“In the Pocket” Groove n' Jazz Fest
a benefit for Hartford Jazz Society, with the Jimmy Biggins Express, the Matt Zeiner Band, the Kelvins, the Original Monster Band, Varela/Laramie/Marshall Project, Dane Scozzari & the Human Race, Falling Down Backwards ft. Erin Otte, the Gaslight Trio ft. Jay Wood, DJ Markie Gee, an auction of Sully's/Hartford musical nostalgia, and an All-Star Jam to finish the night.
$10 suggested donation, June 12, 3 p.m. until close, Sully's Pub, 2071 Park St., Hartford, sullyspub.com
A group of awesome bands are rallying for the Hartford Jazz Society, which suffered a big hit back in April. The HJS, which runs the popular Jazz in the Park summer concert series, lost about $40,000 when an employee embezzled the funds and ran. Luckily there's a lot of love for the Society, which has been around since 1960 — a whopping 50 years. “I've been a big fan of the Jazz Society. Have been for about five years now, since I was in college,” says drummer Dane Scozzari, whose band the Human Race performs at this weekend's benefit concert. Scozzari, a recent graduate of the Hartt School's jazz program, notes that another HJS event, the Monday Night Jazz Jam at Black-Eyed Sally's, is well attended by Hartt students. “The HJS predates the Hartt jazz program, but I feel like it's a symbiotic relationship between the students and the Society.”
The benefit concert's bill features a bunch of genres. Scozzari says that his band's style of jazz is “straight ahead, but also a little bit of contemporary because we've got a vocalist.” They play “a lot of original music, some cool jazz, some standards.” The Matt Zeiner Band plays southern rock with soul, funk and jam band influences. Falling Down Backwards is a new band that recently debuted at Sully's, but vocalist Erin Otte will probably be a familiar face to long-time music fans. Otte made her name singing with local swing heroes Eight to the Bar, and is back on the scene after starting a family.
One of our perennial favorites on the bill is the Varela/Laramie/Marshall Project, who play deep cuts of soul and R&B from the '70s and '80s, with some jazz thrown in. I asked Varela why the benefit was important to him. It's an “opportunity to get together with local musicians, which is really a brotherhood, and share our music,” he says. "I think a lot of musicians get caught up doing their own thing and these benefits give us a chance to hear what the other ones have to say.”
The concert is entirely a grass-roots production. It comes on the heels of the HJS's own official fundraiser, which took place on June 4. Samantha Forbes, an amateur musician and local music patron, posted a news article about the HJS incident to her Facebook feed.I asked her about her relationship to local jazz. “I used to frequent [Hartford's] South End's 880 Club in the late '90s, and there I met some of Hartford's greatest jazz players.”The 880 may be gone, but Forbes notes that the Monday night jams and Bushnell Park concerts are “two staple events … and I would not want a Hartford without them — or the HJS for that matter. The HJS is the oldest jazz society in the country. I simply love that Hartford rocks that status!”
Forbes' post sparked interest from Steve McQuade, whose long history on the local scene includes co-founding Sully's Pub (originally Steve and Sully's), and running his own music venue, McQuade's Café in Canton. A benefit show seemed the logical way to help. “I just happened to be the guy who knew a ton of musicians and called them,” says McQuade. After getting so many heavy hitters to sign on, McQuade knew the event needed a good venue. So, 10 years after an split with Sully's owner Darrell Sullivan, McQuade got back in touch, and Sullivan agreed to host the benefit. Kinda tugs the heartstrings a little, no?
If you want to help the Hartford Jazz Society but you can't make it to the benefit, you can contact them at (860) 242-6688, or hartfordjazzsociety.com. The theft robbed them of their basic operating money as well as programming funds, leaving paid employees high and dry and future concerts in doubt. Any amount will help.