Listen up, Hudson County jazz fans. The Aaron Diehl Trio and special guest trumpeter Dominick Farinacci will bring the stylings of the jazz greats of the past into the present when they play at the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC) this Wednesday. The concert is part of HRPAC’s series of free lunchtime concerts and is sponsored in part by the Hudson Reporter Newspapers.
The concert will take place at 12:30 p.m. in the Atrium at 1000 Harbor Blvd. in Weehawken.
“[It’s] a nice space, a beautiful venue…we’re looking forward to having a good time,” Diehl said.
On stage, Farinacci’s trumpeting talent will compliment Diehl’s piano prowess, but the two have much more in common than a similar venue.
The two have played together often in the past seven years, said Diehl, dating back to their days as students at Julliard in the school’s Jazz Studies program.
Though Farinacci graduated in 2004, three years ahead of Diehl, the two shared a few small ensemble classes.
Both hail from Ohio, Diehl from Columbus and Farinacci from Cleveland, but Julliard was their meeting ground and platform to international acclaim.
While attending Julliard, Farinacci kickstarted his professional career by signing a major contract with a Japanese record label. His CDs have placed No. 1 on the jazz charts in Japan.
“There’s certainly a market for music – especially in jazz – in Japan,” said Diehl. His first CD, Mozart Jazz, was released in 2006 on Japan’s Pony Canyon label.
According to Diehl, there’s a growing audience for jazz music beyond the United States, and especially in the Middle East, which he has visited several times in the past few years.
“And Europe, for the past 80 years, probably since jazz has been around…they’ve been great fans as well,” Diehl said, who has toured extensively in the continent’s major jazz festivals.
Farinacci also recently crossed the Atlantic to open for British rockers Jamie Cullum and Jeff Beck at the famed O2 in London.
But before Julliard, before releasing CDs to receptive audiences overseas, there was Wynton Marsalis, who expedited their individual paths to success.
Marsalis is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center (part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NYC), and has been awarded nine Grammys in the classical and jazz music genres, and the first Pulitzer Prize for Music for a Jazz recording.
Early on the jazz scene
Farinacci was discovered by Marsalis at 17, when the jazz great invited him to New York City to perform with him on a special PBS broadcast, “Live from Lincoln Center,” after hearing him play in Cleveland.
Diehl was introduced to Marsalis at the same age, by his high school band director who was a good friend of Marsalis.
Marsalis “took a liking to [Diehl],” and invited him to accompany him on his European tour in the summer of 2003, which would be Diehl’s first jazz tour.
“[The tour] was challenging in one sense, in that I was playing with a certain caliber of musicians, even though I wasn’t at the level they were,” Diehl said. “But it pushed me a little bit.”
When Diehl got off the tour bus in August, after several months on the road in Europe and the United States, he “went directly to his Julliard dorm.”
“When I went to Julliard, the standard dropped a little bit because everybody was a student,” Diehl said. “But in the same token, it was a little bit of a relief because it wasn’t as much of a challenge [as playing with Marsalis].”
Influences on his life like Marsalis are why Diehl says, “[Jazz] found me.”
Diehl hadn’t decided at a young age that his life would lead to jazz, though he notes being influenced early by the scene.
Growing up with a grandfather active in the music scene as a piano and trombone player and raised in a predominantly black church, Diehl knew he had a love for music at a young age, and started playing the piano at seven years of age.
The Aaron Diehl trio is comprised of Diehl on piano, Lawrence Leathers on drums, and Paul Sikivie on bass. They are all Julliard graduates.
Leathers, Diehl said, invited him to play at one of his bimonthly jazz sessions at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, and since that time, the three started to play together regularly.
Sikivie also plays with notable drummer Matt Wilson, and both he and Leathers have played with jazz pianist Johnny O’Neal, who had a small role in the movie Ray.
Their album together, Live at the Players, will be released in March, and features a few original compositions mixed with compositions already in the jazz repertoire.
It is described by Diehl as “swinging jazz trio arrangements inspired somewhat by the music of Duke Ellington, John Lewis, Ahmad Jamal…encompassing various styles in that format.”
Bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis are also featured on the CD.
Diehl also recently released Live at Caramoor, from his solo performance at the festival in the summer of 2008.
For more information, please call the HRPAC hotline at (201) 716-4540 or check the HRPAC website, www.hrpac.org.
Deanna Cullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.