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Speaking of Music Presents: Jazz... What it Is!

November 11, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm EST

Speaking of Music

The Speaking of Music series, a cornerstone of musical education, artfully combines narration, expert discussions, and live musical performances. Rooted in America's rich and storied musical history, Speaking of Music delves deep into the essence of indigenous musical genres, performing the music live, and through dialogue and discussion, creating a unique and uplifting live event for enthusiasts and novices alike.

On November 11, The Westport Public Library will host the latest in Roger Kaufman's "Speaking of Music" series, a captivating evening centered around the theme of "Jazz... What It Is!" This event promises an insightful exploration of jazz, a quintessentially American art form.

Doors open at 7 pm; the show starts at 7:30 pm.


Through live performances by the Brian Torff Group, the Jones Factor Lite, and the Tim DeHuff Quartet featuring vocalist Audrey Martells, attendees will be treated to the magic of jazz in its various forms. The Brian Torff Group, with Brian on bass, is well recognized for his longtime contributions to jazz as a musician and now as the author of Seize the Beat. He will set the stage for this enlightening musical journey.


Exploring the Many Faces of Jazz

Joining us for the evening is a distinguished panel of experts that includes jazz author and critic Bill Milkowski, jazz saxophonist Rabbi Greg Wall, bassist Dave Anderson, and bassist, author, and music educator Torff, who will engage in a spirited discussion moderated by Speaking of Music's Roger Kaufman.

This panel will not only provide profound insights into the fluidity of jazz's definition but will also trace and share their unique and up-close insights into the fascinating evolution of jazz — from its African and European origins to its Southern/Delta roots of call-and-response blues, spirituals, and the gospel to the early New Orleans influences of Ragtime, the Swing era, the Bop & Bebop revolution, the "Cool School" and West Coast Jazz innovations, Soul Jazz, Fusion, and Contemporary Jazz.

Never all, but on this evening, many facets of jazz's evolution will be explored, and their comprehensive examination of jazz's journey will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the genre's rich history.


A Celebration of Jazz Legends – About the Bands

The Brian Torff Group features Torff (bass, guitar, vocals), Wes Lewis (saxophone), and Ryan Sands (drums), with special guests Matt De Champlain (piano) and John Fumasoli (trombone).

Torff is a renowned bassist, composer, author, and educator. Currently, he is professor of music and music program director at Fairfield University. He is a featured bass soloist performing in jazz festivals throughout the United States. In 1992, he served as co-chairperson of the Music Advisory Board for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2008, Torff was honored as Artist of the Year by the Fairfield Arts Council. 

Torff’s professional career began in 1974 when bassist Milt Hinton offered him the opportunity to tour with Cleo Laine. During the late 1970s, Torff recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland, and toured with the gypsy jazz violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli. He played in pianist Erroll Garner’s last group and worked in the big bands of Oliver Nelson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. 

In 1979, Torff joined pianist George Shearing. In the course of their three-and-a-half-year collaboration, they toured extensively and were featured on The Tonight ShowMerv Griffin, and hosted their own PBS special from the Café Carlyle in New York City. They received worldwide acclaim and performed for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Their third album won a Grammy for vocalist Mel Tormé. In 2017, his horn band, New Duke, performed on a nationally televised CBS Christmas special. 

In early 2008, Torff lived in Paris where he wrote his book, In Love with Voices: A Jazz Memoir. Torff’s new album, Run With Scissors, was released in the fall of 2021 on all streaming platforms. In 2023, his new book, Seize the Beat: the Evolution of American Music, was published by McFarlandBooks.com.


Jones Factor Lite is a six-piece little big band formed in 1986 by trombonist/bandleader Fumasoli. It is a dynamic performing group with original compositions and arrangements whose players come from diverse musical backgrounds and are equally at home playing just about anything.

