Jazz Stroll Offers Music, Community

October 3, 2011

The Flip Side performs at Puritan of Cape Cod, as an overflow crowd listens outside the shop.

It was a beautiful evening in Falmouth, a perfect evening for strolling up and down Main Street, browsing in the shops, enjoying a meal at a restaurant, chatting with friends. What made it even more special was the sound of music from many shops, eateries, and outdoor locations. Main Street, from the Inn on the Square on North Main Street to Peg Noonan Park was a great place to be, and the many strollers enjoyed every minute of it.

The Jazz Stroll performances were timed so that one could start at North Main Street (Queens Buyway) and walk along Main Street, catching bits of all the performances. Or listeners could stay and enjoy a complete hour-and-a-half performance of one or two performers. Many of the venues offered snacks for the audience: wine, coffee, cheese and crackers, biscotti, which added to the warm, friendly feeling of the stroll.

I went first to the Osborn & Rugh Gallery at 114 North Main Street where George Scharr, on trombone, and Tom Szymczak, on banjo, offered old-time jazz versions of  such tunes as “Cabaret,” “Hello Dolly,” and “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?”

There was wine and cheese for the audience, as well as a gallery full of art to view. The event was clearly as much fun for Scharr and Szymczak as it was for the audience. Scharr, who also plays in the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony Swing Band and is director of the Falmouth campus of the Cape Cod Conservatory of Music and Art, put it this way:

“I am impressed how music and art bring us all together. This event is a boon to the downtown economy. I walked downtown and witnessed artisans and musicians coming together for all and was quite inspired. The town of Falmouth has quite an aura and sense of oneness. Congratulations to all those at Arts Falmouth and the chamber [of commerce] that make events like his possible.”

Next, I headed across the street to the Inn on the Square, where trumpeter Jay Souweine and his trio played in the open air. There was a small gathering of people off to the side and a larger group across the street, as the music filled the street. A 2011 graduate of Falmouth High School, Jay came home from college (he is studying music and music education at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell) to be part of the stroll.

Another young musician, pianist and vocalist Rosemary Ramos of Mattapoisett, brought her trio to Bojangles on Palmer Avenue for some Latin jazz. The store was crowded with people, some taking the opportunity to check out some of the clothing for sale.  While I was there, the group’s teacher, trumpet player Tony Lujan, joined them playing a very impressive trumpet solo.

Farther down Main Street, the Russ Wilcox Trio performed at In the Pink. Mr. Wilcox, a recent graduate of Mashpee High School, could not make the performance and sent in a substitute, saxophonist Nick Suchecki from Wellfleet. They performed standard jazz tunes and were later joined by Mr. Souweine, after his set was over.

Drummer Phil Vitali guides baby Max’s hands during his first public performance–at the age of 3 months.

There were young people in the audience, too. Among the youngest was 3-month-old Max Stewart, the son of Alex and Colleen Stewart of Falmouth. He not only listened to Glenway Fripp’s performance at Cape Gallery Framers—he participated. His mother brought him close to drummer Phil Vitali, who let him play with one of his brushes on a quiet piece. Soon, Vitali took the baby in his arms, and, holding him gently, a brush in each tiny hand, continued to play. The crowd loved it.

The Stewarts were delighted. Alex plays electric guitar and drums himself and is, said Ms. Stewart, “very passionate about quality music.” The family had earlierwent to hear the Rosemary Ramos Trio and then spent much of the rest of the evening listening to the Glenway Fripp Trio, which included Glenway Fripp on piano, Jim Peterson on bass, and Mr. Vitali on drums.

The Stewarts appreciated the talent that came out for JazzFest on Friday night. “We really enjoy the Jazz Fest Stroll and are proud that our town hosts such a great event,” said Ms. Stewart. “We look forward to bringing Max in the coming years.”

Here Vitali and Fripp show their more dynamic moves:

Fans of guitar music could listen to Bela Sarkozy at the Black Dog on Main Street playing music in a gentle mood: “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “Old Cape Cod,” and others:

People came and went throughout every performance, as you can see in the videos. One couldn’t really linger if one wanted to see all the musicians in only three hours. After “Old Cape Cod,” my husband and I had decided to go on to the next venue, but everyone in the shop seemed to have the same idea, so we stayed for one more of Bela Sakozy’s tunes. Coincidently, the song that Bela played just for us was “Greensleeves,” which we have always loved.

Stu Goodis and Tom Glenn, a classical/jazz guitar duo, played their intricate melodies and harmonies at CupCapes, which also did a big business in coffee and cupcake sales.

Clarinet player Henry Duckham of Falmouth and his friends on guitar and string bass played at Taco Bob’s while diners enjoyed dinner. This was the only venue where the sound of the music had to compete with dinnertime conversations, but all seemed to be having a good time.

Next, we headed for Puritan Cape Cod, where Falmouth-based The Flip Side held forth, playing bluesy jazz with Melissa Roberts Weidman on vocals and bass, Chris LoCascio on keyboard, and Wil Harrigan on saxophone. There was a big crowd here, and the store welcomed listeners with wine and snacks.

The Mashpee-based Groovalottos offered their high-energy soul-funk-rock-jazz-blues music in Peg Noonan Park, inspiring some heartfelt dancing. The band is led by Mwalim Peters on keyboards and vocals and features Nick Wolf on bass, Billy Alves on drums, and James Wolf on guitar.

Here, they play Mwalim’s “Dem Big Girls,” winner of the 2010 Urban Music Awards.

Michelle Cruz and her band of Providence, Rhode Island, followed the Groovalottos, changing the mood to soft jazz, folk, and pop. Her delicate, but sultry “Summertime” was the perfect ending to the Stroll.

Beautiful! We ended the evening by heading to the Quarterdeck restaurant for sandwiches and to reflect on the evening. It all seemed to fall togethe so effortlessly, but it is clear that a lot of work went into making the evening feel so organic. Kudos to Judy and Roger Day and all the others at ArtsFalmouth who worked so hard to make the Stroll and the rest of JazzFest Falmouth such a success.

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