Tag Archives: Greg Wall

Jazz Rabbi Plays The VFW

A good “06880” story tells readers about an underreported place in Westport. Or it describes a little-known event.  Maybe it celebrates someone (a person) or something (the arts).

This one does all of that.

I’ve written about Greg Wall before. A saxophonist who doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim — or the other way around — he is one of the most interesting and multi-talented Westporters, in a town filled with plenty of both.

For several years, he and a group of great musicians played at local venues, like the Spotted Horse, Saugatuck Rowing Club and 323 restaurant. They formed the Jazz Society of Fairfield County, and raised money to buy the famous Steinway piano from the historic Village Gate Jazz Club in New York.

The Jazz Rabbi, Greg Wall

On March 12, 2020, Rabbi Wall played at his then-regular spot, Pearl at Longshore. That day, the pandemic roared into Westport.

Eight months later the restaurant closed, a victim of COVID.

One day not long ago, the rabbi was driving down Riverside Avenue, near his Lincoln Street home (conveniently, within walking distance of his synagogue). He passed his wife, out for a run, near the VFW.

Something clicked. He asked her to stop there, to see if it was suitable for live music.

Westport’s VFW Joseph Clinton Post 399 is a great place. For over 100 years it’s served veterans, and their families. After remodeling, it’s a nice venue for class reunions, birthday parties or anniversary celebrations. There’s a dock in back too, with low-cost moorings.

Still, most Westporters know of it — if they think of it at all — as the building at the tricky corner intersection with Riverside, Saugatuck and Treadwell Avenues, with the cannon in front. (Fun fact: It was cast in 1799, then placed at Compo Beach in 1901 to commemorate our 1777 battle against the British. The cannons at the beach now are replicas.)

VFW on Riverside Avenue — and the cannon.

The door was locked. But a man got out of his car in the parking lot, and asked if he could help. He was quartermaster Phil Delgado — and he sure could.

Soon, he and the rabbi were chatting. Soon after that, the rabbi was blowing his horn at the VFW. “Thursday Night Jazz” was back — and renamed “Jazz at the Post.”

He’s had 2 shows there, both very successful. In fact, Rabbi Wall says, the VFW is unlike any place he’s ever played, besides a university. As a non-profit, all they want is for everyone to have a good time. Delgado fully supports the arts (and may add local art to the new jazz venue’s walls.)

The back room — with a gorgeous view of the Saugatuck River — is a superb spot to hang out, and listen to live music.

Jazz at the VFW — and by the river.

Plus, the rabbi says, the acoustics are fantastic.

Rabbi Wall’s next gig is tonight (Thursday, May 5), with guitarist Bob Devos, bassist Phil Bowler and drummer Steve Johns. There are 2 sets: 7 and 8:30 p.m. He’ll return May 26 with trombonist Steve Davis, and June 9 (featuring Roberta Piket on Hammond B3).

There’s a $10 cover. For reservations, email jazzatthepost@gmail.com, or call 203-227-6796. Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m.

“Westport is not a late community. Things close early,” he notes. “Commuters get home after 6. They eat, and they don’t go out afterward.”

So though the VFW kitchen is closed, a Beit Chaverim congregant, Leon Pasternak, found chef Derek Furino to bring in food to serve. The VFW likes him so much, they’re collaborating on other ventures.

Saxophonist Greg Wall and his combo, earlier this spring at the VFW.

Westport’s VFW may not be the only one in the country that hosts regular music shows.

It may not even be the only one to feature jazz.

But it must be the only VFW anywhere with its own Jazz Rabbi.

ENCORE: Here’s another idea: Bring back the Steinway piano. It’s in storage now. But it could soon grace the VFW. Play it again, Rabbi!

Live Jazz At Pearl Aids Scholarship Fund

Quietly — well, not that quietly; it’s music, after all — the Jazz Society of Fairfield County is making its mark.

The group’s mission is to ensure that “live, world class jazz music remains a key part of our area’s cultural life.”

But they do more than just play. Over the past few years the non-profit has raised funds to buy the famous Steinway piano from the historic Village Gate Jazz Club in New York; conducted workshops for area students; produced a benefit concert for Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studios at the Bijou Theater, and established the Mickey Golomb Scholarship Fund, in honor of a former fan.

Now it’s time to toot their horn.

On Thursday, February 6, they’ll record live at Pearl at Longshore. All proceeds from CD sales, downloads and streaming will benefit the Golomb Scholarship.

