Little Town By the Sea
BIO Kent Hewitt Pianist/Composer Kent Hewitt has earned degrees from Boston University and the University of Connecticut, the latter in Music Theory and Composition. He studied piano and theory with Ray Santisi, Charlie Mariano, Hal Galper, Fred Hersch, and Ron Brown. Mr. Hewitt taught at Berklee College of Music, Trinity College, The Hartford Conservatory, Summerkeys in Maine, The Music School of the Rhode Island Philharmonic as well as jazz clinics for the Hartford Jazz Society. A consummate soloist and accompanist, he has become a mainstay of jazz and popular music in Connecticut and has been musical director of several popular jazz clubs in the state. He recorded TV jingles for Don Elliott Productions and also recorded for Playscape Records with Michael Mussilami, Randy Brecker, Ray Drummond, Claudio Roditi, Ralph Moore, Thomas Chapin, as well as for Janet Marlow and Phyllis Hyman. He has performed in concert with jazz notables Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Jackie McLean, Kenny Burrell, Steve Rossi, Jon Hendricks, among many others. His CD of original compositions called Little Town by the Sea is a tribute to Noank in his hometown of Groton, CT. The CD was sponsored and commissioned by the Noank Historical Society and the Groton Tercentennial Committee. He has collaborated with writer Melanie Greenhouse and composed music for her popular theatrical productions: Point of Land and The Duchess. He has also collaborated with Connecticut Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson for the prestigious Sunken Gardens poetry festival and recorded a CD of poetry and original music. His recent recording, Time on my Hands, is a jazz trio recording of unique and elegant standards from great American and Brazilian composers Kent was the first pianist to open at the famous Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. He has been solo house pianist at the noted New York jazz club- Jimmy Ryan's and has toured Europe with trumpeter Laco Deczi. Description: Little Town by the Sea CD Little Town by the Sea is a musical statement which combines a variety of styles- jazz, classical, contemporary- to capture the essence of a maritime village in New England. Here is a tribute to it's quaint streets, shoreline vistas, and to the people who shaped it's character. Reviews: Little Town by the Sea CD Holcomb Noble (2/16/05) Former New York Times Editor "There is a kind of lyrical reflection of mist and sunlight on the shore. There's joy and sadness, a liveliness and peace. Kent Hewitt's music seems to capture the very soul of a lovely New England village by the sea that has provided it's livelihood and at times taken it's lives. The melody lines and the harmonies reach down and capture your soul as well. At various moments you don't know whether to laugh or cry or get up and dance - or all three." New Haven Advocate CD Review Monday June 12, 2006 By Brian G LaRue KENT HEWITT CD REVIEW Little Town by the Sea (12 track CD) If I were a Groton town official who said to Kent Hewitt, I'm commissioning you to record a light-sounding CD about Groton" and Hewitt returned with this 50-minute arc incorporating pop jazz, lounge jazz, new music, bossa nova, Puritan hymns, light swing, spoken word, ragtime and waltz, I'd be pleasantly surprised by his ambition. It's not readily evident that this is a conceptual cycle about a Connecticut city and it's history (only one track- features a vocal), but the score does hang together, with recurring motifs. While it's not physical music-even the ragtime bits are measured and cautious- it's arranged and played with expertise and style. Paeans To Noank In Music And Words By OWEN McNALLY Special to The Courant The Hartford Courant Friday May 20, 2005 Composer Kent Hewitt's passion for the seacoast charm and historic mystique of Noank is so deep-seated that it's probably encoded in his DNA. Hewitt celebrates the all-American, small town qualities of Noank (a picturesque section of Groton) with a suite of musical portraits on his evocative, reverential album called 'Little Town by the Sea-Soundscapes by Kent Hewitt.' For Hewitt, who lives in Noank by the Mystic River and grew up in Groton Heights, a historical part of Groton, the CD's dozen selections represent his reflections on how the maritime village's character has been shaped by it's people, history, topography and umbilical link with the sea. The CD, which portrays Noank as a virtually mythic town that time forgot, has been released in conjunction with Groton's Tercentennial (300th) Celebration that runs through 2005. The Noank Historical Society and the Groton Tercentennial Committee sponsored the recording project that features Hewitt on piano and synthesizer in combo settings featuring his frequent collaborator, the well-known Connecticut saxophonist and flutist, Tim Moran. A democratic melting pot of influences, Hewitt's mini-tone poems on the town's historic legacy, sites and vistas range stylistically over jazz, classical, contemporary, rock, Latin, pop, New Age, funk, hymns and ragtime. His moods are mostly exuberant and always in the American grain, whether he's painting a sonic portrait of a quaint, frozen-in-time soda shop; his beloved hamlet's venerable house of worship, or it's summer festivities and social gatherings at the town dock..His compositions are as true a slice of Americana as cherry pie, or works by Charles Ives, Scott Joplin, Norman Rockwell, Robert Frost, Thornton Wilder, or the American Impressionist painters who tramped