For years I have flown across the country in order to attend West Coast festivals because they are different from the events we have in and around New Jersey, my home. For one thing, they tend to hire organized bands rather than individual musicians. They also have some West Coast Revival style bands, although less of this in recent years. Even their youth bands are exciting, since the schools teach improvisation, not just reading Big Band charts. At Sacramento back in 2001, for example, I saw Bria Skonberg as a teenager sitting in with the established bands as well as her own, and also discovered Dave Kosmyna, then college age, playing some amazing cornet with his friends in the Dixie Squid group.
Bria is, of course, now based in New York City, but if Dave has been visiting our area he has kept it a well guarded secret. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I found he will be playing for Jeff and Joel’s House Party in November. I’ve been taking those parties in since they were actually held in Joel Schianone’s house, but they’ve outgrown the capacity of that site and moved to a local Elk’s Lodge, giving them not only a slightly raised band platform and better viewing from the audience, but also adequate parking adjacent to the building.
Joel Schiavone, who used to run the truly great Great Connecticut Jazz Festival, has teamed up with pianist Jeff Barnhart (a staple at virtually every festival in the country) to host these jazz parties each year. They limit attendance to a bit over a hundred people (with reserved seating) and feed them on site, which avoids having folks wander off in search of food and thus miss some of the music. Keep this in mind if you think the tab for the weekend or individual sessions is a little more than you expected, because it includes the meals. To get fans coming back year after year, they draw musicians from New England, New York, and afar. This brings together top musicians who rarely if ever get to play together, so the result is decidedly unique. Last year they brought over Paris Washboard to add to the mix.
As I mentioned, this year’s roster caught my eye because I saw that Dave Kosmyna would be there, plus favorites such as Noel Kaletsky, Dennis Lichtman, Cynthia Sayer, Dalton Ridenhour, Mike Weatherly, Jim Fryer, and Clint Baker. Some are multi-instrumentalists. (Who knows what they will bring this time?) Also assorted New Englanders whose names might be new to people outside the area, such as pianist Ian Frenkel, who Dan Levinson brought to New Jersey for one of his concerts. Manic pianist Jeff Barnhart will be in the thick of things, of course, and he may be adding more players to the list as you read this.
The jazz party format allows organizers to constantly stir the musicians, forming groups involving others with whom they don’t usually play…or might not even know. This keeps them on their toes and brings out creativity, experimentation…and some funny moments from time to time. I urge readers to go to www.jeffandjoelshouseparty.com to get the full roster, session schedule, and driving guide. You can go for the entire weekend or just take in individual sessions, from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. Call their volunteers if you have questions.
The location on the Connecticut coast is not far from New Haven. There are plenty of reasonable motels along I-95, a short drive away. If you are flying from some distance, Hartford has a major airport. This year, their tenth anniversary edition runs November 1 to 3, so there will likely be some fall foliage to enjoy. See you there!