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Baby Grand Jazz Returns January 6, 2019


The 16th Annual Baby Grand Jazz Series, sponsored by the Kaman Foundation, opens January 6 and runs through April 28. The free, hour-long concerts are held at the Downtown Library at 500 Main St from 3-4 pm (except for February 10th, which will be a double feature from 2-4pm). They are presented in partnership with the Hartford Jazz Society and WWUH 91.3 FM. 
The first and last performances (January 6 and April 28) will take place in the Atrium. All other performances will take place in the Center for Contemporary Culture on the main floor. The CCC has a seating capacity of 240. When the auditorium is full the doors will close. The CCC will open at 2 pm.  Overflow crowds can watch the livestream of the concerts in Classrooms 140-141, down the hall from the CCC.
View the concert live on Sundays from 3-4 pm on the Library's Facebook page.


Ray Gonzalez JANUARY 6  

Ray Gonález is a musician dedicated in mind, body and soul to the creation of salsa and Latin jazz. A re-known musician and Latin music pioneer in Connecticut, Ray González was born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. He attended the Conservatory of Music and the University of Puerto Rico. He also studied under the tutelage of Master Trumpeter Carmine Caruzo, in New York City. González has over 35 years of experience in the performing arts as a professional musician, arranger, composer and conductor. As a musician, the Caribbean, South America and the United States have been his laboratory of experience.

Ray Gonzalez – trumpet
Damian Curtis – piano
Benny Velazquez – bass
Miguel Rios – percussion
Tony Gonzalez – percussion

Simona Premazzi DreamTeam Trio  JANUARY 13  

A fearless modernist composer and improviser with a deeply romantic lyricism at her core, New York based pianist Simona Premazzi has developed an impressive body of work as a composer and bandleader. Originally from Italy, Premazzi began playing piano at age 8 and a half. Since moving to New York in 2004, she has earned recognition for her improvisational work and skillful approach as a composer, with an unmistakable style and depth that comes across in every one of her compositions.

Simona Premazzi- piano
Joe Martin- bass
E.J. Strickland- drums

Sound Reformation JANUARY 27

Sound Reformation is an ensemble that is always exploring new boundaries by looking back at the past in order to move forward. Founded in 2010 the band has a very diverse repertoire, ranging from quartet/quintet that is straight ahead swinging, to its most recent recording, Pictures at an African Exhibition, which is comprised of a double drum quintet accompanied by a twelve piece wind ensemble. The aforementioned album was released in April of 2018 and has received great reviews from the New York Times, Downbeat magazine, and more. The band was also commissioned to compose the music for an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of art back in 2015 as well.

Darryl Yokley- saxophone(s)
Zaccai Curtis- piano
Luques Curtis - bass
Nasheet Waits and/or Wayne Smith Jr.- drums

Sam Newsome Quartet  FEBRUARY 3

Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome has been a staple of the New York City jazz scene for over 20 years. In 2018, he was a nominee for "Soprano Saxophonist of the Year" by the Jazz Journalist Association. In 2017, his solo saxophone recording, Sopranoville, received a 5-star review in DownBeat Magazine. And in 2016, he received the prestigious NYFA Fellowship. The Sam Newsome Quartet: This is a modern/experimental jazz quartet, which is a stylistic combination of Steve Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, and Wayne Shorter. The group's repertoire consists primarily of Mr. Newsome's original compositions and some in-the-moment improvised pieces.

Sam Newsome - soprano saxophone
Cooper Moore - piano
Hilliard Greene - bass
Reggie Nicholson - drums


Double Feature!

Emery Austin Smith and Orice Jenkins FEBRUARY 10, 2-3PM


Emery Austin Smith born, raised and still lives in Hartford, CT. He studied piano with Lillian Johnson Pierce and theory/composition with Clyde Wesley Board. He was the leader and arranger/ composer of the Emery Austin Smith Quintet performing in schools, colleges, museums lecturing and demonstrating the art and culture of Jazz. Smith was a co-leader with Lou West of the Progressive Arts and Culture Company 15 piece band which performed at the first Arts Festival in Hartford. Smith is strongly influenced by Theolonious Monk and Bud Powel.


Orice Jenkins, who is Emery Smith's nephew and will be featured later in the series on March 17th, began making music as a middle school student who's placement in a guitar class coincided with him falling in love with Hip-Hop. His first creations were rap verses and percussive beats, skills that were not introduced to the world until over a decade later. His inquisitive nature brought him to the world of jazz, and he fell in love once again, writing many of the arrangements from his 'Soar' LP before entering college at the prestigious Hartt School. His live shows are a vivacious mixture of original songs and arrangements of timeless standards.


