Jazz Up Close

Click here to read WNPR’s profile of Jazz Up Close series

One of RMI’s missions is to give people REAL access to the soul and beauty of jazz music. We say “real” access because often simply having a concert occur in a particular community isn’t enough (though it is certainly an important component). Jazz, and especially instrumental jazz, has a layer of abstraction that can initially be off-putting to some would-be listeners. BUT, we have found that this can often be overcome just by giving those folks a bit of understanding – what’s going on in the music, what’s the inspiration behind it and who are the real humans creating it? This is not an academically hoity-toity question of deeply understanding history and theory (though for those motivated accordingly those are exceptionally stimulating areas), this is a much simpler matter of giving people who have ears and emotions a few basic tools with which they can connect those things – to feel the depth of emotions evoked by these sounds.

This is the basis of the Jazz Up Close idea. The artists explain their process and inspiration and attendees get to engage in meaningful dialogue. If you have musical training, great. If you have none whatsoever, great. This access requires nothing more than attentiveness and curiosity.

MCAThe 2015 Jazz Up Close series at the Russell Library was supported by a generous grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts. 2015 guests included Freddie Bryant, Johnathan Blake, Nadje Noordhuis and Victor Lewis. The MCA also lent their support to “Spanning Generations,” the 2016 series, which featured the age-diverse roster of Caroline Davis, Monnette Sudler, Steve Wilson, and Godwin Louis. The 2017 series, “Crossing Cultures,” was curated around four musicians who expertly meld jazz with music from other cultural reference points: Sunny Jain (Indian music), Meg Okura (music of Japan), Rogerio Boccato (Brazilian music), and Robby Ameen (Latin music). In addition to renewed MCA support, the 2017 series was made possible through a generous grant from the Shoreline Arts Alliance with the assistance of the CT Office of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The 2018 Jazz Up Close series, “Sound Belief: Faith Through Music,” featured four composer/performers who represent different approaches to representing spiritual practice through their original music. We presented guitarist Amanda Monaco’s Pirkei Avot project featuring Daphna Mor, Tammy Scheffer, and Rogerio Boccato, saxophonist Hailey Niswanger’s MAE.SUN project, tubist/multi-instrumentalist Joseph Daley in September, and bassist Ike Sturm, each representing a different spiritual practice informing the respective bodies of work presented. The 2018 series was presented with the support of the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the Shoreline Arts Alliance, and the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

We are excited to announce the 2019 Jazz Up Close series, “Can I Get A Witness – Jazz Composition as Storytelling,” a series of events presenting jazz artists who explore personal narratives and stories through music. Mark your calendars for April 18 with drummer/composer Sanah Kadoura, June 1 with vibraphonist/composer Joe Locke, August 22 with bass clarinetist/composer/activist Todd Marcus and October 19 with drummer/composer Gerald Cleaver. As always, these events take place at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT and are free and open to the public. We are grateful to again have received a REGI grant to support this work, through the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

2018 Guest Artists

Ike Sturm featuring Melissa Stylianou, Chris Dingman, and Jesse Lewis

Joseph Daley

Hailey Niswanger’s MAE.SUN Project

Amanda Monaco’s Pirkei Avot Project

2017 Guest Artists

Robby Ameen

Rogerio Boccato

Meg Okura with Sam Newsome

Sunny Jain

2016 Guest Artists

Godwin Louis

Steve Wilson

Monnette Sudler

Caroline Davis

2015 Guest Artists

Nadje Noordhuis

Victor Lewis

Johnathan Blake

Freddie Bryant