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Baby Grand Jazz is sponsored by the Charles H. Kaman Charitable Foundation.  


2016 Performer Lineup



Edmar Castaneda was born in 1978, in the city of Bogotá, Colombia. Since his move to the United States in 1994, Edmar has quite literally taken the world stage by storm with the sheer force of his virtuosic command of the harp—revolutionizing the way audiences and critics alike consider an instrument commonly relegated to the “unusual category”. Paquito D’Rivera, Edmar’s frequent collaborator, has remarked: “Edmar is an enormous talent, he has the versatility and the enchanting charisma of a musician who has taken his harp out of the shadow to become one of the most original musicians from the Big Apple.”

In addition to his acclaimed performing career as an instrumentalist, which includes Paquito D’Rivera’s Carnegie Hall tribute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, and the 10th annual World Harp Congress, Edmar has also performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, John Scofield, Marcus Miller, John Patitucci, and Chico O’Farrill ‘s Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band

Edmar Castaneda - Harp
Pablo Vergara - Piano

Eli yamin


Turkish guitarist/composer Sinan Bakir is noted as a virtuoso player and a masterful composer by the music critics and his peers. Sinan's early musical experience started with mandolin lessons followed by an audition leading to the Ankara State Opera Children's Choir. After attending a rock concert in his early teen years he was inspired to pick up his first guitar and started taking private lessons, spending most of his time practicing. Soon after he formed his first band and started playing gigs around the city while attending to college in his hometown Ankara. By the time he graduated from Hacettepe University with a degree in engineering he was granted a scholarship from the Hartford Conservatory and moved to United States. Sinan continued growing as a musician in Hartford, writing tunes, attending sessions,and playing regular gigs & festivals. His all original debut album "On My Way"(2009) with bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber, followed by a quartet recording titled “Tales and Stories” (2012) with pianist Warren Byrd.

Alex Nakhimovsky – Piano
Matt Dwonszyk - Bass
Sinan Bakir – Guitar
Curtis Torian – Drums

Sinan Bakir


Alon Nechushtan is one of a handful of young New York musicians who is respected for both his inventive straight-ahead jazz playing as well as his powerful work in creative improvised music. For Alon there are no genre boundaries, only the opportunity to make exceptional music.

Since moving to New York a decade ago, Alon has played piano and collaborated with Jazz greats including William Parker, Don Byron, Donny McCaslin, Dave Liebman, Bob Moses, Ben Allison, John Ellis, Alex Norris, Andy Statman, Frank London, Chris Cheek, Chris Speed, Marc Helias, Marc Dresser, Andrew Cyrile and many more.

Alon has shared the stage with Frank London’s trio (with Marcus Rojaz and Frank London), Baye Kouyate and his afro beat ensemble, Alicia Sviagals Klezmer Quartet, Kenny Wollesen Himalays with Ben Goldberg, Daniel Carter’s Quartet with Roy Campbell & William Parkers Ensemble.

Alon Nechushtan – Piano
Lars Ekman – Double Bass
Colin Stranahan – Drums


Alon Nechushtan


Pianist and singer from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Abelita Mateus is passionate about Brazilian Music. She studied classical piano in her teens, and gradually developed a passion for jazz. In Brazil she has performed with such great artists as Vinicius Dorin, Raul de Souza and Hermeto Pascoal. Living in New York since 2012, Abelita has become immersed in the jazz scene and is applying the “new sounds” into her own music, as a performer and composer. In 2014, Abelita started her own project, “Mixed Feelings,” and is currently the pianist for the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, directed by Dizzy Gillespie alumni John Lee. She has  performed recently at international venues including the Blue Note New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco, Ronnie Scott’s in London, the Luna Classics and Musig Am Zurisee Jazz Festivals in Switzerland, a various venues in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In the New York area, Abelita has been playing with world class musicians such as John Lee, Claudio Roditi, Tommy Campbell, Sharel Cassity, the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Peter Slavov, Alex Kautz, Matt Marantz, Behn Gillece, , Itaiguara Brandão, Portinho, Oleg Osenkov, Roger Squitero, Phillip Gillette, Kim Daseul, among others.

