On Saturday, June 28, singer Dianne Mower and a cast of top-notch musicians will head to Hartford's Japanalia Eiko to perform a diverse program of songs by Burt Bacharach, Dave Brubeck and everything in between.
This is nothing new; for the past half-decade, Mower has been a steady performer at Dan Blow's West End clothing boutique, which started hosting live jazz five years ago. What's different this time is that Japanalia is closing, and Mower's will be the final show in the space.
The end of Japanalia, Mower said, "means leaving a hole in the Hartford jazz scene, a big hole. It's one of the few venues where you can actually give a concert and people aren't ordering food… It's like you brought the band to your home and you invited your friends over. They set it up so beautifully that you are always a star, even though you are always among friends."
At Japanalia last year, Mower paid tribute to Bonnie Raitt, and the year before that she mixed things up by taking on "The Sound of Music" with Brazilian and Trinidadian influences. Once again, she'll be bringing a familiar cast of players: longtime guitarist-collaborator Norman Johnson, pianist Matt DeChamplain, bassist Don Wallace, drummer Tom Devino, singers Atla DeChamplain, Chris Larsen Nelson and Paul Aherne, and narrator Colin McEnroe. Advance copies of Mower's latest CD, a collaboration with Chris and Dan Brubeck that also features Johnson, will be on sale at the show.
"I started singing when Bacharach was on the radio," Mower said, "and also Joni Mitchell." Mower plans to perform "Twisted" — Annie Ross' 1952 vocalese take on a Wardell Gray tenor saxophone solo, which was covered by Mitchell on her 1974 album "Court and Spark" — at the Japanalia show. "I skipped the whole standards thing. I did it backward."
Blow's post-closing plans include relocating to the Bahamas. "It's a tough decision, but when you have a mom and pop business, which is what Japanalia is, you have to recognize your limitations and know when to go," he told the Hartford Courant in April. "I have a whole other life in the Bahamas. I'm planning to continue music production there. I'm thinking about opening a restaurant. I'm not saying I'll never do fashion again, but I'm not going to do it 100 percent, like I've been all these years."
When this year's Japanalia gig was first booked, Mower wasn't aware it would be the last show at the venue. The original date was June 21, but Mower said Blow wanted her to be the final performer.
"We lucked out that my band was available," Mower said.
DIANNE MOWER: BACHARACH TO BRUBECK — ONE SINGER'S JOURNEY TO JAZZ takes place on Saturday, June 28, at Japanalia Eiko in Hartford. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28-$48. Information: japanalia.com.