By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When the Bristol Reunion Jazz Band disbanded after nearly 14 years, a new 18-piece jazz band took over Central Connecticut.
Together with music teachers Dr. Carl Knox and Ryan Vacca, Bristol resident and professional musician Greg Hahn teamed up with to form the Stanley Street Big Band. A group of 18 professional musicians who have been rehearsing together a couple of times a month for less than a year now. Stanley Street also has performed concerts at Central Connecticut State University, where Knox serves as the director of jazz studies and teaches a variety of music courses, including jazz history.
“Quality bands are tough to come by at this size,” said Hahn, who plays the trumpet. “We put a lot of our favorite musicians together and we rehearse, so we do this out of the love of music.”
“Everybody just loves to play,” added Knox, calling the band a “fantastic” group of people to perform with.
This year, Stanley Street band members will share their passion at the 56th Annual Mum Festival for the first time. The band is scheduled to perform on Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. during the Art and Jazz Gala—a new highlight of the Mum Festival that will kick off Bristol’s historic event.
Knox, who directs the highly acclaimed CCSU Jazz Ensemble, said it is an honor for Stanley Street to get out and perform at the Mum Festival, where he hopes the band will play something that appeals to everyone. In addition to appearing in jazz concerts and tours with famed jazz artists, Knox has appeared with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra on both the clarinet and saxophone during his performance career.
“I hope we’ll play something that speaks to every person in the audience at some point or another,” said Knox, who serves as the leader of the band.
Born and raised in Bristol, Hahn said he is excited to perform during the gala, which the Bristol Art Squad is organizing.
With a style similar to contemporary big bands like Buddy Rich and Maynard Ferguson, Stanley Street will perform a variety of swing and funk tunes.
“It’s kind of like a homecoming for me and a couple of other guys in the band who used to be in the Bristol Reunion Jazz Band,” said Hahn, adding how the fireworks show will create even more excitement that night. “This is such an incredible group of musicians. People are going to be very surprised at the performance.”
Stanley Street also looks forward to showcasing the kind of musical talent that exists in Bristol. Hahn said the Mum Festival is the perfect place to do that.
“That’s who we are in Bristol—we have a lot of fantastic organizations in the arts—it’s time to showcase that,” said Hahn, who also is a member of the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble.
Besides musical talent, the upcoming Art and Jazz Gala also will showcase 12 local artists, who will appear under the beer and wine garden tent on Memorial Boulevard. Festival goers can enjoy a bite to eat from over two dozen food trucks that will line the Boulevard while interacting one-on-one with the artists.
Bristol artist and Art Squad Captain Ginger Grant said the gala brings something fun and different to the festival.
“We wanted to have something people can go look at and enjoy, and interact with the artists,” said Grant. “You’re going to come away with something different.”
“Art and music are the soul to any community,” added Art Squad Captain Lindsay Vigue.
“I hope the arts as a way to kick off this year’s Mum Festival brings a sense of joy and pride to the people in Bristol.”
On Aug. 25, the Bristol Art Squad will host a MumFest Mural and Painting Event at the T Salon Café House at 4 p.m. During the event, the Art Squad will create a mural that coincides with the theme of this year’s Mum Festival, “Home Is Where the Heart Is.”
The mural will be on display during the Mum Festival where folks will be able to take pictures in front of.
Grant said the mural will spark a nostalgic feeling in Bristol.
“We want to take it back to…what the Mum Festival was really all about—raising mums here in Bristol,” said Grant. “It’s going to be pre-sketched, so everyone who comes to the event on Aug. 25 can contribute to the painting of the mural.”
Although the first day of the festival will put a spotlight on local artists, people can still immerse themselves into the world of art through an “art walk” area, which the Art Squad is organizing on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24.
Grant said the Art Squad is “extremely happy” that the Mum Festival Committee has provided local artists an opportunity to promote and sell their work in the community.
“These artists give back a lot to the community, and it’s a nice way for the Art Squad to say thank you to them,” said Grant, noting how one local artist sold out of his paintings during the Mum Festival last year.
A volunteer group led by community artists, the Bristol Art Squad has led a variety of art projects that have helped promote economic development, such as transforming city-owned gray traffic control boxes into works of art.
“The Art Squad is all about community—bringing people together to create together,” said Grant.
The 56th Annual Mum Festival will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 21, 5-9 p.m. at Memorial Boulevard.
Any artists interested in participating in the Art and Jazz Gala can fill out an application by visiting the Mum Festival website, bristolmumfestival.com/.
Comments? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.