Wailing City Spotlight: Interview With Tony Perrone of 'Sunday Jazz'

Jazz lovers rejoice! Come relax with a cocktail or espresso and check out some local jazz every Sunday at 'Sunday Jazz Afternoons'! This new weekly event features a core group of seasoned local musicians, (with additional weekly guests sitting in), all set in a cozy café atmosphere in the upstairs front room of the Frohsinn Hall at the Mystic German Club.
 
I recently asked musician and event creator, Tony Perrone, some questions about the group, how it came together and what kind of vibe you can expect...as well as his thoughts and experiences as a jazz musician in our area. Dig it! --Meghan


Interview by Meghan Killimade / Wailing City

WC: How did the 'Sunday Jazz Afternoons' come together?
TP: Well, it’s kind of a magical convergence of a few things that put us here. During the pandemic every Sunday I rented the Frohsinn Hall upstairs of the German Club in Mystic to rehearse challenging blues tinged and emotional type tunes from the 50s and 60s with a group of professional musicians who were craving for something to do. It not only was intellectually rewarding for us all, but it also created a tight ensemble playing Jazz that communicates emotion at a high level. As the pandemic restrictions receded, I started looking for a regular night in a bar for us to play. No one I approached was interested. 

I also wanted to have an acoustic Piano in the band. Then one day I saw an ad somewhere for a Steinway piano,” free just take it away” I contacted the owner, and it was the daughter of a great Russian Classical Pianist Nicolai Lomov who had passed away the previous year from Covid. Her Mom wanted to sell the house and move to Florida. I went to her house with a few friends and moved the piano that was next to her father’s bed. I felt it only fair to give her some money too. The most startling sight was that there were 3 more pianos in the small house, 2 concert grand pianos and a baby grand. The next week I was so excited by the piano, a 1940 Sheraton Upright Steinway, that I invited all the pianists I knew to come play the piano at a jam session I held at a friend’s café. I also invited the daughter to hear the piano and I had a photo and bio of her dad on it. She was so impressed that the next day she called to tell me her mother wanted to give me the baby grand piano too. I didn’t have a place to put it, so I asked the German Club of which I am a member, if I could donate it to the club and place it upstairs in the Hall. They enthusiastically said yes, and suggested we place it in the front Service bar area of the hall. Once in there, it sounded wonderful in the historic wood paneled room. I then was able to add a pianist to my band. Since we were already rehearsing there, and the doors open onto Rt 27 across from the Mystic Seaport entrance. The thought came to us to open the doors and let people come in to enjoy the jazz we are playing and invite other musicians to” sit in” to add even more excitement but it is important to note that is not a jam session. We did not want to demand a cover charge that might discourage people, so we just ask for donations for the band. That is where we are today.

It seems like there is a nice cozy "café" feel to the room you've set up in the German Club - what kind of vibe can folks expect?
We are trying to create a Jazz Cocktail lounge /café feel. The Hall itself is too large for this, so we have carved out a cozy space by using Italian street café back drops, relaxing lighting, and plenty of table seating. Creating a comfortable experience for people to mingle, hang out listen- maybe dance a bit with inexpensive cocktails. There are even a few chess boards. There is no cover charge to encourage people to stop by for a bit of music. We want it to be inclusive rather than like some Jazz clubs that are expensive to attend and we rely on the generosity of the crowd (via tips) to pay the band.

How long will the weekly series be running?
We will continue every Sunday 12-3pm with weekly guests added to the ensemble.

Is the lineup of musicians the same every week or rotating? 
The core group that rehearsed during the pandemic consists of Lou Bocciarelli on bass, Fox Mills Guitar from the Mystic Horns or Freddie Fagan, Nick Toscano or Steve Peck drums, Rich Lataille on sax from Roomful of Blues or Gary Boigon from Mystic Horns, & me on trumpet from Mystic Horns, the pianists rotate, Michael Campbell from the Ocean House, Yahn Frenkel from the Coast Guard or Steve Donavan from the Side Door Jazz Club. Plus, we have other professionals “sitting in” This Sunday, (10/17), we have Marty Ballou on Bass a well known bassist from New England.

Does the group play improv, standards, covers -- or a little of everything?
The jazz we play is compositional, emotional, exciting, and entirely improvisational. Most of the compositions are structured and rehearsed from the 1960s”Blue Note” period. They all have something to say, are blues tinged and have a lot of soul. We also play some unique Duke Ellington compositions and a bit of bebop. Everything swings or has unique rhythms such as tangos or jungle beats. The criteria is, it has to move the audience emotionally or physically.

Any future plans for this group to expand beyond Sundays or in other venues?
Absolutely, we would like to have a night time gig, where more people can attend at night. This ensemble is professional and rehearsed. We could play at any big-name jazz club anywhere and should have a night time home locally preferably in New London County.

Mystic Horns
Photo by Jen Lensis Photography
Tell us a little about your musical background and the 'Mystic Horns'!

I am a navy brat, born in Westerly but my dad worked with submarines, and we moved to Bermuda where I grew up and learned to play trumpet. I went to college in Santa Fe New Mexico and moved to New Orleans after college to play jazz. I learned a lot there as you can imagine. The partner I traveled with, Greg Mazel on Sax, ended up playing in Ellis Marsalis quartet, (Wynton’s father). I came back from New Orleans excited and started the Mystic Horns with 4 horns, a 10-piece Rhythm and Blues Band that emulated an obscure African American big band from 1948-54 called the Buddy Johnson Orchestra which focused on hard driving dance band R&B music. On the side, I have a New Orléans style Jazz Funeral Band. I also started a space for young Kids in high school to perform their music to their peers called The Mystic Performance Workshop. It was going great with lots of kids playing original music to their friends and classmates in a safe environment, including some Jazz, but hurricane Sandy flooded the venue and it ended.

What are your thoughts and experiences with the "jazz scene" in New London county?
The jazz scene in New London county is indicative of most same size counties throughout the US nationally. Jazz is not fostered and promoted as it should be, as a truly American original art form, developed by the confluence of cultures that America represents. That said, NL County does have a good history of Jazz that has been somewhat lost due to a variety of factors most notably the pandemic. We wanted to bring back the tradition of the “Sunday Afternoon Jazz” that NL County had years ago. There are a good number of amateur and pro players with very few venues for Jazz to perform in. People in this area do appreciate jazz and swing music, maybe even a little more than most small cities in the US. There is great potential and with hard work and some support from business leaders it will stay alive and grow. We are very positive about its future growth and fostering the younger audience to appreciate Jazz here in the NL County area.



Catch the show:

What:
 
Sunday Jazz & cocktails afternoons are back! Nice cozy room - cocktails, espresso, sodas & more available for purchase!
No Cover but tips for the band are encouraged

When: 
Every Sunday from 12pm to 3pm

Where
Mystic German Club Frohsinn Hall (upstairs front bar)
54 Greenmanville Avenue (Rt 27), Mystic (across from Mystic Seaport)





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