over the idyllic Connecticut countryside in pursuit of it's alluring light and atmosphere. Hewitt's homage to his hometown was inspired by two plays written by Noank poet/playwright Melanie Greenhouse. One called 'Point of Land' extols the scenic district's history from colonial times. The second, 'The Duchess of Noank,' is a loving portrait of one of the town's most colorful characters, Mary Virginia Goodman (1897-1988), best known to locals as the Duchess of Noank. In 'Point of Land,' a prose poem play that debuted in 1997, Greenhouse presents a panoramic view of three centuries of Noank history from the time it was the hunting and fishing grounds of the Pequots to the present. Much like a good film score, Hewitt's compositions on the CD, 'Point of Land Prologue' and 'Point of Land Theme' echo the play's idyllic world in which there seems to be a moratorium on time. Capturing the savory flavor and variety of Noank history, Greenhouse orchestrates the voices of some 70 characters who once walked the seaside town's streets, built or sailed it's wooden ships, gossiped, fornicated, worshipped, loved, lived and died. A blend of mostly historic fact and imaginatively fabricated fable and metaphoric levels of meaning, Greenhouse's 'play for voices' does for Noank what the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas did for the small, mythical Welsh seacoast town of Llareggub in his 1953 masterwork, 'Under Milk Wood.'Mary Virginia Goodman, the self-proclaimed Duchess of Noank and, by far, the most flamboyant of all Greenhouse's cast of naughty or nice Noankians, makes only a cameo appearance in 'Point of Land.' (Point of Land is the English translation of the original Native American word that white settlers eventually came to pronounce and spell as Noank.) But the regal, charismatic teacher, historian, local journalist, orator, world traveler, eccentric and avid collector of much older men as husbands, has center stage in 'The Duchess of Noank,' a modern dream play that premiered in 2000. Again, Hewitt complements Greenhouse's written word with his classy sounding theme, 'Waltz of the Duchess,' one of his CD's brightest, catchiest creations. How this crusty, self-confident Nutmeg doyenne becomes the Duchess of Noank while travelling in Scotland, where she sprains her ankle and strains the truth, is an amusing anecdote worthy of Mark Twain in his 'The Innocents Abroad.' Three actors, who simultaneously interact with one another in Greenhouse's play, represent the Duchess at three stages in her life: youth, middle age and old age. Individually, they play the Duchess as a precocious girl in her early to mid-teens; as a cocky, middle-aged, revered yet feared teacher and as a popular, breezy local newspaper columnist; and, finally, as an elderly but still razor-witted, proud woman waiting not for Godot, but for death. Seasoned with symbolism, 'The Duchess of Noank' opens with a thudding fall from grace and ends with death as a kind of mystical ascension on a stairway to the unknown. Between fall and ascension, scenes freely shift back-and-forth across time periods, moving in and out of dreamtime. Sometimes they even split, like cinematic images, so action occurs concurrently or even overlaps. With her Down East accent, the Duchess was as proud of being a descendant of the legendary Mohegan chief, Uncas, as she was of her Yankee ancestry. Her proudest claim, which she announced to everybody, was that she could count from one to 12 in what she called 'the Mohegan tongue.' So who was this complex, contradictory character who mocked suffragists as a young girl, but as an adult, liberated woman marched boldly to the very loud beat of her own drum? Think of some brilliant hybrid of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Dorothy Parker, Hedda Hopper, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Queen Victoria, Katharine Hepburn and the best and the brightest, most intimidating female teacher you ever had in elementary school, and you'll get a glimmer of what this regal, New England original must have been like. The dark secret-or at least semi-dark secret at the core of the enigmatic Duchess's erotic life-- is that she never got over her hot, girlhood crush on her grandfather. Even long after the gentlemanly gaffer's death, he remained the Platonic standard for the Duchess's selection of her mostly infirm, ancient but well-to-do husbands. Greenhouse let's this 'secret' fixation unfurl gently in the play, never exploiting it as a geriatric variation of the Oedipus complex. An only child of Czech refugees who emigrated to Virginia in the late 1940s, Greenhouse, 55, has been a devout Noankian since moving to town from Mystic in 1984 with her husband Sandy, a physician who practices in Gales Ferry. It was love at first sight for the transplant whose favorite creative pastimes today are gardening or sitting on her patio in the sunshine writing her first drafts by hand. Hewitt, the native Groton son, first crossed paths with Greenhouse in 1994 while playing a gig at the Arts Café-Mystic's literary and music series. The ongoing, innovative series is noted for presenting such noted poets as Pulitzer Prize winner, Stephen Dunn, and the dissident Chinese poet, Xue Di. Greenhouse, a former soccer mom who wrote her poems and plays at home while her three sons were at school, coordinated the innovative series from 1994 to 2004 at the Mystic Arts Center. Impressed by the spirit that she heard in Hewitt's playing, Greenhouse asked the pianist in 1996 to collaborate with her