A “One City” Jam

The ghost of Miles Davis haunted an old Vaudeville theater—and racked up some coins for a modern-day mayoral campaign.

A jazz quartet summoned Davis’s classic cool-jazz composition “All Blues” at a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Henry Fernandez. The musicians performed Tuesday night from the stage of the restored Lyric Hall, a one-time Vaudeville hall in Westville village.

Frontman Chris DePino substituted a chromatic harmonica for Davis’s trumpet, riffing off the piano playing of New Haven-born jazz legend Donn Trenner. (Click here to read about their collaborative friendship.)

DePino, a former train conductor and then GOP state chairman-turned-lobbyist who has developed a thriving side career as a musician, played dual roles—musical arranger, campaign fundraiser—in an evening that mixed music with politics.

He organized the event for Fernandez, one of seven Democrats seeking to succeed retiring two-decade incumbent Mayor John DeStefano. DePino lined up the quartet, which included bassist Dave Daddario and drummer Thom Devino. He said he sold about 55 tickets at $100 apiece plus $250 full-page ads in a program booklet to Toad’s Place, DeMilo & Co. used-auto parts of Hartford, Edge Technology Services of North Haven, and DePino’s own East Shore-based lobbying and insurance-adjusting businesses.

Roughly half the ticket-buyers showed up for the concert. After a cocktail-schmooze hour (during which the candidate chatted with Sandra Trevino of Junta and Paul Wessel, above) ...

...Fernandez took the stage to make the case for public support of the arts as part of his overall “One City” campaign theme. “The arts are a central part of bringing us together ... enabling us to see ourselves through the eyes of others,” Fernandez said. “The arts help define us as a city.”

Then Fernandez joined the audience, and the DePino-Trenner quartet launched into “Days of Wine & Roses.”

Through Davis’s “All Blues” (click on the video at the top of the story to listen) and through a haunting rendition of New Haven-based Czech emigre Laco Deczi’s “Atlantis,” DePino placed a little-appreciated instrument in the spotlight: the chromatic harmonica. He has studied the instrument with rigor since his days conducting (and performing on) Metro-North trains from 1972 through 1997.

The widely used “diatonic” harmonica is limited to one key. It often functions as an accompaniment other instruments, heavy on rhythm (like a chugging train on blues songs) and bent 7th notes for rock and roll. The chromatic, on the other hand, has a slide that enables the player to change keys and notes, infinitely increasing the instrument’s range to handle genres like jazz and classical. It has the same musical range as a flute.  This infinitely increases its range and scope of music that can be played.

In a way, chromatic players are horn like players. They can take the lead and soar across keys in a single riff. Stevie Wonder may be the best known mainstream pop star to make a chromatic sing. DePino considers himself a disciple of the father of the jazz harmonica, Toots Thielemans.

There was no trumpet or saxophone in sight at Lyric Hall Thursday night. DePino’s chromatic was the horn section, slipping up and down jazz scales to improvise on “All Blues” or to capture the intricate melodies and variations in Deczi’s “Atlantis,” communicating wordlessly with old-pro keyboardist Trenner, who picked up on DePino’s riffs, then roamed off into fields of own.



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posted by: Xavier on June 12, 2013  1:51pm

One City Henry, scoring another event and good press coverage. Kudos again to One City Henry’s awesome campaign staff and to Cool Chris DiPino. How cool.

It must make some people squirm to see Amann and DePino there, but this is how things work. Winners attract people. These lobbyists know people, not just in New Haven, but on state and national level. One City Henry knows the importance of networking and that skill will help him forge New Haven into One City, his City.

Junta’s Trevino is rightly there supporting her board member, One City Henry, and assuring the support of the Latino community. Junta grew and expanded under the direction of One City Henry’s wife, pulling in all kinds of money for programing and staffing. And in the background, there is Jordy Padilla, student, undocumented immigrant, and grateful to One City Henry’s valiant fight for immigrants winning the CT Dream Act. Smart move for One City Henry to get some of the winners like Jordy to promote the youth vote. 

