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SJFS 2019 Night 1 recap April 29, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Food, Internet, Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Travel, Weather.

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.)



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