Jazz on a winter's day in Portsmouth

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PORTSMOUTH — Ask Nancy Parker Wilson why Jazz for Kids is so special to her and she may get choked up a little.

"It was our first jazz program. It's very sentimental," Greenvale Vineyard's general manager said of the 14th annual event, in which musicians introduce children to jazz standards — and play a few tunes kids already know and love — in a show that's both entertaining and educational.

Thursday's event, part of the Newport Winter Fetsival, was free, with complimentary refreshments for the kids and wine available for purchase for the adults.

Ms. Wilson was all smiles as she watched children — some just beginning to walk — bounce around the tasting room at Greenvale Vineyards to the smooth sounds of vocalist Tish Adams, bassist Dick Lupino and keyboard player Yvonne Monnett.

"This is a participatory concert. I'm not going to sing by myself; you guys are going to help," Ms. Adams told the youngsters as she instructed them to yell "flash," "bam" and "alacazam" at key points in the song "Orange Colored Sky."

The unique program got its start when, 14 years ago, the organizers of the Newport Winter Festival asked Ms. Wilson if she wanted to host an event for the week-long celebration.

"It was really a way to promote ourselves," she said.

She got an idea right away.

"My children's school had a jazz for kids concert, so I asked David Rosenberg (director of the Newport Winter Festival), if we could do it. I hired the same musicians that played in school," she said. "I had three children — 2, 5, and 7 at the time — and I just couldn't wait to have them entertained."

The first show was an unqualified success, and it led to even more music at the vineyard.

"(Jazz pianist) Matt Quinn was in the audience for that first program and he asked if he could do something," Ms. Wilson said, adding that was the start of the winery's "jazz tastings," which are held weekly from May through November.

Tragically, Mr. Quinn died in 2007 as a result of injuries sustained in a fall at his Tiverton home. He was 48. Mr. Lupino, who's played music professionally for more than 30 years, took over his duties.

Music makes an impression

Ms. Wilson said the Jazz for Kids program always seem to go over well with its target audience. "The kids always talk about the fun time they had," she said.

However, it wasn't always that way for her youngest son, who wasn't as enthralled with jazz during the program's early days.

"He said he didn't want to hear any more jazz," she said. "He was 6 years old and he would spend a lot of time with me here. It was an adolescent reaction."

But the music must have made some impression on him over the years.

"Now he's a jazz drummer," Ms. Wilson said, adding that her youngest, now 20 and in college, may try pursuing music as a career.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.