Emery Austin Smith- piano
Orice Jenkins- piano


Sarah Hanahan Quintet  FEBRUARY 10, 3-4PM

Sarah Hanahan Quartet is an extremely creative, spontaneous, and unique sounding group. Comprised of some of the best jazz musicians on the scene, this band makes for an incredibly energetic performance. This quartet will play original compositions of Sarah's, but also classic standard repertoire and also the music of saxophone hero, Jackie McLean. Sarah has been studying at the Jackie McLean Institute for 3 years now and has been working closely with mentor and world renowned bassist, Nat Reeves. Sarah is enjoying working with her quartet to keep expanding their musical sound and push the boundaries of jazz.

Sarah Hanahan - Alto Saxophone
Josh Bruneau - Trumpet 
Matt DeChamplain - Piano
Nat Reeves - Bass
Kirk Woodard - Drums  

Nick Di Maria Quintet – FEBRUARY 17

Nick Di Maria is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, educator and community activist based in New Haven, CT. A graduate of the WCSU school of music, Nick has performed across the country in various bands and musical projects including the New Haven Jazz Festival, Warped Tour, NYC jazz clubs and more.  He leads his own jazz group which keeps one foot in the jazz of the 1960's and the other in music beyond and has been presenting classic and original jazz for the last 12 years. His most recent album, Bomb Shelter Music was released in 2018 and can be found on all streaming services.

Nick Di Maria - trumpet/compositions
Josh Walker - saxophone
Andrew Kosiba - piano
Andrew Zwart - bass
Eric Hallenbeck - drums


Leala Cyr Group – FEBRUARY 24

Leala Cyr is fast becoming one of the most sought-after jazz vocalists of her generation. With a unique and deft ability for stunning vocal improvisation as well as being a trumpet player with a warm, golden tone, she is a rare “double threat.” Cyr’s projects include being a member of Grammy-winning "Best New Artist", Esperanza Spalding's "Radio and Chamber Music Societies'" (where she has appeared on The Late Show, The Tonight Show, The View, The Daily Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Austin City Limits, and more), as a member of Jody Redhage's "Rose and the Nightingale," and the release of an album with Milton Nascimento, Ricardo Vogt and Pedro Bernardo. Leala's debut album "First Instinct" is also set to release in 2019 and features her original compositions and arrangements in the jazz genre.


Leala Cyr - voice/trumpet
Tiago Michelin - drums
Eduardo Belo - bass
Evan Waaramaa - piano
Dan Blake - sax

Brian Charette – MARCH 3

Brian Charette grew up playing in Hartford with Street Temperature and Paul Brown. He moved to NYC 25 years ago and have become a Grammy Nominated, Hammond Endorsed, Positone and Steeplechase recording artist. He is currently #6 on the Downbeat Critic's Poll and won NYC's best organist in 2015 from Hot House Magazine and was nominated for this years "Best Keyboardist" by The Jazz Journalist Association. He also writes for a few music magazines including Keyboard and Downbeat and has played at the Blue Note with NEA Master George Coleman.

Brian Charette - piano
Jordan Young - drums
Jeff Fuller - bass

The Carl Bartlett, Jr. Quartet – MARCH 10

Award-winning innovative artist, and native New Yorker, saxophonist Carl Bartlett, Jr. marked his arrival onto the Jazz scene with the 2011 release of his critically acclaimed debut CD, “Hopeful”. He has since emerged as a unique, leading light in the Modern/ Post-Bop Jazz world as both a player and composer. Carl, Jr. achieved the high honor of becoming the 1st Place Winner in the USA (2nd in the world) in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition (ISC) Jazz Category. His group is currently touring the USA in 2018 into 2019 with the original music on the album, while also performing arrangements of classic standards.

Carl Bartlett, Jr. - alto saxophone
Julius Chen - piano
Paul Beaudry - bass
Hiroyuki Matsuura - drums

Orice Jenkins presents: Centennial Cole – MARCH 17

Orice Jenkins presents, “Centennial Cole”, a musical and historical presentation on the recordings and life of Nat “King” Cole, who is arguably the most influential black recording star of the 20th century, and would’ve turned 100 years old on March 17th, 2019. Nat was a true virtuoso as a vocalist and pianist, reaching success with records in multiple genres of vast diversity including jazz, traditional pop, blues, swing, rock and roll, latin, gospel, and classical. Orice Jenkins sings the compositions in a modern jazz style, accompanied by his own arrangements that have been embellished with his classical music training. He enlisted Hartford, Connecticut based chamber group, Cuatro Puntos, to record the string arrangements on the forthcoming Centennial Cole album.


