Cooing as she opened and closed a tiny compact mirror with intricate needlepointing on top, Mayor Toni Harp got a hyperlocal head start on her Valentine’s Day shopping — to let New Haveners know they can, too.
Halfway through the sax solo in “Black Rock,” the first song of WiRED’s set at Cafe Nine on Thursday night, a smile broke out across trumpeter and bandleader Nick Di Maria’s face. He’d just finished a blistering, textured solo himself, one that sounded like he was fully warmed up, even though he’d just hit the stage. Now he threw his head back, beaming, as Matt Knaegel on alto sax kept exploring. He was still grinning as drummers Eric Hallenbeck and Elliot Wallace took their turn, breaking down the rhythm and reorganizing it in time for bassist Andrew Zwart to take a ride on it. Slowly but surely, yet still improvising, the rhythm section found its way back to “Black Rock’s” original groove, a fast, frenetic funk.
The New Haven-based WiRed had released “Black Rock” on its album 2015 Time Circuit, and there the band wore its proud debt to 1970s fusion like Herbie Hancock on its sleeve. This “Black Rock” was more lived in, both harder and more flexible. It sounded a lot more like right now. It showed that when Di Maria told the audience he was “bringing jazz to young folks” — Thursday’s show was sponsored by Jazz Haven — he meant it.
While introducing Ian Fitzgerald Monday evening, Frank Critelli — fixture of New Haven’s singer-songwriter scene and that night’s master of ceremonies — interjected into his description of seeing Ian at the Newport Folk Festival last year that “everything is good.”
Some of the mumblings in the crowd about what was going on in the rest of the world suggested that not everyone was so sure of that. But it was easy to believe Critelli that everything was, and was going to be, good right where we were.
Inside New Haven’s newest Caribbean restaurant, Qulen Wright sautéd the brightly red and yellow peppers, onions and garlic to create the base for Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish — except there would be no saltfish.
“I’m the vegan cook,” Wright said. “So I can make it without the fish.”
Midway through his set on Sunday evening, songwriter and celebrated blues singer Greg Sherrod told the house at Cafe Nine that the last trip he’d made to Europe to perform was right after the terrorist attacks in Paris. “People said, ‘Don’t go,’” he said. “I said, ‘If I don’t go, then hate wins.’ What can I say? Love wins. I went and I had a ball.”