Abelita Mateus – Piano and Vocal
Daseul Kim - Bass
Phillip Gillette – Drums


Abelita Mateus

DUO LAROO/BYRD with Special Guest Vibraphonist JAY HOGGARD – FEB 7, 2016

I’m Warren Byrd. with Saskia Laroo, we form the Laroo/Byrd Duo. I play the piano and sing...and some percussion; she plays the trumpet and bass...and some vocals. We scuttle between our main instruments and the others. I enjoy combining piano and vocals spontaneously...and sometimes the bongos too. I love it when she toggles between trumpet and bass. We play improvisational music, often referred to as “Jazz”. As a part of the Baby Grand Jazz Series, we want to enthrall listeners with the joy we share in what we do.

We try to imagine what it would be like if Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis would engage in musical dialogue to work out their differences...on a street corner in Greenwich Village. We compose pieces on which to explore this concept, trying to reconcile spontaneity, drive, challenge, sincerity, drama, flow...and swing (Duke Ellington, one of America’s finest twentieth-century composers, said it best, “It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing!”). In creating such an experience on the bandstand, we hope to educate, entertain, and inspire (such an American saga is jazz history rife with all the vissicitudes of human life; Just a matter of that in our drink is bound to edify). Another hope for us is that Saskia’s European identity and my American identity comes through in the music.

Warren Byrd – Piano / Vocal
Saskia Laroo - Trumpet / Bass
Jay Hoggard - Vibraphone


Warren Byrd


Pianist Taino Pacheco has performed frequently throughout Hartford Public Library’s “Baby Grand Jazz” series’ 10+ year history. Outside of the series, you may also find Pacheco performing at other Hartford Public Library functions including art exhibitions and the “One Big Summer Night” gala. Pacheco presents a unique style of jazz that incorporates classical, blues, and folk influences.

He is also planning on inviting other musicians to join him for this particular performance and present their original compositions: he has noticed from observing other performances at the Hartford Public Library Baby Grand Jazz series that the inclusion of guest musicians can add depth and variety to the musical experience. Having never formerly studied music at a university—his undergraduate degree is in Bio-molecular Sciences—his musical growth is not exactly linear. Therefore, at this point in his musical career Taino is still trying to hone his technique and musicality, and to become more comfortable with his instrument before he enters the recording studio. Nevertheless, the Baby Grand Jazz series always provides Taino with a constructive and supportive environment in which to perform. He is a graduate of Central CT State University and holds a Master’s Degree in Biomolecular Sciences.

Taino Pacheco – Piano/ vocal
Greg Perault – Bass
Alvaro Maldonado – Trombone


Taino Pacheco


Sylvia Mims is a rare talent, seamlessly blending a deeply rooted jazz sensibility with classical training. Originally from Los Angeles, Sylvia performed and recorded with topnotch jazz musicians including Tamir Hendelman, Karen Hammack, Putter Smith, Roy McCurdy, Bobby Rodriguez, and Dave Koonse. After settling in Connecticut, she began studying classical voice, but returned to jazz after six years of study to follow her true passion. Sylvia has performed at Carnegie Hall as a winner in the American Fine Arts Festival’s Golden Voices of America Competition, and released her debut CD “Where Lovers Live”, a collection of love songs at various stages in a love story, in November 2014.

Sylvia performs throughout Connecticut and New York City working with some of the best musicians around including: Donn Trenner, Matt DeChamplain, Matt Dwonszyk, Bob Albanese, and Eliot Zigmund. Sylvia’s warm, breathtaking vocals are a conduit to a uniquely appealing and engaging live experience. She is equally compelling singing jazz legend Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” as she is performing “Your Daddy’s Son” from the musical Ragtime. Each of her performances has a full range of emotional shades that captivate and enthrall listeners, and her adeptness at singing diverse styles appeals to a broad audience; indeed, to anyone who loves music and wants to be moved.

Sylvia Mims - vocal

Donn Trenner - piano

Matt Dwonszyk – bass


Sylvia Mims


Orquesta Espada is considered by many to be the top Salsa/ Jazz band to come out of the Connecticut region. The band was formed in 1982 by great composer and musicians Ray Santiago, William Fluker, Doug Long and Ivan Santiago. The full orchestra is comprised of 11 band members, which utilizes a wide range of original Salsa & Brazilian rhythms to create a very spicy brand of music. Ray’s tenure in the late 70’s with Henry Alvarez (composer for Larry Harlow) enabled him to work alongside and be influenced by some of salsas greatest innovators such as Tito Puente, Jorge Dalto, Mongo Santamaria and Poncho Sanchez.

