Sophi & Zeke’s in Historic Downtown Claremont welcomes Matt McCabe January 12 – Piano player extraordinaire makes his downtown debut. Matt spent 9 years with the legendary Boston band, Roomful of Blues. He also played 4 years with RoB founder Duke Robillard. A great music room with no cover charge.

Jazz On A Sunday Afternoon Returns December 1

al-alessismall.jpg“Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon,” one of the area’s longest-running traditions, returns to Grantham’s Center at Eastman this Sunday for its fifteenth season. This year’s lineup features ten performers as musically far-ranging as jazz itself.

Vocalist Al Alessi seems a perfect choice for the kick-off show December 1. He handles the hits of Tony Bennett and Mel Torme with ease, but he’s also made a reputation channeling Roy Orbison and Frank Sinatra – and he plays a mean harmonica. Jody Ebling, who’s drawn notice in Miami, New York and London (where she performed at Elton John’s “Friends” restaurant), promises Christmas-flavored jazz singing December 17.

After a holiday interlude, Grammy-nominated alto saxophonist Greg Abate cuts loose on January 14th; Abate, whose credits include sessions with Ray Charles and Artie Shaw, also performs at the season finale. Jim Porcella looks like a gruff Marine, but has the silken vocal dexterity of Sammy Davis Jr.; the singer performs January 28th.

Mike Monaghan, who appears February 11, has played with Sinatra and Torme, and performed at Carnegie Hall, but most will recognize his saxophone from his many solos in the film “Mystic River.” Tiger Okoshi has become a JOSA favorite with his “tightrope walker” style of playing. The adventurous trumpeter sits in February 25.

Richie Cole has won acclaim for his unconventional jazz/bebop style on the alto sax, giving a special touch to familiar and fun songs like the theme from “I Love Lucy.” He arrives March 11th. Vocalist Shawnn Monteiro’s territory is the classics in the “Great American Songbook;” after several performances, she’s now “a part of the JOSA fabric.” She returns March 25th.

Finally, Greg Abate co-headlines an Easter “All-Star Finale” with trumpeter and vocalist Johnny Souza on April 8th. All performances feature the JOSA Ensemble, with Bill Wightman, bassist John Hunter, percussionist Tim Gilmore and reedman/flutist Richard Gardzina.

Over the 14 seasons of JOSA, there has been one constant element: founder and house band leader Bill Wightman. The Berklee-trained pianist began promoting the shows at the Sunapee Country Club in 1992. They moved to the Newport Opera House when Wightman took over as director there in the mid-90’s, and “when I left, I took them with me,” says Wightman.

Two figures loom large in their absence from this year’s series – vocalist Eve Whitcomb, who died in 2003, and saxophone player Joe Burrell, who passed away in 2005. “Joe and Lady Eve were the mainstays from day one,” says Wightman. “Basically for 12-13 years they were there, and really helped build it. They would show up to perform even when they weren’t featured.”

Burrell was scheduled to perform the 2005 season finale, which ultimately became a musical tribute to him. This year’s program proclaims that “with great respect, admiration and gratitude, we dedicate this JOSA season to “Big Joe” Burrell.”

“Joe – what a guy, what a mentor – for all of us,” says Wightman, who also remembers “Big Joe” as being less than patient with musicians who couldn’t keep pace with his standards. “He was harsher than Eve. He yelled at me once – ‘what did you do with that channel?’ I learned from him ‘the channel’ was the [song’s] bridge.”

“ I guess he thought you have to go underneath, not over it,” laughs Wightman. “I miss him, just talking about him now.”

The “jam session” ethic is a big part of the series’ appeal. Every performance has the potential for surprise, with area musicians stopping by to play.

“One of the things about JOSA,” says Bill Wightman,” is that it involves the audience, to the degree that we let them sit in. They’re not always great , but sometimes they are. The audience likes to see them take that risk.”

This gives the audience the “sense [of] what it’s like to be backstage with the band,” he continues. “They feel the tension, the edge.”

“The only time it may get rough is when a drummer sits in,” he chuckles.

“Sit-in” musicians are further encouraged with a reduced ticket price.

Wightman says he likes fans to arrive with “a sense that we’re going out to see something special.”

Adding to JOSA’s intimate elegance is the contribution of chef Brian MacKenzie, who prepares a $32 prix fixe meal to jazz fans, complete with white linen, polished silver and dishes that are both photogenic and delicious. This is MacKenzie’s second year offering the meals. They were a big success last year, with more than 70 percent of the audience partaking.

But the focus is and will remain “America’s Music,” which has evolved and transformed itself over its near 100-year history. “JOSA is jazz but not just jazz,” says Wightman. “The jazz music label covers a wide variety of musical genres including swing, blues, bop, Latin and more.”

Perhaps Shawnn Monteiro summed it up best. Quoting her father, the late jazz bassist Jimmy Woode, she said, “jazz, jazz, jazz – you never know what’s gonna happen. It’s gonna happen, so we’ll leave it to chance, OK?”