Close your eyes at Saturday’s concert by trumpeter Dominick Farinacci and his band at the Avalon Theatre, and you might think you’re at a late-night jazz club in New Orleans, a smoky tango hall in Buenos Aires, or a Spanish venue with a flamenco dancer’s swirling skirts keeping time with the music.
That’s because Farinacci, while rooted in jazz, draws from diverse influences across the world to create his signature sound. As he describes it, “When you spend time with international musicians, you start to see the similarities in the music and fall in love with the unique things about these musical cultures. I then try to bring that into my own music in my own way.”
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Farinacci recalls falling in love with the trumpet and jazz icon Louis Armstrong’s music shortly after he had begun to play the trumpet. “I heard a recording of Louis Armstrong, and for whatever reason, I said, ‘I want to sound like that.’ And that was the beginning of my journey,” he said.
Though he first tried the drums in sixth grade, fate (and a competitive middle school band audition) steered him to the trumpet. Now, at 40, he’s never looked back. After honing his craft at Juilliard (where he received a scholarship to its first Jazz Program) and launching his career, Farinacci has played stages worldwide alongside greats like Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, and John Clayton.
But he’s always eager to discover new inspirations, crediting the time he’s spent immersed in musical hotspots from Paris to the Middle East with shaping his style, assimilating what speaks to him – whether it’s the rhythm of flamenco or soulful sounds of blues – into his contemporary jazz alchemy. “I’ve always been drawn to beautiful melodies and lyrics,” he said. “If you have a great song, you can do anything with it.”
For this weekend’s upcoming show, he’s assembled a world-class band that can adeptly navigate his diverse influences. “When I think about who I want to play music with,” he said, “I always go to people who I feel are some of the greatest musicians I know. I surround myself with people who make me better as a musician and who put on a great show.”
The ensemble for Saturday’s performance includes Juilliard-trained pianist Jonathan Thomas and bassist Yasushi Nakamura, who also has been recently became a member of the 2023 Monterey Jazz Festival On, and drummer Jerome Jennings has played with jazz greats like Hank Jones and Sonny Rollins. Rounding out the group is a talented 24-year-old vocalist, Ekep Nkwelle, a recent Juilliard grad, and incredible flamenco dancer Alice Blumenfeld.
“I think people will come away with many joyful moments from some great songs and performances,” he said, describing the balance of talents he handpicked for this tour. It will be the first time they will all be playing together.
But his show is more than just music, as Farinacci brings you into his world with engaging stories and anecdotes. And the intimate setting of the Avalon allows a special connection between the artist and the audience, something that has kept him coming back year after year. “I love the community of people who have such varied and interesting backgrounds along with the commonality of their love for great music and love for jazz,” Farinacci said of the Easton crowd. Then, of course, there’s Amy’s restaurant, he added (Amy being Amy Haines, owner of Out of the Fire).
This two-way relationship between audience and performer is something Farinacci works hard at. “I used to be bad at public speaking; I was nervous and shy, and that was something that I was committed to improving because music is very important, and your interaction with the audience is equally as important.”
Some of that interaction often involves an association between his music and personal experiences. Farinacci recalled that road to maturity. “When I was 14, I was playing these old songs that had such profound significance, and I look back and think, ‘What the hell did I know about life at 14 years of age?’ But I loved playing it, and when I revisit those songs, they have a whole deeper meaning.”
Case in point – Tony Bennett and Bill Evans’ song “A Child is Born” has been one of his favorites for many years. However, it’s taken on a new depth since the birth of his son, Alex, eight months ago. “We have a ritual,” Farinacci said. “I play that song every morning, and we listen to it together.”
Channeling these types of personal emotions into his playing comes instinctively now. “The more life experiences I have, the deeper it gets for me as a performer, and as a result, hopefully, that translates to the audience,” he said.
Ultimately, for him, music is about service. Farinacci was named the very first Global Ambassador to Jazz at Lincoln Center by Wynton Marsalis. He spent time in Qatar and credits that experience with impacting his creativity and humanity. “As artists,” he said, “we have a responsibility to do our part to help connect people of different walks of life through our art. It’s not going to solve the world’s problems, but it certainly can play a small and important role in just helping to bring people together in a meaningful way,”
But affecting change starts locally, one heart or mind at a time. So when Farinacci and his ensemble take the Avalon stage this Saturday, he aims to unite people through the universal language of music. “Music helps keep me grounded,” he said. “As you go through things in life, that just deepens.”
So come ready to be transported by lyrical melodies and percussive rhythms from across continents and cultures. Let your mind wander, follow the flamenco dancer’s clicking heels, and lose yourself in Farinacci’s trumpet. At the heart of it all is the hope that his “just lovely music” resonates deep in your soul, bringing a little more beauty into the world.
For tickets to Dominick Farinacci and Friends at the Avalon, go to: https://www.avalonfoundation.org/book-now/?EventInstanceId=7001 Showtime is at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 2.
Val Cavalheri is a writer and photographer. She has written for various publications, including The Washington Post. Previously she served as the editor of several magazines, including Bliss and Virginia Woman. Although her camera is never far from her reach, Val retired her photography studio when she moved from Northern Virginia to the Eastern Shore a few years ago.. She and her husband, Wayne Gaiteri, have two children and one grandchild.