4/20/09: The Hartford Jazz Orchestra @ Arch Street Tavern (88/100)

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This show is living proof that you can find live music almost anywhere, any day of the week. I was in Connecticut for work. And since I was staying over night, that meant I needed to find a band to see. Not super easy on a Monday night when I’m staying in Farmington, CT. Lucky for me, Hartford is a short 20 minute drive. Not so lucky for me, most of the live music venues in and around Hartford aren’t booking bands on Monday nights. Shit.

So I do some more poking around and…eureka! I strike gold! Ok, not gold. But I had a couple choices: A horn recital at the University of Hartford, or the Hartford Jazz Orchestra at Arch Street Tavern.

After some major soul searching, I opted for the Hartford Jazz Orchestra. Ok, there wasn’t any soul searching at all. I just had to work up until 8pm, and would’ve missed the horn recital. Plus, the other one is at a bar/grill, so there will be food. But more on that later.

My co-workers headed off to dinner at Outback (damn Of Montreal song…it’s back in my head!) and planned on meeting me at Arch Street Tavern for music. I grabbed a cab around 8:30pm in the pouring rain, to a sports bar/grill in downtown Hartford on a Monday night, and walked into a 16-piece big band orchestra. What the what?

Right when I opened the door, I was hit in the face with four trumpets, five saxes, four trombones, drums, stand up pass and piano. Holy shit! They are serious about their big band jazz at the Arch Street Tavern, on a Monday night. Amazing.

When I got out of car, I saw a text from my friend Josh, saying that everyone’s heading back to the hotel after Outback – some peeps had work to do. Oh well. This should be a quick show anyhow. Then, just as I grab a seat, order a drink and pull out my notebook…surprise! All my coworkers walk up to the table. Good one guys, you got me.


We takeover the table and settle in to enjoy the biggest band I’ve seen yet (in numbers). Everyone’s pretty excited to have surprised me, and to be a part of day 88. And I was excited that they did. For most, it’s their first show. At the table was: Gary, Josh, Scott, Kelly, Alison, Vickie and Casey. Scott had been to shows 1 and 50, and Josh shows 50, 61 and 83.

“Welcome to my life,” I said. And then the Hartford Jazz Orchestra busted into song. Each one, great. Some big, swing numbers. Some quieter ballads. But nothing too quiet, that’s for sure. These guys were loud as hell.Well balanced from where we were sitting, but a trip to the bathroom revealed how utterly intense that band was at full blast.

But I loved it. I mean, how many times do you sit and eat a chicken quesadilla, with a baseball game on a TV in front of you, the NBA finals to your right, and the NHL playoffs behind you? With a crowd that’s primarily 70+ in downtown Hartford? Fucking classic.

But wasn’t even the best part. The band was. What a cast of characters. You had the 70-something year old conductor/piano player who just reeks of character and charisma – and probably mothballs – paired with younger guys in sleeveless vests and Red Sox hats. How the hell these guys found each other, and what they talk about apart from the music is beyond me. But good for them.

And good for me – for us – for making it out in the pouring rain, to take in what has been one of the most random, bizarre, but pleasantly surprising nights of music so far. All while Pierce hit a shot at the buzzer to knot up their series with Chicago 1-1 – that’s how they do it in Hartford.

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One Response to “4/20/09: The Hartford Jazz Orchestra @ Arch Street Tavern (88/100)”

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