The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 21, 2013

Hot chili and cool jazz to benefit nature center

By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item

MILLERSBURG — Don’t take any wooden nickels, but visit one if you have a hankering for a hearty bowl of chili, some cool jazz and the sounds of a Blue Elephant.

Millersburg is the place you need to be Friday night to experience all this and more when the Wooden Nickel in Millersburg hosts a Chili & Jazz dinner to benefit the nearby Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art.

“Why should people come to this event? Well, let’s see ... there are many reasons — good food; the chance to hear some veteran musicians performing totally unrehearsed and very spontaneous,” said Jeff Lynn, of the discombobulated group of musicians that call themselves Blue Elephant. “Best of all, coming to this event helps the Ned Smith Center which is a beautiful place that is all about nature. So it’s going to be a night of fun and all for a great cause.”

An annual event held to raise funds for the center, the evening will feature homemade cornbread and the Wooden Nickel’s hearty and popular chili.

Throughout the evening, a musical mishmash of songs and performers will take center stage creating a very informal and unexpected musical experience.

“This is part fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and part get-up-there-and play-some-really-good-music without a set list or a set idea of what type of music we’ll play,” said Lynch, a noted bass player based in Harrisburg.

The core players in Blue Elephant, a catch-all type band created as an ever-changing band open to area musicians willing to jam and make some sounds.

The foundation for this mighty musical elephant are Lynch and the talented and highly-regarded Ray Santanna, a mainstay on the Harrisburg music scene who has the talent to play almost any instrument that has strings.

The musical duo are also known throughout the area as advocates of independent music as well as being mentors to young and aspiring talent.

“I am really looking forward to play with Jeff Lynch and Ray Santanna. The evening will feature a lot of jazz standards and a lot of great music,” said Fred Griggs, a high school student in the Harrisburg area who is destined to make it big in the world of music.

So far, the gifted drummer has earned rave reviews and acclaim from regional musicians such as pianist Steve Rudolph. More so, Griggs was recently selected to be part of the revered 2013 Grammy Camp Jazz Session. Griggs, the only drummer in the program, was joined by 31 high school musicians from across the country to be accepted into the program operated by the Grammy Foundation.

As a result, Griggs performed with his fellow musicians at pre- and post-Grammy events throughout Los Angeles. “It was an amazing experience and so cool. We walked the red carpet and I had the opportunity to perform with some many other talented musicians from this program,” Griggs said. “It was really a huge honor for me.”

For the upcoming event in Millersburg, Griggs will showcase his detailed yet uninhibited style of playing.

“What I like most about jazz is that it keeps you on your toes. It’s always changing and always different.”

The evening will also include numerous musicians who will sit in and add their own spin to the eclectic style of music that is jazz.

Originally scheduled to take place the end of last month, Chili & Jazz was postponed due to inclement weather.

“The weather wouldn’t cooperate last month so we’re hoping this month the weather will be better since this is always a fantastic event for everyone and a great way to support the Ned Smith Center,” said Alexis Dow Campbell, director of creative programming at the center

“We’ll have a lot of great musicians playing some excellent jazz and of course there is the Wooden Nickel’s famous chili and cornbread. So it will be a very fun night out filled with lots of music.”