Concert Date:
April 26, 2008

reviewed by:
Mary Bentley

Charity begins at home, and home, in this case, is the lovely town of Milford, CT.  Milford is the home of Jay Rowe, best known as the keyboardist for Chieli Minucci and Special EFX.  For six years, Jay has enlisted the aid of many of his musical friends to not only bring a great concert to the people of Milford, but to raise money for music education in the Milford public school system. 

This year, Jay called upon Chieli Minucci, Ken Navarro, Joyce Cooling, Kim Waters, and Eric Marienthal to provide the music.  Accompanied by Jay’s own band, Best Kept Secret (Rohn Lawrence on guitar, Steve Scales on percussion, Dave Livolsi on bass, Trevor Somerville on drums,) and “feature teacher” Bob Nuno on sax, these musicians filled the Parsons Complex with the sounds of great music.

I’ve been to many concerts where musicians share the same bill, but rarely share the same stage.  That is one of my biggest complaints when I’m at a multi-artist event.  They have all of this musical talent assembled in one place, but they fail to take full advantage of that.  This show provided the opportunity for fans to experience some musical pairings that they probably would not experience anywhere else: Chieli and Eric on “Courageous Cats,” Chieli and Kim on “Mystical,” and “In the House,” and Joyce and Eric on “Daddy-O.”  These pairings resulted in very interesting renditions of the artist’s music, and the audience got it and appreciated it.

In addition to the musical pairings, the headliner musicians got to showcase some of their material themselves.  Jay opened the night with one of his tunes, “Boat Ride.”  Ken treated the audience to a “Smooth Sensation,” and “Try Again.”  As he came off the stage and played his way through the audience, he pulled us in with each note on his guitar.  Eric wowed the audience with “Open Road,” and “Blue Water,” two selections from his latest release.  And Chieli mesmerized the audience when he performed his solo piece, “Nature Boy,” with no accompaniment.  They even threw in some old school for us that night.  Best Kept Secret vocalist Lomon Andrews got the crowd singing along with him on the Marvin Gaye tunes “What’s Goin’ On,” and “Mercy, Mercy, Me,” as well as the Journey tune, “Foolish Heart.”  Eric joined in with his version of “Compared to What.” 

This is a fund raiser for the local school children, so, it’s only appropriate for the audience to see the fruits of the labor.  For this, Jay presents some of the talented Milford music students.  Fifteen year old Caitlin Kalafus is a fantastic drummer who blew us away when she sat in with the band and played the classic “Frankenstein.”  The Foran High School Select Ensemble provided the vocal accompaniment to the song “Daybreak.”  What a treat to hear one of my favorite Special EFX songs being played in this way – Kim Waters, Ken Navarro, Chieli Minucci, Jay Rowe, and the band alongside the gorgeous harmonies of the young ensemble.

Jay Rowe has been presenting this concert for six years now. “The reason I do this show every year is because I always want to make people aware of the importance of music and arts education. Also, to inspire and encourage young people to be involved with music and to expose them to artists and musicians who are among the best in the world at what they do.”  Together with Kevin McCabe and the good people at Jumpstart Jazz, (who run the Hartford Jazz Festival) they have turned this into a world class event.  “I like the idea of bringing a world class show like this to a small town like Milford because shows like this are usually held in big cities and not the suburbs.”  Milford is not L.A.  It’s not NYC.  It’s a far cry from being a smooth jazz Mecca, nonetheless, this concert continues to grow in popularity as word spreads.

The 6th Annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars concert is over, but I have no doubt that planning for the 7th is already underway.  Mark your calendars for 2009 folks.  This is one you don’t want to miss.