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SJFS 2019 Night 2 recap April 29, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Food, Golf, Internet, Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Sports, Travel, Weather.
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2019 Night 1

The 17th annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars run by keyboardist Jay Rowe resumed on Saturday night with the second of two concerts. The headliners were Brian Simpson, Eric Darius, Jessy J, back for the second year in a row, and Steve Oliver, back for the second time in three years.

I could only manage about four hours of sleep early Saturday morning, but it felt like more than that. I got out of bed at 5:45 AM and began my exercises and pre-run stretches. Then, I headed down to the West Haven Best Western‘s fitness center to run 42 minutes on the treadmill. I had to enter my weight in kilograms and speed in kilometers per hour. It’s a good thing I had a converter on my phone. As has been the case semi-regularly since January, I did not take any breaks. It was 42 minutes in a row. That was all I needed to reach my monthly mileage goal of 150 miles.

After free weight exercises, I showered and changed into a second t-shirt and pair of shorts. Then, I brought my laptop and portable hard drive down to the lobby. While guests came in for breakfast, I was fine with a cup of tea. I’d have preferred hot chocolate, but it’s only served in the winter. Two hours later, I went back to my room and finished editing. My parents texted me from across the hall to ask if I’d like to eat a late breakfast at the nearby Denny’s. I agreed. We also ate at Denny’s the morning after SJFS in 2009 when we stayed at the adjacent Hampton Inn.

As with Sally’s yesterday, I took a few pictures at Denny’s:

The weather was better on Saturday: partly to mostly cloudy, but dry. I was underdressed, though. A t-shirt and shorts were the wrong things to wear. It’s a good thing I had my spring jacket.

The menu had an option to make your own Grand Slam breakfast. I chose two buttermilk pancakes, a buttermilk biscuit, hash browns, and two sausage links.

I grabbed a picture when I was down to the pancakes:

Back at the hotel, I showered again and worked on the rough drafts for this post and the one before it.

Eventually, the time came to drive to Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Government Complex in Milford.

Jay Rowe’s mother Mia DiStasi was the last person I saw Friday night and the first I saw Saturday.

Kevin McCabe welcomed the audience one minute before 8:00:

Then, the Foran High School Jazz Ensemble, led by Jessica Turner, came on stage:

They performed two songs. First, a Gordon Goodwin composition, which I haven’t heard on any Big Phat Band album, called “Tweet Fatigue”:

…and Doc Severinsen’s arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” for The Tonight Show Band:

Five minutes later, musical director Jay Rowe and his band took the stage.

As usual, Jay played keyboards:

He was backed up by Trever Somerville on drums:

Unfortunately, that was only one of two pictures I got of Trever, but you can see him in other pics.

On his birthday, Steve Scales on percussion:

Dave Anderson on bass:

…and on 11 of the 15 songs, Rohn Lawrence on guitar:

The headliners were Steve Oliver on guitar and vocals:

Jessy J on tenor saxophone:

Brian Simpson on keyboard:

…and keytar:

…and Eric Darius on alto sax and occasional vocals:

1. There She Goes (Jay Rowe)
Originally heard on: Upcoming album
Featured musicians: Jay Rowe (keyboards), Steve Oliver (guitar, vocals)

2. High Noon (Steve Oliver)
Originally heard on: Positive Energy (2002)
Featured musician: Steve Oliver (guitar, vocals)

3. Illuminate (Steve Oliver)
Originally heard on: Illuminate (2018)
Featured musician: Steve Oliver (guitar, vocals)

4. Tequila Moon (Jessy J)
Originally heard on: Tequila Moon (2008), Live at Yoshi’s 10 Year Anniversary Special (2018)
Featured musicians: Jessy J (tenor sax), Steve Oliver (guitar)

5. All I Want (Jessy J)
Originally heard on: Live at Yoshi’s 10 Year Anniversary Special (2018)
Featured musician: Jessy J (tenor sax)

6. Just What You Need (Brian Simpson)
Originally heard on: Just What You Need (2013)
Featured musician: Brian Simpson (keyboard)

7. Persuasion (Brian Simpson)
Originally heard on: Persuasion (2016)
Featured musicians: Brian Simpson (keyboard), Eric Darius (alto sax)

8. Breakin’ Thru (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Breakin’ Thru (2018)
Featured musician: Eric Darius (alto sax)

9. L.O.V.E. (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Breakin’ Thru (2018)
Featured musician: Eric Darius (alto sax)
L.O.V.E. is Eric’s marital acronym for “living our vows every day.”

