Dixieland jazz struts and swings its way into New Britain museum

Published on Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:20
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


NEW BRITAIN - Dixieland jazz came to the New Britain Museum of American Art Sunday, along with some of the city’s most celebrated musicians.

The New Britain Symphony Orchestra’s Clam Diggers Dixie Band presented a lively jazz performance led by manager and principal tuba player Walter Gibson.

The free concert - part of the museum’s Sunday music series - was held in celebration of the NBSO’s 70th anniversary.

Gibson and his ensemble delighted museum-goers with the sounds of 20th-century New Orleans, a musical era many brass band admirers look back on fondly.

The NBSO’s personnel manager and principal tuba player, Gibson was joined by banjo player Charles Salerno, Vocalist and percussionist Kyle Ralston, clarinetist John Pytel, trumpet player Ross Tucker and trombonist George Sanders.

Dixieland was defined by big names including Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden and “Papa” Jack Laine, Gibson told attendees.

Some historians separate the era’s jazz influences their points of origin: Chicago and New Orleans. Both had leading roles in fostering the music, distinguishing their own styles of rhythm and rhyme.

Dixieland’s colorful influences included ragtime, blues, brass band music and, most significantly, African American culture and rhythms.

Gibson also directs the NBSO’s widely popular holiday event TubaChristmas, a 44-year-old nationally celebrated tradition and an annual program in New Britain.

“Dixieland music is an early form of jazz that originated in New Orleans in the 1890s,” he told attendees. “Dixieland music, by its sounds and rhythms, raises the human spirit.”

Gibson shared an anecdote about the original performer or song in between each selection.

“On the Sunny Side of the Street” was written for the 1930 Broadway musical, “International Review,” he explained while introducing the third song in the lineup.

Musicians played everything from “Muskrat Ramble” and “Wonderful World” to “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “When the Saints Go Marching in.”

Jeff Mainville, NBMAA’s senior manager of visitor experience programs, called the band “a true cultural asset to our region and a real friend of the museum.”

New Britain physician Dr. Alden Stock sat in the back row, enjoying the sounds.

“My office is right down the street,” he pointed out. “I’m a big supporter of the museum.”

City resident Katie Harris said she has never been to Louisiana, but loves the music.

This was the NBSO’s last concert of the season. Activities will start up again this fall, after volunteers plan their 2019-20 season over the summer.

Maryann Burns introduced herself to the audience as the nonprofit’s newly appointed executive director.

“Educational enrichment is a big part of our mission,” Burns said. We usually do about four to five free concerts each season. We’re fortunate enough to have venues like this to host them.”

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or edrzewiecki@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, , New Britain on Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:20. Updated: Sunday, 9 June 2019 21:23.