The 6:30 and 8:15 p.m. sets feature an all-star cast: legendary pianist Andy LaVerne, 7-time Grammy-winning bassist Jay Anderson, fiery Mingus Big Band trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, first-call drummer Jason Tiemann, and famed “jazz rabbi” Greg Wall (saxes).

Greg Wall, the Jazz Rabbi.

Wall — who doubles doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim — says the “energy, enthusiasm and response” of the audience will make the CD soar.

This is Jazz FC’s first live recording. Wall is proud that the project combines 2 of the group’s important goals: supporting jazz in the area by featuring world-class artists, and supporting music education for the next generation.

(JazzFC is raising funds to help defray the costs of recording, so more money can go toward the scholarship. Click here for information, and to contribute. All donations are tax-deductible.)

Micky Golomb

Remembering Micky Golomb

Micky Golomb — a tenor saxophone player who for many years was a major face of Westport jazz — died last weekend, peacefully at home. He was 88.

When Micky was a teenager in the late 1940s, his family moved from Brookline, Massachusetts to Brooklyn. In Manhattan he heard legendary musicians like Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Stan Getz. They influenced him profoundly.

He joined the military during the Korean War, hoping to fly. But when an officer found out he played sax, he was given a choice: KP duty or the band. He served the entire time as an Air Force musician — including a fondly remembered year in Iceland.

After he was discharged, Micky enjoyed a long career playing in jazz bands, ensembles, and the occasional big band (most notably Art Mooney and Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras).

Micky Golomb

In 1987 he toured Italy with a sextet billed as “Veterans of Jazz.” The bulk of his career was spent playing in New York City, and Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

Micky’s long-term engagements included playing and singing at Dameon’s, and the Westport Inn. He also loved monthly jam sessions in Port Chester. Most recently, he sang with the Y’s Men’s Hoot Owls.

Micky ran Regency Music Studios in Rye for over 20 years. He then served as director of the Rye Arts Center’s music division.

He taught sax and clarinet to many local young musicians. Blessed with perfect pitch, Micky also tuned pianos for individuals and and businesses.

He met Katherine, a library administrator, in 1973, when a friend brought her to the club where Micky was playing. They married 5 years later, and lived on Nash’s Pond for many years. When they downsized, they moved to Harvest Commons.

Micky loved cruising and sailing on Long Island Sound. He owned a succession of boats, named Adagio, Sea Melody and Coda. His last vessel was Fine — the musical term marking the end of a composition or movement.

Micky had a song lyric for every occasion. He sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” just a few days before he died. He indeed lived a life that was full. He traveled each and every highway. And he did it his way.

Greg Wall — the Jazz Rabbi — lived not far from him. Micky enjoyed listening to Greg’s Thursday night jazz series. The last time was a few weeks ago, at Pearl at Longshore.

Greg saw Micky shortly before he died. “He was fully present, at peace, comfortable, and not at all hesitant about embarking on his ultimate gig,” the rabbi says.

Micky is survived by his wife Katherine, daughter Liorah, stepdaughters Diane, Rachel and Rebecca Paxton, and grandchildren Martha and Toby Stueward. he was predeceased by  his son Kenneth.

The Jazz Society of Fairfield County will present a memorial program on Thursday March 21 (6:30 p.m., Pearl at Longshore). Greg, and Chris Coogan and his trio, will play. They invite Micky’s fellow “senior statesman musicians and collaborators” to join them for the second set.

A scholarship fund has been created, to support a local student pursuing jazz at a college or conservatory. Click here to donate.

(Click here for Micky Golomb’s memorial page on the JazzFC site.)

All That Jazz

For over 3 years, “Jazz Rabbi” Greg Wall and his cohorts have created a thriving community.

Every Thursday night, they’ve played at a local restaurant.

But — according to an email sent to fellow musicians and fans — a “deteriorating environment for both the audience and the artists” is causing the Jazz Society of Fairfield County to seek a new home.

The goal is to ensure that “live, world class jazz music remains a key part of our area’s cultural life.”

Greg Wall, the Jazz Rabbi.

This week, the Jazz Rabbi invited everyone to his “other pulpit” — Beit Chaverim Synagogue — for top-notch music, food (this week, sushi), drink and good cheer.

The Jazz Society does more than play. In just 3 years they’ve raised funds to buy the famous Steinway piano from the historic Village Gate Jazz Club in New York. They’ve gotten not-for-profit status, conducted workshops for local students, and produced a benefit concert for Bridgeport’s Neighborhood Studios at the Bijou Theater.

Meanwhile — until an appropriate venue emerges — the musicians are looking for hosts for Thursday night house parties. If interested, email jazzrabbi@gmail.com.

All That Jazz!

