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Monadnock Jazz

Jim with a Latin band at the Nubi pig roast

One of the unexpected things Jim learned about the Monadnock region when he moved to Nubi four years ago is the significant jazz presence in the area. As it turns out, nearby Brattleboro (just over the Vermont border) is a jazz mecca of sorts.

Coming from his former home on Long Island, 90 miles east of the world’s greatest jazz center, New York City, he was amazed and delighted to discover that his jazz life is richer (he plays and listens to more live performances) here in New Hampshire.

“If you are into jazz, this rural corridor from Northampton to Brattleboro—the Connecticut River Valley—is absolutely incredible both in terms of the numbers and the quality of jazz musicians.”

Jim uncovered the richness of Monadnock’s jazz world by first finding a sax teacher, then jamming weekly in Brattleboro, and slowly piecing together a jazz quintet. His story speaks to his own drive, and reveals one of the remarkable qualities of the Monadnock region: If you are willing to listen, look around, and wander in the woods a bit, you are bound to find many interesting and unique people.

“Right after we moved to Nubi, I saw a flyer downtown advertising a jazz concert in Chesham to raise money for an old church,” says Jim. “What the hell, I thought, I need to find out what’s going on with this jazz event in the middle of nowhere.”

Chesham is a tiny village (not much more than the church building), but it has a direct link to the area’s jazz network through Michael Riley, a resident painter who specializes in portraits of jazz musicians. Jim saw an exhibition of Riley’s work and also heard and met Scott Mullet, a Keene-based saxophone player, instructor, and director of the Keene State Jazz Band.

Jim began taking lessons from Mullet, who eventually convinced Jim to jam in weekly sessions at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro. “It was instant success for me,” says Jim. “I’ve been going for over three years now, playing in two ensembles: be bop and Latin jazz.”

Through the jam sessions Jim began talking with other musicians about starting something closer to home than the Vermont center. A Keene-based drummer expressed interest. Jim also learned about a jazz pianist living in the woods in Rindge. A retired linguistics professor and speech writer from Chicago, the piano player had relocated to New Hampshire, attracted by its libertarian streak. “I found him in an absolute back water in Rindge,” says Jim.

A few of these musicians played together at an open mike in Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough. Eventually they connected with a Keene-based bass player and put together all pieces: guitar, piano, bass, drums, and Jim on sax.

They debuted at Farmer’s Appreciation Night in Keene in February. “Here’s a jazz group, and I’m sorry that I don’t know their name…,” said the emcee introducing the act. “Then one of us spontaneously came up with Peterborough Jazz Quintet,” says Jim. “I don’t know if it will stick, but it works for the moment.” They play together every Friday night.

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