One thing I’m becoming more and more aware of in the Centre Region is just how much jazz we have.
In the past few months I’ve either listened to or attended some really fantastic performances at places like Webster’s Bookstore Cafe and the Centre Hills Country Club by local performers like Andy Tolins and even international sensations like David Hazeltine.
This summer, the Jay Vonada Quartet added more music to the mix by releasing its sixth album, “United,” and it’s really, really tight, containing nine songs, two standards and seven original compositions. A CD release concert was held at The State Theatre in State College in July.
“I started thinking about this in 2016,” Vonada wrote in an email.
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The band features an all-star local lineup, including Vonada on trombone, Kirk Reese on piano, Bob Hart on bass and Lowe on drums and Vonada got them all together out of musical necessity.
“(In 2016) Kevin Lowe was planning to move from the area and I wanted to do one more album with him before that happened. It turns out he didn’t move but I knew I had to record this band. It had been three years since I recorded ‘Expressions.’ ”
Jazz is complex, multi-faceted music, but is driven by themes that are very relatable to. More so, jazz is a style of music that leaves a sometimes infinite amount of space within which musicians can develop and elaborate musical ideas. The music on “United” is no exception.
“I guess the main theme throughout is the band working a unit united in the common goal of making good music,” Vonada said. “There is definitely room for individuality but even with that the guys in this band are top notch and we listen and feed off of each other.”
“United” is a great example of Vonada’s overall mission for spreading awareness and appreciation of jazz music in his personal life and in the Centre Region as a whole.
“My goals are to make music in Central Pa. and beyond,” Vonada said. “Bring some awareness of jazz to this community. I play many nursing homes and to bring one smile to someone is so rewarding. Music is medicine for the heart and soul.”
It’s also been a lifelong endeavor for Vonada, dating way back to his earliest years when he lived in Aaronsburg.
“I was born and raised in Aaronsburg and live there today,” Vonada said. “Started on piano at age 5 and trombone at age 12. Had some wonderful teachers along the way all through elementary through high school. All very supportive and wonderful musicians.”
Music fans can hear the new music at Vonada’s weekly gigs and various other places as far away as Williamsport and as prominent as Tussey Mountain.
“I play every week at the Deli from noon to 2 p.m. with a duo,” Vonada said. “They have been supporting live jazz since 2006. I play the Bullfrog in Williamsport once a month with my Organ Trio East band. I have a cool duo gig with my group swing-nova at Tussey Mountain on September 6 from 5:45-8:45 p.m.”
Wherever he’s performing, Vonada takes a professional approach to what he’s doing, which always a pleasure to experience, especially on the local scene. It’s all about the sounds, the camaraderie with the other musicians, and the groove.
“Playing music is hard to describe,” Vonada said. “When you and your bandmates are in the groove communicating and swingin’ it feels good and feels better when the audience gets into it too. I have had performances where I thought I didn’t do good but some comes up after the show and totally dug it.”