by composing music for her writings on Noank. A musical maven who's at home in any genre from jazz to classical, Hewitt had already composed music for poetry written by Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate. A reader with varied intellectual and philosophical interests far afield from music, Hewitt, who's now 61, jumped at the chance to collaborate with a playwright. Especially because this would give him the opportunity to compose music inspired by the cherished coastal world where he grew up and has deep ancestral roots, including solid bourgeois merchants as forebears. And, after all, it was the history-drenched, lyrical seacoast atmosphere that helped form his emerging worldview in many ways. Especially his lifelong love for the environment and fascination with rivers, most particularly his personal holy trinity of the Mystic, the Thames and the Connecticut. Since growing up in a historic cupola-capped, sea captain's house that overlooks the Thames, Hewitt has lived much of his life not far from these three rivers. Except, of course, when he's on the road plying his craft as a peripatetic pianist throughout the United States and even Europe. Not surprisingly, one of the most fluent programmatic pieces on his CD is 'Flow Like the River,' his tribute to the Mystic, which he praises in the liner notes as 'a source of spiritual renewal in a tumultuous world.' By focussing on the particulars of Noank's historical legacy, both Hewitt and Greenhouse strive to get across a universal message about the importance of preserving the environment and a shared, communal sense of historical consciousness. Most especially, they fear commercial incursions on the precious but vulnerable ambiance of small coastal burghs like Noank. The threat comes from what they call 'the boutiquing' of old, traditional downtown areas, and 'the McMansionizing,' or building of gargantuan trophy homes with a disregard for their impact on historic sites or on the timeless village aura portrayed by the pair in word and music. By using their art to exalt Noank's priceless historic legacy and it's virtues as a classic New England seacoast haven, Hewitt and Greenhouse hope to help preserve all the Noanks of America, maybe even for another 300 years. The Arts The Sun, Westerly, R.I. Tuesday, March 22, 2005 KENT HEWITT RELEASES LITTLE TOWN BY THE SEA Noank pianist and composer Kent Hewitt has released a CD of his original compositions called "Little Town by the Sea: Soundscapes," a tribute to the village of Noank. Consisting of Hewitt's original compositions, the album includes jazz, classical and contemporary settings. "This project is very close to my heart," says Hewitt, who grew up in the Groton Heights section of Groton, overlooking Thames Street and the Thames River. His family lived in a sea captain's style home with a widow's walk built by his great-grandfather, Col. Hubbard Morgan. Hewitt's ancestors owned the Groton Grain and Coal Co. and Edgecombe and Poppe's General Store, an institution for many years on Thames Street. Hewitt's father's fourth grade teacher was Mary Virginia Goodman, "the duchess of Noank." "I have a special affinity for river life and activity, finding it a source of inspiration for my music," says Hewitt. "I have written original music depicting significant scenes in this quaint maritime village." He says he hopes the CD will inspire listeners to appreciate and help to preserve the cultural, historical and ecological integrity of Noank ("point of land" in the Native American language). "The preservation of historical buildings is an important issue for me as well as the ecological issues of maintaining clean water in the surrounding environment," he says. "In addition, my purpose through the universal language of music is to bring people together as a community and connect them in a common bond in this mission of their town's preservation and the appreciation of it's natural beauty." Hewitt earned a degree in business administration from Boston University and a music degree in theory and composition from the University of Connecticut. He also holds a science degree in nutripathy and has had a practice in holistic health counseling and natural healing. He has studied piano and theory with Ray Santisi, Charlie Mariano, Hal Galper, Fred Hersch and Ron Brown. Additionally, he has led music clinics for the Hartford Jazz Society and taught at Berklee College of Music, Trinity College, The Hartford Conservatory and The Music School of Providence. He has collaborated with Noank writer Melanie Greenhouse and composed music for her theatrical productions "Point of Land" and "The Duchess of Noank." He has also collaborated with Connecticut poet laureate Marilyn Nelson, releasing a CD titled "Poetry and Music" and performing at the "Sunken Gardens" poetry festival. A mainstay of jazz and popular piano in Connecticut for many years, Hewitt has been musical director for numerous Connecticut jazz clubs. He recorded TV jingles for Don Elliott Productions and also recorded with Michael Mussilami, Randy Brecker, Ray Drummond, Claudio Roditi, Ralph Moore, Thomas Chapin, Janet Marlow and Phyllis Hyman, and he has performed in concerts with jazz notables Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean, Steve Rossi and Jon Hendricks. Hewitt was the first pianist to open at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. He has been solo house pianist at the New York jazz club Jimmy Ryan's and has toured Europe with trumpeter Laco Deczi. He currently leads his own trio.