Jay Hoggard's Harlem Hieroglyphics Quintet In New Haven

Special to The Courant

Vibes player, bandleader, composer, educator and longtime Middletown resident Jay Hoggard met Duke Ellington in Harlem, backstage at a concert, when he was 13. Hoggard studied the ancestors of the marimba — like the balafon and the djyl — in West Africa. He’s played with radical experimentalist and fellow Wesleyan University music Prof. Anthony Braxton.

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Hoggard brings all of those strands together in his music: deep and reverent jazz and African-American cultural history, a connection to the music’s wellsprings in Africa, and a willingness to go off in new and unexpected directions. Hoggard’s “Harlem Hieroglyphics” project pays tribute to all of it, the full-flowering of jazz and the way the music and the people left their sonic imprint on the island of Manhattan.

Hoggard’s father was a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the vibraphonist manifests a sense of the sacred to his music. (A track on his recent record is called “Piety and Redemption.”) There’s a warmth and stately poise to his playing as a well as ample harmonic and rhythmic sophistication.

Jay Hoggard’s Harlem Hieroglyphics Quintet performs at the Bregamos Theater, 491 Blatchley Ave., New Haven, on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25. bregamostheater.org.

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