Is This Jazz? Wednesdays at the Acacia Club with Leland Baker

Saxophonist Leland Baker has been making a name for himself around New England over the past several years and has become quite a fixture in the Providence jazz scene. On Wednesday nights he and his quartet of local musicians have been delighting the patrons of the Acacia Club in downtown Providence and have been generating quite the buzz, so I got a hold of Leland and asked him about the growing series.

Ben Shaw (Motif): How did this series begin at the Acacia Club?

Leland Baker: This series began with Randy Ash, a promoter and sax player based in RI and Florida (during the winter), who developed a series he called Ash’s Wednesdays with the folks at the Acacia Club. He approached me to put together and lead a band that would play the series every week.

BS: How long has it been going?

LB: Since November 5.

BS: Is there a specific reason, or perceived advantage, for it being on Wednesday?

LB: Well I know that originally Randy was thinking of a name that would catch on and was a play on words. Also, Wednesdays tend to be a good in Providence for people to go out and see music.

Leland Baker

Leland Baker

BS: What is the makeup of the ensemble and has it remained relatively the same since the series’ inception?

LB: This ensemble is Nick Sanfillipo on keys, Matthew Passeroni on bass, Erick Cifuentes on drums and myself on saxophone. The ensemble has, for the most part, remained the same since the beginning of the series. On occasion we have a guest artist, usually a vocalist, who will join us.

BS: How has the musical focus or stylistic approach shifted from when you started?

LB: The musical focus has remained the same for the most part. We play a lot of straight ahead/ standards, modern jazz tunes, as well as some funk and neo-soul covers. There are a lot of tunes we play that the audience knows, and a lot that they don’t, so it is always cool to see them learn and dig something new.

BS: How have you seen this series grow over the course of its run?

LB: The staff and Grand master of the place have been so hospitable toward us and the audience that there are not enough words to express my gratitude. They have developed a great menu of soul food that changes every week, as well as a great ambiance and environment for live music.

BS: Are there any particular moments — audience reactions, songs you played, funny anecdotes —  that stand out in your mind from one of the past shows?

LB: We’ve had so many great nights at Acacia that it’s hard to recall a single one. I guess one that pops into my head is when we had a completely packed house and I was able to witness the joy and fun both the audience and my band were having. The vibe and sense of community was energetic and inspiring for me.

BS: What are some new things you’re looking to do with this series? New ideas, expanded ensemble, programming changes?

 LB: I’m looking forward to warmer weather and moving the series to the outside stage Acacia Club has in the back. Also, just hoping to see the audience numbers continually grow.

Catch the Leland Baker Quartet at the Acacia Club (883 Eddy St, PVD) every Wednesday night. To get more information on where Leland is playing next, you can join his mailing list at bit.ly/lelandbaker

Happening Around Town:

The John Allmark Jazz Orchestra; first Monday monthly @ The Met (Pawtucket)

Is This Jazz?; first Friday bimonthly @ AS220 (PVD) isthisjazz.tumblr.com

Groove Merchants; Mondays @ Fifth Element (Newport)

Jazz Jam; Tuesdays @ Ten Rocks (Pawtucket)

Groove E Tuesday; Tuesdays @ Murphy’s Law (Pawtucket)

Jazz At The Parlour; Sundays (jam held every third Sunday) @ The Parlour (PVD)

Jeff Platz Quartet’s Modern Sound Series; last Sunday monthly @ Tea In Sahara (PVD)

Leland Baker Quartet; Wednesdays @ Acacia Club (PVD)

To add your listing email isthisjazzri@gmail.comBen Shaw is a local composer and performer. Find him at ahueofshaw.tumblr.com.

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