STONINGTON – The Latin Essence Jazz Group – the latest incarnation of the Chris Leigh Band which combines elements of traditional Latin music with an eclectic repertoire of jazz standards and pop / fusion classics – will launch a new monthly music series in Stonington next week. The series, titled Concerts on the Green, is sponsored by La Grua Center with support from the Stonington Village Improvement Association.
The jazz group – consisting of pianist Rufus “Baby Grand” Davis; guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Leigh; saxophonist Steve Marien; conga player Eric German; and drummer Miguel Rios Jr. – will perform on Friday, May 21 from 6 to 7 p.m. on the Stonington Commons Green.
Leigh, who has a passion for blues and roots music, is the driving force behind the jazz band. A professional freelance guitarist who has worked with a number of rhythm and blues and jazz groups over his 30-year performing career – most recently and most notably with Eight to the Bar – has opened or performed on scene with James Cotton, Robert Randolph, Pine Top Perkins, Johnny Winter, Jaimoe and Earl King. Leigh teaches guitar and is co-owner of the String Theory School of Music at East Lyme, which he started with his wife Amy in 2007. The Leighs are also co-founders of the Mystic Blues Festival.
Davis, originally from New London, is the resident pianist at Foxwoods Resort & Casino. He has participated in rehearsals for the London Symphony Orchestra and the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, toured the country with the National Theater for the Performing Arts and performed at the Coast Guard Academy for special events government service. He is Music Director and Pianist of St. John’s Christian Church in Groton and currently performs for several groups including the J Hunter Group, the Red Satin Band, the Up Jump Swing Band and the Baby Grand Davis Ensemble.
German fell in love with timpani at the age of 6 and saw the great Tito Puente perform on television. As a youngster, he rubbed shoulders with salsa singers such as Luisito Carrion, Paquito Jr. Acosta and Hector Tricoche. He spent 10 years with La SelecciÃ³n Perfecta and was the band’s musical director. German has performed with renowned artists such as Pedro Capo, Cheo Feliciano, Andy MontaÃ±ez, Ismael Miranda, Larry Harlow, Maelo Ruiz, Jerry Rivera, Tito Nieves, Charlie Aponte, N’Klabe, NG2 and Eguie Castrillo.
Marien, known as an accomplished musician on tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, currently plays rock with The Savage Brothers Band and jazz with The J Hunter Group. He has performed and recorded with the Razmataz swing quartet, with the rhythm and blues group The Hornets, with free jazz Mike Murray and with jazz singer Lisa Marien. Over the years he has been a member of numerous bands including Top Shelf, the oldies trio The Thamesmen, Top 40 bands A Little Night Music and Times Square, the jazz fusion ensemble Total Eclipse and club favorite, Sugar. Daddy. He has also performed with Christian artist Roy Maclean, the regional Christian group Tower of Praise and with worship bands at Calvary Chapel in Uncasville.
Rios is an independent percussionist / drummer who has performed with some of New England’s finest orchestras and bands for approximately 23 years. He has performed with some of the greatest artists of the Latin Music / Salsa genre such as Nino Segarra, Ray De La Paz and Viti Ruiz. Member and conga player of the Jesus Pagan Orchestra, he teaches drums and percussion at the String Theory School of Music.
Four of the concerts will take place on the green while a fifth – “Kids Concert” with Bergin O’Malley – will take place in Wadawanuck Square, next to the Stonington Free Library.
On June 25, the entire US Coast Guard Band will perform, followed by “Sea Chanteys with Revell Carr” on July 23 and Epitome Jazz on September 24. The children’s concert will take place on August 17th.
All concerts are free, but registration is required. To register or for more information, visit lagruacenter.org.