One City Henry knows to win, you need those connections to people who will turn out votes for you. One City Henry, the most interesting candidate for Mayor of New Haven, and a natural winner.

posted by: darnell on June 12, 2013  2:34pm

I’m not sure if Xavior is being sarcastic or not. What’s the deal?

What, is the NHI reporting that only 25 folks showed up, is that why it is reported that “Roughly half the ticket-buyers showed up”? I bet most of those ticket buyers are out of town folks looking continue to fleece the city taxpayers in the new administration.

Chris DiPino, ultimate GOP leader, selling tickets for the Democrat Hernandez. Wow, is that true bipartisanship? Or, maybe it is the fact that he has a cushy lobbyist contract with the city ($50,000 grand a year) to do some schmoozing in Hartford.

There aren’t any party labels when it comes to hitting up the New Haven taxpayers.

posted by: HhE on June 12, 2013  2:40pm

If Madison Avenue ran a cult, their disciples would sound like Xavier, only less gushing.

posted by: OneCityManyDreams on June 12, 2013  2:54pm

Well done. This is a very cool article.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on June 12, 2013  8:12pm

I am rolling!! HA!

Xavier we luv ya but I have to admit I am waiting for the Hari Krishna songs to start coming. Robes for all and a free shaved heads are the swag.

posted by: Paul Wessel on June 12, 2013  10:08pm

Great space. Great music.  Great people.  Great cause.  Great city.

posted by: Hmmm on June 13, 2013  12:57pm

Cedar Hill, you’re killing me; hilarious! I do find it ironic that GOP member Chris DePino organized this. What the what? Also, Xavier, you must have Henry confused with someone who actually helped the Latino/Hispanic community in New Haven. Yeah, he’s on Junta’s board, but how do you suppose he landed that gig? Even his wife’s contributions are suspect, former head of Junta or not. Both Fernandez and Matos are experts at self-aggrandizing and embellishment of the truth. Which one invented the Internet? that’ll be next.

posted by: Xavier on June 13, 2013  2:38pm


One City Henry and his wife Kica work tirelessly to help the Latino community. Yes, they may embellish a few things here and there, but the people perceive them as fighters for them and winners. One City Henry and the activists are soul-mates, passionate about the Latino community and about themselves.
One City Henry, the most interesting candidate for Mayor.

posted by: seeruleone on June 14, 2013  9:00pm

I’m very confused.  I know Chris DePino personally and I’m profoundly concerned about this apparent and perhaps awkward subliminal attempt to attack his integrity. This is a man who waited years to explore his absolute love of music and share his joy of it with anyone and everyone who would care to take the time to listen.  His profession has nothing to do with the leap of faith he took in grabbing for once the chance to enhance his life with music and to commit his life to the training and practice required to play with the icons he revered his entire life.  It is a wonder to behold.  This has nothing to do with politics my friends.  If there is a chance for Chris to share his joy and talent and shine the light on and acknowlege his mentors who graciously spend their own time and energy supporting him.. friends who understand his appreciation for them, then so be it.  There are plenty of opportunities out there for fundraising and political agendas.  This is a man who sat with me and explained the intricacies of an instrument that few could understand. A man who spends countless hours writing, learning, listening and playing. Shame on you for attaching such a foul agenda to this man’s true intentions. There’s a time and place for everything and I can assure you, when he’s on stage or in his studio, he’s not thinking about anyone’s campaign. He is just relishing the joy of music. Chill out and just let it be what it is.  Maybe you should listen to the talent and enjoy the show sometime instead of scrutinizing the event or the reasons why people are there.

posted by: Hmmm on June 17, 2013  1:50pm

seeruleone, with all due respect, it states very clearly in the article, “DePino…played dual roles—musical arranger, campaign fundraiser—in an evening that mixed music with politics.

He organized the event for Fernandez…DePino lined up the quartet…He said he sold about 55 tickets at $100 apiece plus $250 full-page ads in a program booklet to Toad’s Place, DeMilo & Co. used-auto parts of Hartford, Edge Technology Services of North Haven, and DePino’s own East Shore-based lobbying and insurance-adjusting businesses.”

DePino’s participation may have been partly based on his love of music, but it was also very, very much about politics.