Joey DeFrancesco and Katie Thiroux Headline Chestertown Jazz Festival


Get ready, jazz lovers, Chestertown’s four-day festival in September, dubbed “Jazz lives…in Kent County,” will fill the county with genuine headliners from legendary jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco (a three-time Grammy Award nominee) to rising star bassist/vocalist Katie Thiroux and a sultry, soulful young singer from Easton who knows how to belt out  song.

Katie Thiroux

The Mainstay’s Rory Trainor booked Thiroux for Thursday, September 7, the festival’s opening night, just before he moved back to Milwaukee. Lucky he did. Quincy Jones just booked Thiroux and her quartet for a two-month gig at Quincy’s club in Dubai this summer, so she might not be available for more Eastern Shore dates any time soon.

Thiroux, a compelling composer as well as a powerful performer, won ‘best debut album’ awards from The Huffington Post, NPR Jazz Critics, All About Jazz and the Jazz Journalists Association in 2015 for her album, “Introducing Katie Thiroux.” So far this year, she’s performed at the Blue Note, Birdland and the San Jose Summer Jazz Fest.

“Jazz lives…” will move to Chestertown on Friday, adding great sound to the town’s dedication of David Hess’ large and graceful playscape, “Broad Reach,” at 5:30 in Wilmer Park. “Broad Reach” is Chestertown’s first public art project since 1899 and the jazz will be top-flight with saxophonist John Thomas and guitarist Mike Benjamin. They’ll set the right mood as the town honors arts activist Alex Castro.

After a dinner break, “Jazz lives…” will fill the Garfield Center with the voice of 20-year old phenom Hanna Gill.  The festival’s founding spirit Mel Rapelyea, who’s been scouting jazz talent most of his life, says he’s excited about the way Gill delivers blues and jazz, channeling the legends of the genre.

Hannah Gill and Brad Hammonds

“Hannah’s dad knew she had a  way with a song, so he took her to New York as soon as she finished high school,” Rapelyea said. He introduced her to the talented guitarist and arranger Brad Hammonds and the two clicked instantly.

Gill and Hammonds formed a band called The Hours, and life’s been good ever since. A debut CD and singles have won the attention of VH1, the Boston Herald, Easter Surf Magazine and NPR All Songs TV (“Gill is a belter, and when she sings, she sings,” said NPR’s Sophie Kemp). “Hannah Gill’s a bad-ass belter and our audience is going to love her,” says Rapelyea.

On Saturday, “Jazz lives…” will be in the enormous tent the Chestertown Jazz Festival puts up each year in Wilmer Park, just steps from the Chester River.  Trumpeter Dave Robinson from Northern Virginia will lead a combo from a group of promising young musicians, Capital Focus.  After a Master Workshop in the Chestertown Middle School, they’ll take off with a repertoire of diverse mixture of Latin inspired rhythms.

John Thomas, the saxophonist who played at the Broad Reach unveiling. will follow them with his quartet.

The Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, a dynamic vocal group from Northern Virginia performed at two previous Chestertown Jazz Festivals. These four vocalists, two men and two women, perform superb standard jazz  tunes. If you’re familiar with the sound of The Manhattan Transfer, you’ll love their harmony and vocalese at its best.

The Jazz Academy of Music, directed by the renowned Paul Carr, will be represented by one of their premier combos from Takoma Park. These fortunate and very talented children take classes and workshops and learn to perform in small combos.  They’ll spend much of their summer developing improvisational skills.

Joey DeFranceco

The headliner for the mid-day-to evening show will be the internationally renowned jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco, and loyal locals as well as festival fans from DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia will doubtless be back to hear him play.

This will by DeFrancesco’s second appearance at the Chestertown Jazz Festival. He wowed the audience in 2005, according to Rapelyea.

The Chicago Tribune wrote that the Philadelphia native “has dominated the instrument as no one of his generation has,” and the New York times says, ‘Mr. DeFrancesco is a deeply authoritative musician, a master of rhythmic pocket, and of the custom of stomping bass lines beneath chords and riffs.”

DeFrancesco will perform with the group he calls Joey DeFrancesco + The People and he’s sure to add vocals and trumpet solos to his show.  A second generation organist, DeFrancesco started playing the trumpet years ago after touring with Miles Davis.

“I can’t wait to experience this again,” says Rapelyea.

The  “Jazz lives…” weekend ends Sunday in Kennedyville at Crow Vineyard’s Third Annual Crowfest.  The event will start at 11:00 and run until 5:00, and the music will be by Phil Dutton and The Alligators, Adult admission is $12. There’s no charge for children under 5.

Tickets for Katie Thiroux at The Mainstay can be obtained by calling The Mainstay at 410-639-9133.

Tickets for both Hannah Gill at the Garfield Center and the Saturday festival in Wilmer Park can be purchased at or by calling 410-810-2060. The Hannah Gill and the festival tickets are $25. Tickets at the gate on Saturday are $30. Students with ID pay $15 and children under 12 are free.

Find more about the Chestertown Jazz Festival on Face book and Twitter. Attendees should bring chairs to the Wilmer Park festival and umbrellas if need be to all events, as all are rain or shine. No pets are allowed.



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