The group features (trombonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Fumasoli (Tony Bennett, Gerry Mulligan, Diana Ross, and John Tropea); saxophonist and flautist Bill Harris (Paul Shaffer, The Temptations, Patti Labelle, Sam Moore); trumpeter Ben Kibbey; pianist Rob Aries (Average White Band, Bill Evans, John Scofield,Liza Minelli); bassist Dave Anderson (Smokey Robinson, Blood Sweat & Tears, Bernie Williams, Special EFX); and drummer Tyger MacNeal (Average White Band, Jose Feliciano Rosemary Clooney, The Four Tops).

Fumasoli has performed or recorded with Gerry Mulligan, Tony Bennett, Cab Calloway, John Tropea, Gerry Niewood, The Rippingtons, The Gil Evans Band, Diana Ross, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Johnny Mathis, Wayne Newton, Sammy Davis Jr., Melissa Manchester, and others. His recording credits include The Average White Band, Jeff Golub, Marion Meadows, Jose’ Feliciano, Shelby Lynn, Brian Torff’s New Duke, and as a leader with his own group, The Jones Factor.  

Fumasoli’s teaching experience includes more than 40 years in The Fairfield Public Schools as a band director, and he has been on the faculty of Fairfield University for 25 years where he teaches jazz history. In addition, Fumasoli has been a clinician at the prestigious Fairfield University Summer Jazz Camp and is busy performing, teaching, and writing music in the Metro-N.Y. area. 


The Tim DeHuff Quartet includes DeHuff (guitar), Aries (pianist), Anderson (bass), and MacNeal (drums).

Longtime Westporter  DeHuff started at the age of 9 in 1964 when, along with the rest of America, he watched the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Within a few short months, he got his first guitar and shortly after that joined his first band. His interests include a variety of musical styles from jazz, rock, and blues. Intensive studies at the age of 16 with jazz great Linc Chamberland led him toward jazz; his professional career began then and continues to this day.

Performance credits include: Joe Beck, David Benoit, Jeff Berlin, Larry Coryell, James Cotton, George Duke, Charlie Karp, Jan Klemmer, Dave Liebman, The Main Ingredient, John Mehegan, Blue Mitchell, Alfonse Mouzon, Pee-Wee Ellis Band, Lee Ritenour, Ronnie Spector, David Spinozza, and Johnny Winter. In addition to recording, performing, producing, and arranging, he teaches guitar practice in Fairfield County.

Aries has toured and recorded with artists such as guitarist John Scofield, the "world jazz" group Special EFX, R&B band Change, saxophonist Bill Evans, Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias, and singers Liza Minnelli, Melba Moore, and Freddie Jackson. He also produced and co-wrote several songs on saxophonist Donald Harrison's CTI release The Power of Cool and played and composed for the late saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus’s CD Known Fact on Palmetto Records. Aries currently tours with the Average White Band.

Anderson has toured with Bill Evans, Special EFX, Art Garfunkel, Smokey Robinson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Regina Carter, Joe Beck, and numerous others. He’s appeared on more than 75 commercial recordings as a session musician. He operates Flying Squirrel recording studio and is currently underway engineering and co-producing new material with The Jones Factor for the band’s upcoming release The Time is Now.

In 1992, MacNeal, a solid and versatile drummer of 25 years, joined Jose Feliciano to tour extensively around the world. He has performed with The Four Tops, The Fifth Dimension, Rosemary Clooney, Billy Eckstein, Freddy Fender, The Shirelles, Little Anthony, and the Average White Band


Audrey Martells (featuring with the Tim DeHuff Quartet)

The evening's powerful lineup will include a performance by jazz vocalist and actress Martells (recently returned from an Asian tour with Westport's Nile Rogers and Chic). Martells' performance will celebrate the groundbreaking influential voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan, all of whom played pivotal roles in shaping the history of jazz. Her soul-stirring renditions recognize these early African American female voices' ever-lasting impacts on the jazz world.

More Resources...
Jazz History 1890-1980
Jazz History 1980 - Present
Freegal Music



November 11, 2023
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm EST
Event Categories:


The Trefz Forum, The Westport Library
20 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880 United States
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