10. The Tango Boy (Jessy J)
Originally heard on: My One and Only One (2015), Live at Yoshi’s 10 Year Anniversary Special (2018)
Featured musicians: Jessy J (tenor sax), Brian Simpson (keytar), Jay Rowe (keyboards)

11. Chips and Salsa (Steve Oliver)
Originally heard on3D (2004)
Featured musicians: Steve Oliver (guitar, vocals), Brian Simpson (keyboard), Jay Rowe (keyboards)

12. Saturday Cool (Brian Simpson)
Originally heard on: It’s All Good (2005)
Featured musician: Brian Simpson (keyboard, keytar)

13. Love is the Answer (Todd Rundgren composition for his band Utopia)
Featured musicians: Foran High School Advanced Ensemble Chorus (directed by Theresa Voss), Eric Darius (alto sax), Jay Rowe (keyboards)

14. Night on the Town (Eric Darius)
Originally heard on: Night on the Town (2004)
Featured musician: Eric Darius (alto sax, vocals)

15 (Finale). Happy (Eric Darius) (Pharrell Williams cover)
Originally heard on: Retro Forward (2014)
Featured musicians: Everyone

Jay did not play on Brian’s three songs.

The first group of pictures by artist is for Steve Oliver:

Guitar symphony orchestra:


Audience sing-a-long:

Steve started “Chips and Salsa” in the audience:

Along the way, he prompted them to shout “¡Olé!”

Back on stage…:

“Where’s the party?”:

“Ohhhhh-oh! Sing!”:

They did:

There was more to echo after that:

Including complicated vocalise:

Their effort passed muster: “Aw, you’re hired. You’re comin’ on the road with us.”

Jessy J:

Brian Simpson on keyboard:

…and keytar:

Eric Darius:

Eric prompted the audience to wave their phones’ flashlights at the start of “L.O.V.E.”:

… What this light represents tonight is unity ’cause we are all united, and most importantly, this light represents love, L.O.V.E.

In the middle of the song, after sitting on the end of the stage:

…he walked down to them, high-fiving some along the way:

Back on stage:

Big finish:

“Love you, Milford!”:

During “Night on the Town,” more audience participation: “Ooh-ooh!”:

“Now, somebody scream!”:

He returned to the audience for “Night on the Town”:

As Eric made his way to the other side, I smiled for my camcorder, then panned right when I got back in position:

Back on stage:

Jay Rowe:

The end-of-solo glide:

The second Trever Somerville pic:

Steve Scales:

Dave Anderson during his “Saturday Cool” duet:

Rohn Lawrence’s “Breakin’ Thru” solo:

Jessy and Jay:

Jessy and Steve:

Rohn and Jessy (and Trever):

I just missed his wolf whistle riff.

Eric and Brian:

Rohn and Eric:

Jessy and Brian:

Brian and Jay’s Jessy J-sanctioned keyboard competition:

I call it a draw.

“Brian Simpson! Jay Rowe!”:

Brian and Dave:

“Love is the Answer,” with the Foran High School Advanced Vocal Ensemble, directed by Theresa Voss:

The finale: “Happy”:

“Oh!” “Yeah!”:

Eric named all performers…:

“I’m Eric Darius! We love you! God bless! Thank you!”:

Air Darius:

That’s it!

A selfie for Brian’s Facebook page:

Here’s how it looked:

Jay brought up the rest of the band for a group bow:

That marked the end of the 17th year of Smooth Jazz for Scholars.

What a fantastic night! And what a workout! The health app on my iPhone says I took thousands of steps both nights. I was cold in my short-sleeve shirt when I arrived both nights, but I was hot when the house lights came up and the stage was struck. That’s a workout.

During the show I once again caught up with my photography colleagues Ron Hancox, Keith McDonald, and Bill. Before and after, I spoke to Jay Dobbins and John and Barbara again. Afterward, I saw my friends Kelly and Jen.

Kelly was nice enough to take pictures during the meet-and-greet. First, Brian Simpson:

Next, Jessy J:

Jessy asked what I’d been up to since last year. I gave her the highlights, including my cousin David’s wedding down in Miami. Jessy’s 8-month-old son is also named David.

Then, Steve Oliver:

Seconds before Kelly took the above picture, she said she loved “Chips and Salsa” and Steve proceeded to vocalize. That cracked me up. Before that, he noticed the 2019 PGA Championship shirt I was wearing. I told him I’d be going to the final round at Bethpage Black golf course in a few weeks. I added that I wore the 2018 U.S. Open shirt that I got ahead of that tournament, held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton. I said I arrived at the course for the third round at about the time Phil Mickelson moved his ball on the 13th green while it was still rolling. Getting back to music, after Kelly took our picture, I told Steve I was glad he played “Illuminate” because it made me think of the late Chuck Loeb, who played SJFS five years ago. We both miss him, and I know anyone else that followed his music misses him, too.