Orice Jenkins - voice, arrangements, piano
Matt Dwonszyk - double bass
Jocelyn Pleasant - drums


"Cuatro Puntos" Chamber Group:
Aaron Packard - violin
Annie Trepanier - violin
Kevin Bishop - viola
Allan Ballinger – cello

Mary DiPaola Trio – MARCH 24

Mary DiPaola has been playing in jazz groups, especially trios, in the greater Hartford area since the early 1990s. She have had the pleasure of working with Hartford’s own Nat Reeves for over 25 years and have cultivated several arrangements of jazz standards and originals during their time of collaboration. She studied with the great Jackie McLean at the Hartt School while Nat Reeves was in his band, and that has influenced her music profoundly. Her favorite setting for playing is jazz trio with piano, bass and drums, and she would count among my influences: Bud Powell, Red Garland and Wynton Kelly. In addition to performances including the Hartford and Litchfield jazz festivals, she is also a music educator, teaching music and conducting chorus at an elementary school in West Hartford.

Mary DiPaola - piano
Nat Reeves - bass
Kirk Woodard - drums

KingPorter BAM BAND – MARCH 31

Stephen Porter is one of the most prominent Bassist of our time. Born and raised in Hartford Ct. he began playing the bass at an early age in church becoming very accomplished in the gospel music scene. Seeking for a more challenging form of musical expression he began to apply to the most noted colleges of music. After being turned down by most of them, he was given the chance to audition for The great Jackie Mclean who gave him the opportunity to attend the Hartt school of music majoring in Jazz studies. Jackie Mclean who was known for discovering new talent, knew exactly what type of direction Stephen needed placing him under the tutelage of the great Nat Reeves. King Porter is dedicated to performing creative soul searching music and becoming the best bassist he can be. The BAM BAND is the latest Band Format from Stephen Porter, Presenting a wider range of African American Classical Music (called Jazz) This band proves to be a little more explorative without eliminating traces of The Tradition.

Frank Kozyrah - tenor sax
Scotte Sazsenecky - guitar
Chris Casey - piano
Curtis Torian - drums
Stephen "KingPorter"- basses

Firey String Sistas! – APRIL 7

Firey String Sistas! engaging and inspiring, are a refreshing alternative to the standard Jazz band. An all female ensemble, comprised of violin, cello, piano, bass, drums and vocals, the Firey String Sistas! weave aspects of world music, women’s culture and deep Jazz roots into each performance . The ensemble has appeared at exciting venues, festivals and family events including Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Garden, Center For Arts & Culture Skylight Gallery, Coltrane Day Festival, Hudson Park Bandshell, Brooklyn Academy of Music-BAM Cafe and South Orange Performing Arts Center-WBGO Jazz Kid’s Series. The 'Sistas highly acclaimed CD “That’s What She Said” continues to receive great reviews from everywhere.

Marlene Rice - violinist
Nioka Workman - cellist
Melissa Slocum - bassist
Mala Waldron - singer
Camille Gainer Jones - pianist and drummer

Matt Dwonszyk and the Dwonztet – APRIL 14

Born in Hartford CT, Matt Dwonszyk started playing the electric bass at the age eleven. In high school, he picked up the upright bass while attending the Greater Hartford Academy of Performing Arts and soon started attending the Artist Collective after school program founded by the legendary Jazz Saxophonist/Composer, Jackie McLean. Dwonszyk continued his collegiate studies at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz studying with world-renowned bassist Nat Reeves. He graduate and continued his studies at Suny Purchase where he received a Masters in Music in 2015. Dwonszyk currently lives in Brooklyn and is an active bassist in New York.   He leads the "Dwonztet" were his original compositions and arrangements are featured. Dwonszyk's debut record is scheduled to come out in the Spring of 2019.

Matt Dwonszyk - bass
Taber Gable - piano
Andrew Renfroe - guitar
Jonathan Barber - drums
Josh Bruneua - trumpet
Jovan Alexandre - tenor
Steve Davis - trombone

Giacomo Gates – APRIL 28

Giacomo Gates is a bebop and scat singer from Connecticut.  Gates does more than sing “a bunch of songs.” He is truly an entertainer, for all ages and styles, as audiences enjoy the music, the interaction on the bandstand between him and his musicians, the spontaneity, the humor, the stories about the music and composers, along with their relation to everyday life.  Giacomo’s sheer joy, exuberance, wit and unlimited creativity make him one of jazz’s most compelling artists.
Giacomo Gates - vocals
TBD - Piano
TBD - Bass
TBD - Drums