Roger Kaufman’s Speaking of Music Series Returns to The Westport Library with a Focus on Jazz

Mon, Nov 6, 2023
EJ Crawford
Speaking of Music

Roger Kafuman’s Speaking of Music series returns to The Westport Library with a special program, Speaking of Jazz: What It Is, to be held Saturday, November 11, in the Library’s Trefz Forum.

Doors open at 7 pm, with the show kicking off at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.

The grandson of storied ragtime songwriter Mel B. Kaufman, Roger Kaufman (pictured above) has spent a lengthy career in music as a bandleader, bass player, producer, moderator, and historian. Among the 1966 Staples High School graduate’s many endeavors is founding Old School Music Productions, his music event production company that produces the Speaking of Music series as a “cornerstone of musical education” that 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,” said Kaufman, “creating a unique and uplifting live event for enthusiasts and novices alike.”

Speaking of Music is a continuation of Kaufman’s 60-year passion for the performance, promotion, and preservation of rhythm and blues. In 2016, he successfully helped the Smithsonian acquire, archive, and exhibit donations by the celebrated guitarist and composer/producer Steve Cropper (“Midnight Hour,” "Knock on Wood," "Dock of the Bay") at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. And he has worked closely with Smithsonian curators and deserving artists to archive and preserve their work, including a 2018 exhibition by Weston resident Jose Feliciano.

The November 11 Speaking of Jazz performers include the Brian Torff Group, the Jones Factor Lite, and the Tim DeHuff Quartet featuring vocalist Audrey Martells.

Joining the performers are 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. Kaufman will moderate the discussion.

The panel will provide insights into the fluidity of jazz's definition and also share their unique insights into the 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, West Coast jazz innovations, soul jazz, fusion, and contemporary Jazz.

About the Performers

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 who currently serves as the music program director at Fairfield University. He has recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland, gypsy jazz violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli, and with the big bands of Oliver Nelson and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. Alongside pianist George Shearing, he was featured on The Tonight Show and Merv Griffin; the two also hosted their own PBS special from the Café Carlyle in New York City.

The Jones Factor Lite is a six-piece band formed in 1986 by trombonist/bandleader Fumasoli. The group features trombonist, composer, arranger, and bandleader Fumasoli, saxophonist and flautist Bill Harris, trumpeter Ben Kibbey, pianist Rob Aries, bassist Anderson, and drummer Tyger MacNeal.

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 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.

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

Longtime Westporter DeHuff has performed with 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, among others. In addition to recording, performing, producing, and arranging, DeHuff teaches guitar practice in Fairfield County.

Jazz vocalist and actress Martells, meantime, just returned from an Asian tour with Westport's Nile Rogers and Chic. Her Speaking of Jazz 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.

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