5/6 UPDATE: My friend John Caramagna took a candid shot of the above moment from another angle:

Finally, I met Eric Darius:

I told him I liked his energy, bouncing around the stage so fast. I didn’t realize he was pointing at me when we posed, just as I didn’t know Matt Marshak’s expression last year. I would have pointed back. Eric said it was because “you’re the man.” I told him he was the man and thanked him for a great night of music.

Kelly and Jen were waiting outside to take me back to West Haven, but I had to say hi to Dolly Moye before I left. I saw her dancing in the right aisle both nights, but didn’t get to talk to her on Friday.

On the ride back to Best Western, Kelly and Jen shared stories from their union’s strike against Stop & Shop earlier in the month. I was glad to be with them.

I went right to sleep after returning to my room. Once again, I could only manage a few hours of sleep. I woke up around 4:45 AM and started going through photos from the night before. I weeded out the poor quality shots, pausing periodically to do push-ups and jumping jacks. I noticed the dawn sky outside my 7th floor window, which had a southeast exposure, and broke out my camera:

20 minutes later, the sun was in view:

Another 10 minutes passed and I took my last sunrise pic:

I could also see Long Island Sound and the north shore of either Miller Place, Rocky Point, Shoreham, or Wading River, based on Google Maps:

I put my camera away and went down to the fitness center to lift weights. Then, I went back to my room to start editing Saturday’s pictures, shower, and pack up.

Checkout was at 11:00, so with everything else packed, I packed up my laptop and proceeded to the lobby. My parents and I left the hotel at 11:10. As we pulled out of the parking lot, the England Dan and John Ford Coley version of “Love is the Answer” was playing on SiriusXM 70s on 7, which was running the April 28, 1979, episode of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.

Just like last year, an hour and 40 minutes later, even with a heavy pocket of traffic in Stamford, we were home. Traffic is always lighter getting home late Sunday morning than it is going to New Haven County on Friday afternoon. I finished editing half a mile from my house.

I put the finishing touches on the two recaps today. Thank you for reading and viewing along with me, and thank you to everyone I encountered while in Milford and West Haven. Until next year, so long.


SJFS 2019 Night 1 recap April 29, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Food, Internet, Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Travel, Weather.
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The 17th annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars, the brainchild of keyboardist Jay Rowe, began Friday night at the usual place: Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Government Center in Milford, Connecticut, Jay’s hometown. Friday’s headliners were Chieli Minucci, Marion Meadows, and Nick Colionne.

While the venue remained the same, the official hotel changed: Best Western Executive Hotel in West Haven. It’s adjacent to the Hampton Inn I stayed at ten years ago. That year, SJFS was still only one night and was held at Foran High School.

Since this year’s SJFS took place during spring break, I left for West Haven with my parents just after 11AM. Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, rain followed us most of the way to the hotel. It persisted throughout the day, except for a two-hour lull in the late afternoon. It was during that lull that the three of us ate dinner at the legendary Sally’s Apizza (pronounced “a BEATS”) in New Haven. It was the furthest north and east I had been in Connecticut since returning from a few days in New Hampshire in August 1996. (We took a ferry from New London to Orient Point on Long Island’s North Fork.)

Sally’s is located on Wooster Street in New Haven’s Little Italy:

For privacy reasons, I only photographed the walls:

We shared a coal-fired, thin-crust meatball pizza pie:

It was delicious!

I learned afterward that this pizza style is exclusive to New Haven.

We were back at Best Western by 6:00. An hour later, I was driven to Veterans Memorial Auditorium. By this point, it was raining again. If Smooth Jazz for Scholars were an outdoor baseball series, Friday’s show would have been made up the next day as part of a day-night doubleheader. Luckily, the rain had tapered off as I walked into the auditorium.

Inside, I got to speak to my friend John. We spoke wistfully about saxophonist Paul “Shilts” Weimar’s heyday, and how we missed his music. He even told me about the one time Shilts played a joke on me, early in his 2012 show at Houndstooth Pub. Shilts said he would note that photography wasn’t allowed, then wait a few seconds and admit he was messing with me. I had a nice laugh as he cordially asked what camera I was using.

As showtime approached, after I’d set up my equipment in the orchestra pit, I spoke to Billy and Sandy Okumu (it was Billy’s birthday), Mark and Phyllis Abrams, Jay Dobbins, another John, John Caramagna, and his wife Barbara Grocki. I met the two of them at Hampton Inn last year. John told me Saturday night that they stayed there again this year and wondered where I was in the morning.