Greg Wall — the “jazz rabbi” — just celebrated his 1st year at 323. Most Thursdays, he and an ever-changing virtuoso cast entertains diners, drinkers and music fans at the North Main Street restaurant.

There’s only one problem: Their piano is not up to the job.

It’s a fine instrument for a casual home player. But it can’t sustain the constant playing of 323’s featured artists.

Fortunately, a fine 1937 Steinway “M” piano — from New York’s legendary Village Gate — is available. For several decades beginning in 1958, it was played by many jazz greats: Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner, Erroll Garner, Sun Ra and more.

A plaque on the Village Gate piano describes its vaunted history.

A plaque on the Village Gate piano describes its vaunted history.

The piano was featured on recordings by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Nina Simone, and used for the original perfomances of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”

The 323 crew hopes to raise $10,000 to buy the instrument. They’re starting a non-profit — The Jazz Society of Fairfield County — to ensure the piano will support jazz performances throughout the area.

They’ve got a week to pull off the deal. So they offer these premiums:

  • Donate $3,000 or more, and the Greg Wall Quartet will perform in your home, or for a private function.
  • Donate $1,000, and you’ll be treated to a night of solo piano by one of 323’s featured artists.
  • For $500 or more, you can dedicate an upcoming 323 performance in honor of a friend or loved one, or for a special occasion.

If the Jazz Society can’t purchase the piano, all donations will be returned. If they surpass their goal, excess funds will be used for regular maintenance, tuning and regulation, and the purchase of a humidity control device.

Let the music play!

(To contribute via PayPal, click here. To make other arrangements, email JazzRabbi@gmail.com)

Among the 323 regulars are saxophonist Greg Wall and pianist Chris Coogan.

Among the 323 regulars are saxophonist Greg Wall and pianist Chris Coogan.


Faith In Our River

Beit Chaverim Synagogue was in the middle of the High Holy Days. Saugatuck Congregational Church had its usual worship activities.

But the 2 congregations came together last Sunday, to clean up one of Westport’s most cherished non-denominational resources: the Saugatuck River.

The event grew out of a friendship between Rabbi Greg Wall and Reverend Alison Patton. As they discussed areas of common interest, they organized the joint service project.

Taking advantage of low tide, work crews hauled out (too) many bags of refuse, hazards to humans and wildlife, and stuff that should never have been there.

Like fishing poles. Balls of every shape and size. Countless glass, plastic and styrofoam bottles, cups and packages. A set of false teeth.

And an old TV set.

Taking part in Sunday's interfaith Saugatuck River cleanup. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

Sunday’s interfaith Saugatuck River cleanup was a family affair. From left: Mason, Michael, Jack, Melissa and Kate Banks. (Photo/Mark Mathias)

The Saugatuck force was organized by Staples High School senior Alex Martenson and his mom Stephanie. Among the Beit Chaverim workers were the  Chapman family, 2 parents and 4 daughters who are new to Westport but dove right in.

Rabbi Wall said, “Many participants reflected on how meaningful this type of interfaith collaboration was. We all look forward to more opportunities for all of the faith communities in town to work together. We must make sure our planet — and our Westport — are on the right track to provide for all future generations.”


(Photo/Greg Wall)

(Photo/Greg Wall)

“Jazz Rabbi” Blows Horn For Ornette Coleman

Greg Wall faced a challenge.

The “jazz rabbi” — a saxophonist who doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim (or the other way around) — needed a place to blow his horn.

Plenty of local spots feature music. But jazz is often relegated to “background music” — not the high-level listening experience offered at the major New York venues he’s worked, like Joe’s Pub and the Village Vanguard.

Enter 323. The restaurant near Coffee An’ offers a nice, wood-finished listening space. Every Thursday night Wall curates weekly jazz events, with well-known musician and guest stars.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

Like the jazz professional he is, Wall improvises well. This Thursday there’s a tribute to Ornette Coleman, the legendary alto saxophonist/composer who died last month.

Sitting in will be Coleman’s longtime guitarist/collaborator Kenny Wessel.

“I’m a firm believer in meeting people where they are,” says Wall. “Whether it’s using my music to make a connection with people in a night club, or teaching Talmud classes on a sailboat” — his Friday morning onboard classes are a whole other story — “I try to remove any barriers that stand in the way of people and their spiritual development.”

That spiritual development — the jazz element, anyway — continues every Thursday night through August 27. Upcoming guests include guitar legend Bob Devos and the New American Quartet.

There is no cover charge to hear the jazz rabbi and friends blow their shofars horns.

(For more information, click on the Facebook page: Jazz at 323 Westport.)