The Heights February – An Xperience Column

Written by on February 8, 2024

The Heights February – An Xperience Column – by Joe Barna.

Oh baby…It’s cold outside…However, it’s going to be quite warm inside Alias Coffee Roasters on Sunday, February 18th. This will be the night we present the second annual “Troy Winter Jazz Festival” to the loyal and appreciative fans of live music in the Capital Region. If last year’s sold out showcase was any indication of what is to come I’d say upstate NY is in for quite a treat.
When brainstorming in regards to what I believed made a great jazz festival there were many considerations to behold. How will the bands blend together without sounding the same? What type of audience would be engaged by the artists presented? How do we satisfy all in attendance both musically and socially? What type of food should be provided on the free buffet? How many seats might we supply? Who will be the headliner? Who will be an exciting opener? How much should we charge for an event that includes 3 bands and a meal with dessert?

All questions listed above have thankfully been answered. When I say the capital region is in for an explosive night I mean it. It’s been a year of planning, working out schedules, choosing the artists, finding volunteers, planning the room setup, considering angles for advertising and much more, but everything is now in place.

Here is what to expect…..

Opening the festival will be The KIlldeer Trio out of Oneonta, NY. This group features jazz educators from Hartwick College that over the past few years have made quite a name for themselves. This original project features an exciting young lineup including Wyatt Ambrose (guitar) Evan Jagels (bass) and drummer Sabastian Green. All accomplished musicians in their own right, these talents will join together in opening the festival with some high energy compositions that cross styles, feels and genres.

Next up will be vocalist Shannon Rafferty with Joe Barna Trio. Nothing screams jazz like a sultry and alluring singer presenting some of the most timeless of lyrics in a space the likes of Alias Coffee Roasters. Rafferty, most known for her performances in professional theaters such as Capital Rep and as a member of Hold On Honeys, is a multi talented artist who captivates audiences no matter the content or venue. She’s been a staple on the regional scene for years. Rafferty has also spent her fair share of time living and performing in NYC, Philadelphia and beyond. We are proud and elated to have Shannon as part of our winter celebration.

Backing up Rafferty will be an all star trio that includes pianist Ian MacDonald, legendary NYC bassist, from the Betty Carter Band, Tarik Shah and myself, drummer/leader, Joe Barna. We have put together a fascinating set of music from the Great American Songbook that is sure to leave you both spiritually warm and creatively satisfied.
Now, let’s get to the headliner for this extraordinary night of performances.

Anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of jazz will recognize the next name on our list of performers. This decorated recording artist, touring musician, 1st call sideman, educator and composer has been blowing the minds of audiences all over the world for over 2 decades. His list of credits is endless having played with the who’s who of jazz. His tenor sound can be heard on albums with Brad Mehldau, Betty Carter, Kurt Elling, Jane Monheit, Kenny Barron and too many others to list.

Ladies and gentleman, please let me introduce the one and only Joel Frahm.

Born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1970 Frahm quickly found his passion in life when introduced to the saxophone. At the age of 15 he and his family moved to West Hartford, Connecticut where he befriended Brad Mehldau, who would go on to be one of the most groundbreaking pianists in music history. After graduating high school Frahm attended Rutgers for only one year until transferring to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Frahm graduated from Manhattan School and the rest they say is history.
A little back story about the connection between Joel Frahm and myself…

When I moved to Manhattan in September of 2014 I found myself barbacking at Smalls Jazz Club in the West Village. While working there I had the privilege to both meet and play with some of the greatest artists on the New York jazz scene. One night while working the late night jam I noticed a sea of some of NY’s top players. I was excited and couldn’t wait to hear what was about to transpire. Only there was one major problem, not a single drummer was in the room to start the session. A saxophonist by the name of Wayne Escoffery came over to me while restocking clean glasses and asked….

“Hey man, you play drums, Right?”

I said, “Yes I Do…Why?”

Wayne said, “You got your cymbals?”

I said, “Yeah, but I’m working…I can’t play.”

Now, the bartender overheard part of this exchange and inquired as to what was said. I told her Wayne had asked me to sit in, but I told him I was working. The bartender, Simone, Looked right at me and said “You didn’t move to New York City to wash dishes. Get your ass up there and play.”

So, I went to the ice machine area to claim my cymbal bag. I set up my cymbals and told Wayne I was cool to start. Little did I know who would come up on the very first tune to sit in…The sax players were Tivon Penicott, Wayne Escoffery and Joel Frahm…All on the same up tempo rhythm changes. To say I was a bit frightened would be a gross understatement. But, I was down to go in hard and offer whatever I could to the performance. Joel Frahm took the first solo (it was epic) and immediately upon completing his musical journey turned, leaned over the drumkit and said…
“Yeah man..Swingin”

That was the first time I had ever met and played with Joel Frahm. Right from the very first meeting he was gracious, humble, supportive, encouraging and showed a level of class that was inspiring. It’s now been 9 years and we still talk pretty often. Given that he now lives in Nashville, Tennessee we do not have too many opportunities to hang out or play. However, he and his band will be on tour the entire month of February and have made it a point to drop by Troy, NY for one single performance. I couldn’t be happier to see my friend once again in our fair little city.

Now, onto the show…

Troy Winter Jazz Fest

Live at Alias Coffee Roasters, Sunday, February 18th

The Killdeer Trio

Shannon Rafferty w/ Joe Barna Trio

Joel Frahm Band

$35 ticket includes food, dessert and all 3 performances

For more information contact / [email protected]

Warmest Regards,



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