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The University of Hartford

Jim Cifelli New York Nonet

WWUH Jazz Department presents the NYN at the Wilde Auditorium, Friday, December 4th, 7:30PM    

WWUH continues its yearlong 30th anniversary celebration by sponsoring the Connecticut debut of the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet. The concert takes place Friday, December 4th at 7:30 PM in Wilde Auditorium at the Harry Jack Gray Center on the University of Hartford campus.
     While the ensemble is hardly a household name; it has begun attracting national attention, following the release earlier this year of Bullet Trane, its first recording (see our Sept/Oct program guide for a review). The group has received acclaim for its fresh arrangements of standards, its unusual instrumentation and its leader's powerful original material.
     Local listeners will find a special affinity for the Nonet, since two of its charter members cut their teeth in West Hartford's renowned Hall High School Jazz Ensemble. Trombonist Pete McGuiness, a 1981 Hall High grad, contributes compositions and arrangements to the New York Nonet. His Sliding In CD, featuring sax master Dave Liebman, should be available on the Kokopelli label by the time you read this. McGuiness regards his early professional training with Don DePalma at Hartford's 880 Club as indispensable; he also fondly remembers tuning in to jazz on 91.3 FM. "I can't emphasize enough how much I checked out WWUH," the trombonist proclaims. Tenor saxist Joel Frahm, who graduated from Hall in 1988, is on the verge of issuing his first recording as a leader for Palmetto Records. Frahm has worked with Maynard Ferguson and Betty Carter, among others.
     Bandleader Jim Cifelli, a native of Yorktown Heights, New York, also benefited from a strong public high school arts education, although in his case, Western classical music provided the initial thrust. Jim's father, who had played trombone professionally for a brief period, began giving him trumpet lessons at age 9.
     "We listened to classical music at the dinner table every evening," Cifelli recalls. "My dad would ask us to identify the different instruments and composers...not as a test...it was just something I grew up with." Meanwhile, his older cousins introduced Jim to rock and pop music; the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Earth Wind & Fire were all early favorites. Undoubtedly, the tight horn charts of the latter had an impact on the young trumpeter.
     "My older sister got me into Freddie Hubbard," he relates, when asked about his first exposure to jazz. At the time, Hubbard was deep into his fusion bag, when he recorded for the CTI label, known for its slick, grandiose productions. Chuck Mangione, covering similar musica1 ground, also interested the horn playing teenager. However, soon after Cifelli began pursuing a college degree at SUNY Buffallo, his focus shifted toward earlier trumpeter stylists, most significantly Clifford Brown.
     Ten years ago, Jim finally headed for New York City, the jazz Mecca, to pursue a career as a freelancer. Still a yearning for a greater understanding of music, he returned to academics at age 30, studying at NYU and the Manhattan school of Music. His instructors included legendary arranger Manny Albam and "composing guru" Ludmilla Ulehla. While subbing in Joe Roccisano's little big band in 1991, Jim met drummer Tim Horner, and the seeds for the NYN were planted. The tribulations of trying to keep a big band together with another friend at the time led Jim to begin examining the concept of a slightly smaller configuration. Using Miles Davis' famous Birth of the Cool band as a springboard for inspiration, Jim launched the New York Nonet.
     The ensemble's collective resume reads like a who's-who of modern jazz, classical, and pop music. NYN members have worked with everyone from Toshiko Akiyoshi to the Four Tops; from Leonard Bernstein to Clark Terry. The instrumentation includes two trumpeters, three reed players plus trombone, guitar, bass and drums. That's right… no piano. Pete McCann, the band's guitarist, helps give the NYN a sound all its own; he leads a session due out soon on the Palmetto label.
     And speaking of new releases, the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet will be issuing their second recording early next year. WWUH has been given permission to allow our listeners a sneak preview of the forthcoming So You Say. Be listening to our jazz programs throughout November for pieces from the upcoming CD. Featured tracks will include arrangements of Joe Henderson's "Recordame" and Gerry Mulligan's "Night Lights" as well as exciting new nonet originals.

Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 1998

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