Sunday, September 23, 2018

Schuylkill Music: The Jazz Hands

By Megan A. Hepler

It is not often that you come across a regional band with so much professional experience. The Jazz Hands consists of four musically educated individuals from within and around Schuylkill County. Each studied jazz or music in college and continued to share their passion with the community. The Jazz Hands are also on the regular monthly line-up in Pottsville.

The Jazz Hands initially began when Joe Ciarvella and Josh Klein began conversing about forming a jazz band. They had already worked together on a project previously. Several months later Ciarvella met Jack Kelly, who filled in for them at last minutes during a show. Lastly, Cody Zahoroiko, who had worked with Ciarvella in Willie Jack & the Northern Light, was invited to join their jazz project. The Jazz Hands had officially formed in Autumn 2017 in Pottsville.

Ciarvella and guitarist Josh Klein decided on the name of the band during a brain-storming session. “We came up with ‘The Jazz Hands,’ as an homage to our teachers and also the dance move!” Ciarvella indicated.

Joe Ciarvella currently resides in Pottsville. He grew up with several generations of professional musicians in his family, which lead him to pursue it passionately throughout life. He began playing drums at age three. Later, he studied music at both Penn State Schuylkill and Braun School of Music in Pottsville. Joe has had his hands in several musical and theatrical projects within Schuylkill County over the past several years.

Josh Klein is from the Lehigh Valley. Klein began playing guitar at six years old. He went on to study Jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In addition to The Jazz Hands, he currently performs with Funk Norris, Willie Jack and the Northern Light, and his solo project, Hairy Dudini.

Jack Kelly is also from the Lehigh Valley. Kelly began playing guitar at the age of ten. He also has studied Jazz at Moravian College in Bethlehem. Kelly has a variety of musical interests and versatile playing styles. In addition to solo acts, Kelly was previously involved in the bands Tanning Booth, Indian and the Angels, and Jack Kelly Trio.

Cody Zahoroiko is from Northumberland County. He began playing the saxophone at seven years old; he began doing tenor at twelve years old. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Music and Classical Saxophone from Susquehanna University. In addition to The Jazz Hands, Zahoroiko can be found on stage behind a piano with Willie Jack and the Northern Light and Funk Norris.

“The chemistry between the four of us was electric! We all loved the same music and proceeded forward,” Ciarvella stated.

The Jazz Hands’ name is a dead giveaway for the music they perform. They do add some variety to the mix with genres such as straight-ahead swing jazz, fusion, modal jazz, and jazz-rock. Their arrangements for each musical piece are, however, different each performance. The Jazz Hands prides themselves on being able to improvise and modify the pieces, as well as change up their set list every show.

Ciarvella explained, “this makes each and every show a unique and artful performance. We are able to listen to the music that’s being created and respond, appropriately.”

The Jazz Hands also wish to acknowledge their loved ones, teachers, and fans for their continued support. They are thankful for the venues that have given jazz a home, like Mickey Palles has done at the Coney Island. They would also specifically like to thank Dr. Paul Miller, Dr. Frank DiBussolo, and Larry Koch.

The Jazz Hands has brought variety to the area, where rock and cover bands are the majority. They have grown a fan base here in Schuylkill County and it appears many look forward to their monthly shows at The Coney. Fans and professionals alike have good things to say about The Jazz Hands.

Art Professor at Penn State Schuylkill, Bob Stickloon stated, “great quartet with a seemingly infinite repertoire. An obviously well-schooled and musically sensitive band of musicians.”

“My husband, Paul and I have gone out to see the Jazz Hands at Coney Island in Pottsville. They were fabulous! Very smooth and they improvised beautifully. A gift to our area! You can see how much they loved playing also; big smiles on all of their faces. We plan to go again to see them and hope that others in Schuylkill County will take advantage of a class act jazz band right here in our own backyard!” Mary Noon a music enthusiast said.

Vice-President of Majestic Theatre board, Deb Gober Karpovich reported, “I knew Joe since he was about five years old but have lost touch with him through the years. Imagine my surprise when our paths crossed again 2 years ago, and we got caught up on our current situation. He invited me to hear his band The Jazz Hands at a local restaurant [Coney Island]. My husband and I went over one Monday evening and were very impressed with the professional quality of the group, along with the joy and enthusiasm all the members had for what they do. The music was delightful and if one is not familiar with jazz I strongly suggest they give it a try. Joe and The Jazz Hands are a welcome diversion to the ‘mainstream’ music we mostly hear on our radios.”

“Thanks again to ‘Joe Ciarella and The Jazz Hands.’ As always, your performance was amazing. Patrons really enjoyed the evening. I thank you sincerely for helping make Tuesday Jazz at The Coney such a success. See you again next month!” said Mickey Palles, owner of the Coney Island.

Performer, recording artist, music teacher, and writer Nikki Todd said, “continuing the legacy of legendary jazz music in Schuylkill County, The Jazz Hands not only picks up the gauntlet from great jazz musicians of former generations but breathes new life into a genre of music that is as much a part of this region as a deep rich vein of coal. Those attending a Jazz Hands gig are whisked away to magical musical places where melodies of great jazz standards take new flights, inviting the spirit of the audience to jump on board. Typically, attendees are inspired to clap along to swinging rhythms that are in the same moment exciting and exotic, yet as intimate as one’s own heartbeat. The Jazz Hands experience is sultry and engaging, moving and intellectual, so very cool and relaxing, while dynamic and stirring. Stated simply, Jazz Hands use the jazz inheritance of the rich musical past, as the foundation for their innovative sounds of the present, setting a new bar for area jazz music in the future.”

You can see The Jazz Hands perform at the following events:

September 30th - Meeting of the Minds Music & Camping Fest at the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds
October 9th – The Coney, Pottsville
November 13th – The Coney, Pottsville
December 11th – The Coney, Pottsville
December 22nd – Christmas Jazz Concert at the Majestic Theater, Pottsville
January 8th – The Coney, Pottsville

You can find more information on their Facebook page

Photos by Rich Searle