Helen Huynh, Contributing Photographer

Local jazz artists electrified NXTHVN, an arts non-profit in the Dixwell neighborhood, with a rich evening performance. 

Last Thursday, NXTHVN organized a free public event entitled “NXTHVN Performs: New Haven Jazz,” honoring the heritage of jazz musicians on Dixwell Street’s former Monetery Club. Residents came together to enjoy soulful music and complimentary wine. 

Rufus Greenlee founded the Monterey Club in 1934, and it became a home for the performances of huge names like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Charles Parker. Unfortunately, the jazz hotspot closed in 1991. The NXTHVN event featured New Haven and Connecticut-based artists, honoring the longstanding Black jazz history of the city. 

“This is amazing because it is two generations of jazz musicians coming together, and the rich history here in New Haven of jazz is incredible,” said Jay Kemp, NXTHVN’s student program manager. “You have all ages coming out for something like this.” 

Drummer Ryan Sands served as the program’s curator. The performance included bassists Eneji Alungbe and Jeff Fuller, drummer Jesse Hameen II, pianist Andrew Wilcox and Haneef N. Nelson on trumpet. These intergenerational jazz artists performed their compositions in a two-part series with a brief intermission. 

The first song performed was Fuller’s “Keep Hope Alive” and following this was Hameen’s “The Mission.” Later on, as a tribute to Valentine’s Day, “My Funny Valentine” was played. The event’s 91 attendants remained lively throughout the programming, clapping and cheering in between songs.  

NXTHVN was founded by Titus Kaphar, an American painter and Yale ART ’06, alongside Jason Price and Jonathan Brand. NXTHVN serves as an incubator for artists and curators nationally, offering a 10-month fellowship program in which creatives are provided quarterly stipends, subsidized housing and exhibition outlets. 

The arts center also provides a third space for New Haven residents through its high school apprenticeship program. Students interested in the arts work alongside the artist to gain professional and technical skills. 

“Apprentices work closely with the artist fellows and the curatorial fellows here at NXTHVN. We also meet together as a cohort and complete an end of year project,” said Lauriann Burt, a student apprentice at NXTHVN. “We’ve been able to meet so many fantastic people and artists from all over the place.”

Burt also told the News this was the organization’s second annual jazz event. 

She hinted at an upcoming spoken word event at the end of February, called “Black History NXT Future: An Open Mic Celebration.”

Kemp said he is focused on engaging young people with art. 

Currently, Kemp is working alongside the students to develop their end-of-year project, a mobile and community interactive exhibition, which will be completed this summer. 

“NXTHVN is the place to be,” said Loretta Tam, who is another student apprentice at NXTHVN. 

NXTHVN is located at 169 Henry St. 

Paloma Vigil is the Arts Editor for the Yale Daily News. She previously served as a DEI co-chair and staff reporter for the University and Sports desks. Past coverage includes religious life, Yale College Council, sailing and gymnastics. Originally from Miami, she is a junior in Pauli Murray College majoring in Psychology and Political Science.