Hamptons Jazz Fest Warms Up Winter - 27 East

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Hamptons Jazz Fest Warms Up Winter

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Musician Bill O'Connell performs at the Parrish Art Museum on April 1 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's  Winter Series.

Musician Bill O'Connell performs at the Parrish Art Museum on April 1 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's Winter Series.

Musician Greg Lewis performs at the Parrish Art Museum on February 25 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's  Winter Series.

Musician Greg Lewis performs at the Parrish Art Museum on February 25 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's Winter Series.

Musician Manuel Valera performs at SAC on March 18 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's  Winter Series.

Musician Manuel Valera performs at SAC on March 18 as part of Hamptons Jazz Fest's Winter Series.

Sophie Griffin on Jan 31, 2022

On a cold, moonlit winter night, what warms up a crowd better than an intimate evening of jazz? That’s the idea behind the Hamptons Jazz Fest’s new Winter Series. The organization, which brought a summer extravaganza of jazz music to the East End for the first time in 2021, is now extending its programming with a Winter Series featuring even more world-renowned musicians.

“​​The summer jazz festival was such a great success and we put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it,” Claes Brondal, president of Hamptons Jazz Fest said. “We finished out in September, but then we had an encore performance on October 5. We realized that the winter months out here on the East End are typically void of culture [because] everything takes place in the summertime, and we have the capacity to keep it going a little bit throughout the wintertime.”

The concerts will take place at the Parrish Art Museum and the Southampton Arts Center (SAC). The series kicked off in December, with the legendary Lew Tabackin Trio, and will continue with one concert a month through May.

“The winter series is almost a continuation of the summer, or an offspring of the summer Jazz Fest,” Brondal said. “We like to keep the musicians going. We like to be relevant because we think music and this style of music is highly relevant and we want to keep putting music out there as much as we can.”

In addition to the music, the organizers have created opportunities for the audience to get to know the performers, through meet and greet social hours.

“That’s a direct result of COVID,” Brondal explained. “Last year, when it felt like we were coming out of COVID, it felt so good to finally be together again as a community and to socialize. Musicians would say, ‘We love playing, but we realize we miss socializing just as much.’ That goes for musicians and the audience alike — what makes us human is to co-exist and interact with each other and we were void of that.”

Audiences are invited to come to venues before the show starts and mingle. To encourage an intimate atmosphere, the concerts are set up for social interaction, with cabaret-style seating and a cash bar.

“It’s always thrilling to meet great artists whom you have a distant relationship with, with their music, but to get to know them puts you in a different kind of a relationship,” Joel Chriss, lead producer of the Jazz Fest, said.

As for last summer, the concert organizers wanted to promote accessibility and therefore endeavored to keep ticket prices low or free.

“That is part of our mission, to keep high-quality music available for all,” Brondal stated.

Brondal, a musician himself, remembered being shut out of seeing many of his favorite artists as a young man. High ticket prices made these performances out of reach for him back then, so today he wants to make them open to everybody — especially younger people, who are not usually part of jazz audiences.

“I remember feeling a sense of resentment [about] my favorite artists, [that] it was inconceivable that I could ever go and see and hear them,” Brondal related. “I think for live music and jazz to be relevant and to survive, you have to have access to it.”

The first concert of this year is Greg Lewis and the Organ Monk Quartet, who will perform on February 25 at the Parrish Art Museum. Accompanied by Jerry Weldon on tenor sax, Lewis will play the work of Thelonious Monk — hence the group’s name — and others interpreted through the Hammond B-3 organ, which weighs over 400 pounds.

“If you want to see what dedication looks like, look at him, because he carries around his Hammond B-3 organ and speakers,” Brondal said. “He lugs that around everywhere, all by himself — he has special lifting techniques, he has special equipment.”

But don’t be fooled by the name, as they play more than Thelonious Monk’s work.

“His kind of specialty musical personality is playing Thelonious Monk on organ, that was really the concept he started the group with, but now they play a wide range of jazz and organ music,” Chriss explained.

“Jazz has a very important organ tradition,” he added.

Next up on March 18 will be Manuel Valera & the New Cuban Express, an SAC event that will also fundraise for the summer fest. Valera is a Grammy-nominated Cuban pianist and composer, whose group will play an evening of Latin jazz.

“He’s been on the New York scene for about 20 years, and is really loved and deeply respected for his Cuban interpretations of Jazz music,” Chriss said.

Bill O’Connell Latin/Jazz Quartet will play at the Parrish on the first of April. O’Connell is not only a celebrated musician, but the artistic director of the Jazz Fest.

“He’s a superb jazz and Latin jazz piano player,” Chriss said. “He’s going to bring in his own quartet, playing originals and mainstream jazz and Latin jazz.”

“He comes out of a lot of different traditions and the piano world of jazz, but he’s comparable to the great McCoy Tyner. You listen to Bill and it’s like listening to the history of piano jazz music.”

Lastly, on May 20 at SAC, the Jon Irabagon Group comes to the Southampton Arts Center. Irabagon is a innovative and award-winning saxophonist pushing jazz forward.

“I don’t want to say John’s a young guy, cause he’s in his late 30s, he’s been around for a while, but he’s probably the most modern-facing jazz musician we’ve had, actually,” Chriss said. He’s “a very modern player, very adventurous. He’s played in some of the most innovative bands of the last 15 years. He came on the scene in the early 2000s — he won the Thelonious Monk competition for saxophones, which is a very prestigious competition.”

Although the concerts will be fun and lighthearted, the situation of musicians across the country is less cheery. Musicians, of course, are still hurting due to the economic effects of the pandemic. The Jazz Fest’s concerts are not just entertainment, but important paid gigs that keep music-makers afloat. The Jazz Fest is looking for donations to be able to keep putting on these shows for low costs.

But one easy way to support the cause is to go and enjoy the jazz.

“It’ll warm you up, so come out, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is,” Chriss said. “We’ll be presenting four great shows this winter, so come out and enjoy the music. Have a glass of wine with people who love the music and be part of the community.”

For more information on the Hamptons Jazz Fest or tickets, visit hamptonsjazzfest.com.

The Schedule:

Friday, February 25

Greg Lewis and Organ Monk Quartet

Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill

Friday, March 18, 6 p.m.

Manuel Valera & New Cuban Express

Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton

Friday, April 1, 6 p.m.

Bill O’Connell Latin/Jazz Quartet

Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill

Friday, May 20, 6 p.m.

Jon Irabagon Group

Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton

All concerts begin with a social hour, cash bar and meet-and-greet at 6 p.m. followed by the concerts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($10 members/students).

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