Is This Jazz? Summertime Jazz Guide

With a growing number of weekly sessions and plenty of new shows popping up each month, Rhode Island is quickly becoming a beacon in the Northeast to see killer live jazz. Since most locals are looking for excuses to get outside after a harsh winter, let’s start with a quick refresher on all the regular gigs happening around the state that will fill up your summer weeks.

The world class John Allmark Jazz Orchestra, which features some of the finest players from around New England, will be back at The Met on June 5, playing brilliant arrangements of the best jazz out there as part of their monthly residency. If you don’t want to make a Monday trip to Providence, head on down to The Fifth Element in Newport to check out the Groove Merchants playing a selection of contemporary jazz, funk and soul music. Lead by the incredible trumpet player Doug Wolverton, this is a perfect summer night for all those who love fantastic music and delicious food. On Tuesdays over at Murphy’s Law in Pawtucket, you can find bassist Joe Potenza and drummer Ben Ricci hosting “Groove E Tuesday,” where each week they feature a new musician to sit in and play a wide range of jazz and blues music. These two have developed a stellar rapport with each other and have found a way to rotate in new talent each week to keep it fresh and exciting without sacrificing an incredible sound. Also on Tuesdays, down the road at Ten Rocks, is a great Jazz Jam run by keyboardist Jhony Keys who, besides being a brilliant instrumentalist, is an outstanding band leader who leads his ensemble through a great first set before opening up the stage to allow other musicians to come up and sit in. Then on Thursdays, make the trip back down to Newport and head by Norey’s to check out their World Class Jazz Night, which features a weekly rotating cast of great bands. To end your week on a high note, head over to Arias on Sundays to experience their cast of talented musicians as part of their Allarys At Arias series. If you’re looking to play, you can always go by The Parlour, which features a jazz jam on the third Sunday each month, or check out Murphy’s Law, which has a dynamite blues jam that goes down weekly. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, go by Tea In Sahara on the last Sunday each month for Jeff Platz Quartet’s Modern Sound Series featuring brilliant creative music icons and up-and-comers from around the area.

Now that you have your week scheduled, here are a couple more one-off gigs to round out your calendar. On June 24, over at Chan’s in Woonsocket, you can catch the Brian James Quartet, a local jazz fusion outfit from Providence. According to their website they play “high energy music [that] incorporates elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B and fusion.” Head to for info on tickets. Of course, in writing a summer guide to jazz around RI it would be incomprehensible not to include the latest edition of the historic Newport Jazz Festival, taking place from August 4 – 6 at Fort Adams in Newport. This year’s gargantuan lineup features Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Maceo Parker, Snarky Puppy, The Roots, the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Henry Threadgill Zooid, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Christian McBride Big Band, Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party…check out the entire roster over at because to be honest, this is one of the most stacked lineups I have ever seen assembled for this festival.


Surely there are things I missed, so keep your eyes out for everything going on around the state, and I’ll see you out around the next hang!

Happening Around Town:

The John Allmark Jazz Orchestra; Mondays @ The Met (Pawtucket)

Is This Jazz?; First Friday, bimonthly @ AS220 (Providence)

Allary At Arias; Sundays @ Arias Lounge (Providence)

Groove Merchants; Mondays @ Fifth Element (Newport)

Jazz Jam;Tuesdays @ Ten Rocks (Pawtucket)

Groove E TuesdayTuesdays @ Murphy’s Law (Pawtucket)

Parlour Jazz Jam; Third Sunday each month @ The Parlour (Providence)

World Class Jazz Night; Thursdays @ Norey’s (Newport)

Jeff Platz Quartet’s Modern Sound Series; Last Sunday each month @ Tea In Sahara (Providence)

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Ben Shaw is a local composer and performer. Find him at or on Twitter @ahueofshaw.