Orquesta Espada has headlined many festivals and have performed and opened for such greats as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Claudio Roditi, Roy Ayers, and others. Espada has performed extensively throughout the United States. Espada has remained relatively the same throughout their 28 year history.Over the years, bandleader Ray Santiago has composed and arranged many compositions and recordings with band members William Fluker, Doug Long, Marcos Ocasio, Kris Jensen, and lyrist Luis Roman. Ray Santiago has worked for Warner Brothers Records and subsidiary in New York City developing new artists and studio recordings. Throughout his illustrious career and musical experiences Santiago’s most gratifying project still remains the same Orquesta Espada.

Damian Curtis-piano                   Ray Santiago-trombone & keyboard
Tony Gonzalez-percussion          Bobby Torres-percussion
Doug Long-bass                         Emmett Goods-trombone


Orqusta Espade


Lenore has performed and in many cases, sold out major jazz clubs and festivals…Dizzy's at Jazz At Lincoln Center (3 times), The Blue Note (NYC), Ottawa International Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott's in London, The S.S. Oosterdam jazz cruise, and many more. Last August she was one of three featured internationally renowned Steinway artists, jazz pianists including Ahmad Jamal and Abdullah Ibraham, at the Joy Of Jazz festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she sold out her performance in the 800-seat Market Theater and got a standing ovation. Lenore also performed to sold-out audiences in April 2014 at the Casa Da Musica in Porto Portugal and at The Broward Center for the Arts Amaturo theater.

Due to her popular performances in the past she will tour England and Israel again in October 2015.

Her 2012 recording "Loverly” was up for GRAMMY nomination as best instrumental album and by the BBC for best international jazz recording. Lenore has her own radio show "Lenore Raphael's JazzSpot" which is heard 5 times a week on Along the way she has performed with such noted jazz musicians as Clark Terry, Jon Hendricks, Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen and many more. On national radio she has been interviewed and her recordings heard on many jazz radio shows including WPKN radio in Connecticut.

Lenore Raphael – Piano
Wayne Wilkinson - Guitar


Lenore Raphael


For more than 35 years, Jonathan Ball has unwaveringly pursued musical excellence as a multi-reedman, composer and educator. Now, after 25 years of performing as a featured sideman with outstanding Latin Jazz ensembles, backing up some of popular music’s biggest names and providing guidance and wisdom to literally hundreds of young saxophonists, Jonathan is embarking on a new project of personal expression – co-leading his own ensemble with the remarkable guitarist Matthew Finck. Their first CD, It’s Not That Far - in the company of brilliant collaborators Jay Anderson, Adam Nussbaum and Randy Brecker - was released in July of 2013.

Born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Jonathan began his studies on clarinet at the age of eight and gradually added flute, alto and finally the baritone in middle school. It wasn’t until his college years at Western Michigan University that he shifted his focus to the tenor sax, which remains his primary horn to this day. During his time at Western Michigan, Jonathan was exposed to some notable visiting artists like Rick Margitza, Jim Snidero and most importantly, Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach, with whom he also had the opportunity to perform.

Jonathan Ball - Saxophone
Matthew Finck - Guitar
Jeff Holmes - Piano
Jay Anderson - Bass
Tony Jefferson – Drums


Jonathan Ball


AYAKO HIGUCHI – March 20, 2016

Ayako is a Composer/Producer/Pianist based in NYC. She is originally from Fukuoka, Japan. Ayako started playing the classical piano at the age of 5, and started composing music at the age of 7. After she graduated high school in Fukuoka, Japan and received World Scholarship from Berklee College of Music, Ayako entered Berklee. She studied with JoAnne Brackeen, Greg Hopkins, Walter Beasley, Oscar Stagnaro and many other great teachers. Ayako received Carla Bley Award from Berklee College of Music and graduated Berklee in Jazz Composition Major in 2006.

She moved to New York in 2007, participated in BMI Jazz Composer Workshop directed by Jim McNeely (Vanguard Orchestra) and BMI Composing for the Screen directed by Rick Baitz. She also worked for a sonic branding company, Audiobrain as a composer / production assistant and a game company, High 5 Games as a sound designer. The short film "The Butcher's Key" directed by Sung Cho, music by Ayako Higuchi was screened at Soho Film Festival, Coney Island Film Festival etc.

