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Jazz Plays Out July On Branford Green

Amelia Stefanovics | August 3rd, 2022

Jazz Plays Out July On Branford Green

Branford  |  Jazz  |  Music  |  Arts & Culture  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative

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 Amelia Stefanovics Photos.

The sound of drums and keys vibrated over the Branford Green, reaching out into the audience as instruments melted into each other. Attendees shoulder-bobbed and danced in place from their lawn chairs.  Guitar slipped into the mix and hit a jam band groove. In their lawn chairs, Meredith Zoll and her son leaned back into a Thursday evening tradition and listened intently.

The Abe Ovadia Organ Trio serenaded Branford residents last Thursday night, as close to 300 people attended Branford Jazz on the Green in a now-weekly summer ritual. The program, back for its 11th year, offers free jazz concerts each Thursday at 6:30 p.m. through ​​August 25. It was initially inspired by the free summer concerts that the Branford Parks and Recreation Department offered in the same spot each Sunday.

Many, like Zoll, come each week to enjoy the free music. "I love the culture and sense of gathering we have here in Branford," she said.

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 Amelia Stefanovics Photos.

As she listened, members of the Abe Ovadia Organ Trio cycled through jazz standards and more jammy pieces, dipping into the long, improvised and often responsive solos that are baked into the jazz tradition, Many songs featured lyrical elements; others kept it instrumental. At one point, attendees let themselves sink into the smooth saxophone with the intermittent tinkling of the cymbal drum.

The series is meant to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with new safety measures in place. During the first years of the pandemic, Branford Parks and Rec sought out a safe alternative to its jam-packed summer series, and came up with a multi-part series called “Music on the Green.”

This year, Music on the Green is divided into multiple events: Musical Mondays, featuring local artists; Way Back Wednesdays, with hits from the 1950s and 60s; and Jazz Thursdays from June through August. Way Back Wednesdays, held the same night as the “Shake, Rattle & Roll” series celebrating classic cars, ended in late July.

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 Amelia Stefanovics Photos.

Colin Sheehan, arts and culture coordinator at the town’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that further events from the department may go through October.

“We contacted some local Branford bands, soloists, and duos to come and entertain instead,” Sheehan said. “This way we could make it safer if it was local … We strive to bring the Branford community a safe and free fun experience.”

As they spread out across the Green, attendees including Zoll praised the event for bringing culture to the heart of Branford. Nearby, North Havener Patty Bigliere said she and others in her family come to Branford during the summer because of these events. She pointed to how arts events like the series boost economic development for the town.

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 Amelia Stefanovics Photos.

"We come every Thursday," Bigliere said. "We enjoy eating at local restaurants and listening to jazz music. It is very relaxing and fun. We love Branford and its tight knit community."

Branford's Music on the Green has a special place in the town's culture. Even those who have moved still come to listen to the weekly music. Mariann Adams-Seaman, who moved away to East Haven in 2005, still comes.

"I come to all of these events," said Adams-Seaman. "Even though I don't live in Branford anymore."

Learn more about the Branford Parks and Recreation Department here. This piece comes to the Arts Paper through YAJI Summer Camp, an initiative of the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI). YAJI is a program of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Read more about the program here or by checking out the "YAJI" tag.  Amelia Stefanovics is a rising senior at Hill Regional Career High School