The annual Hope 4 Jazz Festival is moving just a bit closer to the coast. Last year, Hope 4 Jazz split the difference by offering music all day in Hope’s True Park and an evening concert at the Camden Opera House. On Saturday, July 24, the 2010 Hope 4 Jazz Festival will be held in its entirety just over the mountain from its namesake, at the Camden Snow Bowl on Barnestown Road.

Featured performers

This year’s lineup offers real variety. Opening performers from 4 to 6 p.m. will be Primo Cubano from Portland, which specializes in traditional Cuban “son” dance music. Son is the most popular style to come out of Cuba and is the primary contributor to the blend of Latin styles today known as salsa. At 6 p.m., the University of Maine at Augusta-based jazz drummer, educator and Maine native Steve Grover will bring his quintet to the stage. Last year, the Steve Grover Band was named best jazz act of 2009 and one of the 10 most influential bands of the last 10 years by the Portland Phoenix. At 8 p.m., the John Jorgenson Quintet will be back by popular demand, having wowed the festival audience in 2008 with his always exciting gypsy jazz. Audiences are amazed by Jorgenson’s dazzling guitar work, as well as his mastery as a clarinet player and vocalist.

A conversation with Steve Grover

The Hope 4 Jazz day will actually begin at 2 p.m., when Grover, who lives in Farmingdale, will lead a 90-minute jazz workshop. Musicians of all ages are invited to bring their instruments. Grover is a longtime educator and said whether two or 30 people show up, the workshop should prove entertaining and enlightening. He has been running jazz workshops for years in a variety of settings. An adjunct member of the UMA jazz faculty, he teaches a variety of courses there and leads the Jazz On Tour student ensemble.

Grover is no stranger to Camden, having done student residencies in the area with Brad Terry “back when Charlie Seymour was at the school.”

“Brad got me into teaching. We formed a group in the 1980s called the Friends of Jazz and used to do residencies eight to 12 times a year,” he said, speaking of his collaboration with the jazz clarinetist and whistler.

Another local connection was in 1982 when he said his band at the time, which played “what I would call contemporary melodic jazz,” turned out to be a controversial inclusion in a jazz festival at the Camden Opera House, a festival that otherwise leaned toward traditional Dixieland jazz.

“Afterward, we had a jazz session at a motel lounge,” Grover said. “Dick Cash was around then and he was just a great person, fun to hang out with.”

Given his many years in education, Grover has hung out with a number of young people who have gone on to make their musical marks. These include Camden native Adam Chilenski, a much-in-demand bassist who just played the Montreal jazz festival with French nouvelle-chanteuse Emilie Simon.

“Adam started coming to UMA when he was still in high school,” Grover said. “He could have gone to other music schools but chose to stay in Maine and get his degree done quickly. He gave a lot [to UMA] and got a lot too, I think. It’s the kind of a program that offers a good fit for everybody.”

One of Grover’s current UMA students, albeit a bit older than some, is Eric Winter of Primo Cubano, the group that will precede Grover’s at the festival and one that Grover has a lot of respect for. Primo Cubano plays son, the traditional Cuban dance music that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. Son was first a music of the country people and eventually migrated to Havana, where it was urbanized and began to draw a wider audience.

“He’s really done a lot of research. He sings in Spanish and Portuguese, and he’s really a great jazz singer too,” said Grover, who also knows Primo Cubano’s trumpet player Marc Chellemi and conga player Lenny Hatch.

“I’m hoping I can pull them into a couple of numbers, but they might have a gig that night,” Grover said. “They’re really busy this summer.”

Grover’s band took a break from being really busy at the start of the year, so its appearance at the Hope 4 Jazz Festival marks a return to form. The quintet is an outgrowth from a trio who have worked together for a number of years — Grover on drums, Tony Gaboury on guitar and David Wells on tenor sax. The larger group adds Tom Bucci on bass and either Jason St. Pierre on alto sax or Trent Austin on trumpet; for Hope 4 Jazz, the quintet will feature St. Pierre, who Grover called a terrific player he has known since he was a high school student.

The quintet had a Tuesday night gig at 1 Longfellow Square in Portland for a while. At first, they focused on Grover’s original music, which has been covered by a variety of musicians and seen some interesting multimedia interpretations, notably his Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz/BMI Jazz Composers Competition winner “Blackbird Suite,” an earlier version of which was presented with dance, masks, mime and more at the Celebration Barn Theater in South Paris.

“Then we started doing a Beatles Project, doing jazz interpretations of Beatles songs … we’ll do a mix of that at the festival, so even people who aren’t into jazz should enjoy it,” said Grover.

Grover said he is looking forward to playing in the festival, adding, “I come to Camden a lot, to hike Megunticook.” For more information about him and to hear some of his music, including excerpts from his latest album, “Between Now And After,” visit and click the link to CD Baby.

John Jorgenson Quintet returns

In 2008, the Hope 4 Jazz Festival day ended with a wicked thunderstorm, forcing headliner John Jorgenson and his quintet to perform for a diminished, and crowded, audience in the Hope Library. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, the John Jorgenson Quintet will return to a larger and, no matter what the weather, more protected setting to cap the 2010 festival.

As one of the pioneers of American gypsy jazz music, Jorgenson has been celebrating the father of the genre, Django Reinhardt, whose 100th birthday would have been in January. In a busy year so far, Jorgenson has released two critically acclaimed albums; toured the United Kingdom and Germany performing at international Djangofests; reunited with the Desert Rose Band; and recently returned from a two-week USO tour with Rock & Pop Masters in Iraq and Kuwait.

Wisconsin native Jorgenson has been playing professionally since he was a teen. A multi-instrumentalist best known for his guitar, clarinet and vocal work, he helped found two award-winning guitar ensembles, the Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, with whom he played a number of years.

On his own, he is much in demand as a session musician and, due to his broad-reaching musical interests and virtuosity, he has performed with stars from country to classical and everything in between, including a six-year stint with Elton John’s band. His true passion, however, is gypsy jazz, which he discovered in the late 1970s when he was playing bluegrass.

“I like to call it jazz for people who don’t think they like jazz,” he has said.

In Europe, gypsy jazz enjoys the kind of popularity and expression that bluegrass does here. Because the Romani or Gypsy culture is a geographically diverse one, gypsy jazz draws on all kinds of musical influences including flamenco, North African, Eastern European and early American swing. Jorgenson describes it as “kind of American hot jazz through a French filter.”

The hot and the French are thanks to Reinhardt, the great French Romani guitar player who, in the 1930s, created what became known as Le Jazz Manouche or gypsy jazz. Reinhardt fused popular French “musetta” music from the early part of the 20th century with American swing and his own knowledge of gypsy musical forms.

Reinhardt, who later was famously paired with violinist Stéphane Grappelli in the Quintette du Hot Club de France, was in a terrible fire at age 18 and lost the use of his left ring and little fingers. He retrained himself and played the rapid solos for which he is known using just two fingers — something Jorgenson had to do when he portrayed Reinhardt in the 2004 movie “Head in the Clouds.” He earlier had been called on to recreate Reinhardt’s playing for the soundtrack of the 1997 film “Gattaca.”

Tickets et al

Tickets are being sold in advance at HAV II in Camden and the Hope General Store for $15. The gate price will be $20, with a $10 ticket for students and senior citizens. As tent seating is available, the festival is a go, rain or shine. For more information, visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to