Along with mansions, sailing, and folk music, Newport, RI is synonymous with jazz. Although the jazz scene certainly peaks in late July/early August with the Newport Jazz Festival, you can hear top-shelf jazz year-round at several local venues.

Of course, things are still somewhat tentative due to Covid, with some gigs coming and going and venues struggling to stay open. But jazz music has been through worse and survived, and locally, a talented group of young artists has persevered through the pandemic.

The Chase Ceglie Jazz Quartet has been headlining Sunday evening jams at Newport’s Firehouse Theater since July, 2021. The Berklee College of Music graduate is excited about the potential for keeping jazz alive year round in Newport.    

“This is like nothing else on the island. It’s especially difficult to build a community for younger jazz musicians around here, even though they’re here. I think the theater/jazz lounge setting could work if it sticks around long enough,” remarked Ceglie.

Often playing in front of intimate crowds of mainly family and friends, you can tell it’s a labor of love for these players. I caught a set a few weeks back, and was impressed by the level of talent in the band. They’re as good as any band you hear on a typical night in NYC or Boston – really.

The Chase Ceglie Quartet includes Ceglie (sax/clarinet), Andrew Wynsen (piano), Johnny Santini (bass), and Nick Motroni  (drums). Check out some recent photos of the band from below and head out to see the band live on Sundays at 5:00 at the Firehouse Theater. Details here.

The Mac Chrupcala Jazz Series at Johnny’s at the Atlantic Resort in Middletown is the longest-running jazz session in the state. The Sunday afternoon jam is an homage to Chrupcala who started the series and passed away 5 years ago and features the house trio of Greg Wardson, Alan Bernstein and Mike Coffey. The band is joined weekly by regional and national guest artists including Greg Abate, Gray Sargent, Nicolas King among others. Click here for details.

Check out keyboardist Lois Vaughan every Friday from 7-10PM at the Bar & Board Bistro in Newport. Vaughan plays solo most weeks, but is joined by her trio including Art Manchester (sax) abd Tom Casale (bass) on the second Friday of each month. Details here.

Lois Vaughan

Off island, there’s a growing jazz scene, with weekly and monthly jam sessions at several locations. The Parlour in Providence sponsors a monthly Sunday night gig led by saxophonist Ben Shaw who welcomes players of all backgrounds.

“One of the aspects I like most about our jam is that it’s all ages and all skills. While I think you need some spaces where top-tier players can come out and shred, the Parlour Jam is focused on the community and about fostering an environment for anybody who plays to come out and hang,” explained Shaw.

Ben Shaw

The Parlour house band includes Ben Shaw (sax), Daniel Hill (keys), Tom Casale (bass) and Jim Nordhill (drums). For more, check out The Parlour website here.

A weekly gig at the fashionable Courtland Club in Providence is anchored by tenor sax extraordinaire Leland Baker. His trio plays two sets every Sunday evening at 6PM and 8:30PM. Fans of classic and post-bop jazz won’t want to miss Baker! Click here for details. NOTE: Weekly shows resume January 9.

Another local monthly jam is anchored by award-winning sax player Dan Moretti. “First Sunday” at Pumphouse Music in Peacedale regularly features his Quartet along with veteran jazz singers like Tish Adams and Shawnn Monteiro. NOTE: The Sunday, January 2 show has been canceled, but look for the next show at the beginning of February. Visit the Pumphouse website here.

Know of other jazz jams around the region? Let me know at mrabrams@aol.com and we’ll add them to the story.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music, the arts and more for What'sUpNewp. He is also a contributor to Providence Monthly, SO RI, Hey Rhody and The Bay magazines.
Ken DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse," a roots/folk/rock radio show every Tuesday, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM. He is a former educator in the Scituate, RI school system where he taught Social Studies for over 30 years.
Ken is presently on the board of the Rhode Island Folk Festival and Newport Live (formerly Common Fence Music), a non-profit that brings diverse musical acts to the Newport area.