She has also performed at various venues/occasions such as The Today Show, Apollo Theater, The Carnegie Hall, Smalls Jazz Club, Thomas A. Dorsey Gospel Convention, Hartford Festival of Jazz etc.

Ayako's 1st album "Smooth" is now available at iTunes, Amazon MP3, Google Play etc.

Ayako Higuchi – Piano
Pei-ChinFaison – Violin







John Colby received a Grammy for producing Ken Burns' “The Civil War” soundtrack and an Ace was for ESPN's “Outside the Lines”. A composer of hundreds of TV sports themes including ESPN's Emmy winning Sportscenter, he was responsible for shaping the sound of the world's largest cable network.

He has performed with Ray Charles, Bill Murray, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson, Delbert McClinton, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Duane Eddy and Grand Master Flash.

Bev Rohlehr has performed throughout the Northeast at The Iron Horse, The Village Vanguard, the Newport Jazz Festival, and as a featured vocalist for  Mel Lewis' Jazz Orchestra and the National Jazz Ensemble.

Her album credits include:  featured vocalist on “Symphony in Black,” a Smithsonian release; and “No Frills” by the Persuasions. (Rohlehr is the only woman ever to work with them). She has appeared on TV in two episodes of the award winning children's show Grover's Corner.

John Colby - Keyboards and Vocals
Bev Rohlehr – Vocal
Dave Livolsi - Bass
Mike Levesque - Drums

The Colby's




Ray Gonzalez is 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 was norn in Gurabo, Puerto Rico.

Over the years Gonzalez has held the positionof Music Director at numerous institutions including the University of Turabo, The Hartford Arts Festival and the International Latin American Voice and Song Festival. In 2007, Guakía, Inc. created The Ray González Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival, an annual event to honor the pioneering work of Ray González in CT as a professional musician in Latin Jazz and Salsa and as an educator of the Latino youth for over 35 years.

He and his orchestra have toured throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and he has worked for bandleaders ranging from Tito Puente to Charlie Palmieri.

Ray Gonzalez – Trumpet
Damian Curtis – Piano
Miguel Rios – Percussion
Benny Velazquez – bass
Tony Gonzalez – Percussion


Ray Gonzales


Sambeleza performs a wide variety of Brazilian songs - both old and new - with a jazz twist. Featured composers include Tom Jobim and Ary Barroso, as well as younger composers like Djavan, Debora Gurgel and Arlindo Cruz. A few originals by group members are added to the mix. Brasil (spelled with 's' in Portuguese) is well known for its rich heritage - a blend of indigenous, African and European cultures - from which the music has risen with fascinating rhythms, soaring melodies and colorful harmonies.

The musicians of Sambeleza are outstanding U. S. and Brazilian interpreters of the great songs of the bossa nova and samba traditions, as well as outstanding jazz artists in their own right. Sambeleza derives its name from two words: samba, the national dance of Brasil, and beleza, Portuguese for 'beauty'.

Isabella Mendes – Piano/ Vocal
Joe Carter – Guitar
Jeff Fuller – Bass/ Vocal



TRIchrO - APRIL 17, 2016

TRIchrO (formerly East West Trio) has been performing since the early 90’s in a quartet setting in the greater Boston, New York City and Tokyo areas. After one of its members permanently relocated to Japan, the remaining members continued in a trio format. The trio, consisting of Eriko Yamaki Mercure on Piano, Mark Fairweather on Drums/Percussion and David Mercure on Bass have been working to establish a more modern or contemporary sound that incorporates a larger repertoire of original compositions along with a steady diet of jazz standards.

Eriko Yamaki Mercure – Piano
Mark Fairweather – Drums
David Mercure - Bass




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. Emery played locally with saxophonist Harold Holt, and Percy Nelson. 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 Monkand Bud Powel. Smith worked in New York with Charles Shavers, Howard McGhee, Coleman Hawkins, Tina Brooks, Dizzy Gillespie and many more. Presently, Smith performs in New York and New England.

Emery A. Smith - Piano
Jim Hunter - Bass



Emery Austin Smith