Marion Meadows, Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Nelson Rangel, Rohn Lawrence and Jay Rowe! Man, what a lineup.
The top smooth jazz specialists rocked the coastal New England enclave of Milford, Connecticut in a 2nd annual show to benefit the city's music departments. Just call it good kharma. Giving something back. Exhalting the arts. Music.
Jay Rowe, Milford native, keyboardist and mastermind of the April 24, 2004 event, is to be commended for bringing the big boys back to his home turf. I'm tellin' ya - this was a jam! The official title: "Smooth Jazz For Scholars."
"The bottom line with music and art is it's there to inspire all students, broaden their horizons and show them there are other things out there besides math, English and science," Rowe told the Milford Weekly paper.
"As a kid who liked to perform and liked attention, I would say every teacher on the faculty encouraged me. I got a good music education, and it made me want to take piano lessons privately."
Today he's kickin' ass touring the world with Marion Meadows, Ken Navarro, and Chieli Minucci (with Special EFX). Marion, Jay and Rohn Lawrence used to hang out in New Haven and jam back in the 80's. I was there. Watched them climb that ladder of national appreciation for their hip chops - selling records is good.
Guitarist Ken Navarro and Jay came by my little cottage by-the-sea (Long Island Sound actually), to drop off a pair of tix for the show. Ken has amazing chops. This night he played a piece that I'm sure would've made any mere human contort with a forearm cramp of extreme magnitude. He was playing fast, without missing a note, for many minutes. Amazing.
One of my favorite guitarists out there is Rohn Lawrence. He's been doing work with Boney James for the past several years. Rohn is a big burly man with the tastiest touch on the six-string. Soulful. But he can scream like a Hendrix-child. Always smiling.
Chieli Minucci is yet another rippin' guitarist. He came out blazin' to join Navarro and Lawrence for a three-guitar jam closing out the first set. It had the audience up and cheering.
Also contributing to that first set was a capable and moving vocalist, Tim Maia. As the guest artists appeared one after another, the backing band just kept rumbling along. The band is called F.U. Jazz Boy and consists of Jay (keyboards), Rohn (guitar), Tim (vocals), Trevor Sommerville (drums) and Dave Lavolsi (bass). (Special thanks to photographer Steve Schwartzenberg for the great shots.)
The second set was for the saxophone men. Nelson Rangel performed his magic. Marion Meadows , visiting back home to Connecticut from his current crib in Phoenix, really brought the house down. Walking through the aisles - like a Pied Piper with his soprano - Marion bedazzled the crowd. As Marion explains, "I'd like to bring a litte more cutting edge to the contemporary jazz scene."
Marion's pushing the envelope with his latest release, Player's Club on Heads Up label. "Player's Club is dedicated to my collegues - all the saxophonists and musicians who go out there every night and give it their all," Marion muses. "It's a select group that really deserves the title, a fraternity of players who have sustained over the years - and that's saying a lot in the music business these days."
It was a great show. But not only that, it was for a great cause. When ya think about it - raising money for young aspiring musicians to get their chops wet - is a noble thing.
"I would like to see things happen that really benefit students as a whole, like a visiting artist for a week. But I know things like travel transportation for marching bands is a major issue," Rowe ponders.
Jay Rowe - taking it to the streets.
Smooth Jazz Jam I
Visit Jay Rowe on the web at www.jayrowemusic.com