Kevin McCabe welcomed the still-arriving crowd a few minutes after 8:00:

Like last year, the opening act was the Jonathan Law High School Jazz Band, directed by Phil Giampietro, who addressed the audience beforehand:

They performed “Jeannine,” a Cannonball Adderley tune:

Our feature presentation started at 8:20. Musical director Jay Rowe led the house band on keyboards:

Trever Somerville on drums:

Steve Scales on percussion:

Dave Anderson on bass:

…and for eight of the 14 songs, Rohn (“Ron”) Lawrence on electric guitar:

The headliners were Chieli Minucci (“key-L-e min-OO-chee”) on acoustic guitar:

…and electric guitar:

Marion Meadows on soprano saxophone:

…and Nick Colionne on electric guitar and vocals:

1. Smooth Ride (Jay Rowe)
Originally heard onSmooth Ride (2016)
Featured musician: Jay Rowe (keyboards)

2. Daybreak (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard onGlobal Village (Special EFX) (1992)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (acoustic/electric guitar)

3. Crazy Eights (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard onGenesis (Chieli Minucci & Special EFX) (2013)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (electric guitar)

4. Celebration Road (Marion Meadows)
Originally heard onSoul Traveler (2015)
Featured musicians: Marion Meadows (soprano sax), Chieli Minucci (acoustic guitar)

5. No Rhyme, No Reason (Marion Meadows) (George Duke cover)
Originally heard onNext to You (2000)
Featured musician: Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

6. The Reunion (Jay Rowe)
Originally heard onSmooth Ride (2016)
Featured musicians: Jay Rowe (keyboards), Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

7. Be Urself (Nick Colionne)
Originally heard onJust Being Me (2018)
Featured musician: Nick Colionne (electric guitar)

8. Rainy Night in Georgia (Nick Colionne) (Brook Benton cover)
Originally heard on: It’s My Turn (1994), Keepin’ It Cool (2006)
Featured musician: Nick Colionne (vocals, electric guitar)

9. Uptown East (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard onSlice of Life (Special EFX) (1986)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (electric guitar)

10. Dance on the Delta (Chieli Minucci)
Originally heard on: Deep as the Night (Special EFX) (2017)
Featured musician: Chieli Minucci (acoustic/electric guitar)

11. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) (Nick Colionne) (Marvin Gaye cover)
Originally heard on: Just Being Me (2018)
Featured musician: Nick Colionne (electric guitar, vocals)

12. Is This Love I’m Feeling? (Nick Colionne)
Originally heard on: Just Being Me (2018)
Featured musician: Nick Colionne (electric guitar, vocals)

13. Sweet Grapes (Marion Meadows)
Originally heard on: Player’s Club (2004)
Featured musician: Marion Meadows (soprano sax)

14 (Finale). Diggable (Marion Meadows
Originally heard on: Player’s Club (2004)
Featured musicians: Everyone

Now, on to groups of pictures by artist, starting with Chieli Minucci on electric guitar:

…and acoustic guitar:

Marion Meadows:

Nick Colionne on guitar:

Vocals on “Rainy Night in Georgia”:

The song ended with an “America the Beautiful” motif. Nick had the audience sing the last line, “from sea to shining sea,” but had them hold the “ing” in “shining”:

He cut the second “sea” and wrapped up the song:

More audience participation on “How Sweet It Is”:

…and “Is This Love I’m Feeling?”:

Jay Rowe:

Trever Somerville:

Steve Scales:

Dave Anderson:

Rohn Lawrence’s intense “No Rhyme, No Reason” solo:

Marion and Chieli’s “Celebration Road” call and response:

Nick and Jay:

Before “Dance on the Delta,” Jay announced the winner of the 50/50 raffle:

It was Barbara Grocki, who generously donated her winnings:

I think it’s only fair that we donate this to Milford Schools and to your cause.

“Thank you so much, Barbara. Give it up for Barbara!”:

Wide shots from the finale: “Diggable”:

The last note:

Jay named all performers:

“I’m Jay Rowe! Thanks so much for comin’! See y’all here tomorrow night!”:

They looked toward me:

The first night of the 17th annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars was complete.

I caught up with so many musicians afterward, starting with Steve Scales:

Next, Rohn Lawrence:

Chieli Minucci:

Nick Colionne:

…and Marion Meadows:

Thanks to John Caramagna, Ron Hancox, and Steve Lewis for taking all those pictures.

They were also busy photographing during the show, as were Keith McDonald, Steve Cooper, and Bill, who I met as I was putting away my equipment.

I also said hello to Ron’s wife Nydia, our friend Estella Greene, whom I met during the Houndstooth Pub shows years ago, and Jay Rowe’s mother, Mia DiStasi.

After packing up, getting my jacket on, and pulling up my hood, I went back in the rain where my parents were waiting to drive me back to West Haven. Click here to see my recap of my Saturday, Saturday night’s show, and the return home on Sunday. (5/4/22 UPDATE: Until working on this year’s recaps, I forgot to link to 2019’s second night. I have now.)