Hartford Jazz Orchestra

Hartford Jazz Orchestra

The Hartford Jazz Orchestra (HJO) began its Monday night ritual in October 1965 at King Phillip Junior High School in West Hartford Connecticut under the direction of Bill Stanley, who was the band director at Hall High School in the same city. The band continued at the same location and leadership until the early 1970s when it moved to Manchester Community College and operated under Bob Vater who was on the teaching staff a MCC.

For a period of time, the band suffered from a lack of quality musicians and spotty attendance. But the group worked with a series of new and interesting musical arrangements.

With Bob Vater at the helm, the band performed concerts with the Woody Herman, Stan Kenton band along with joint appearances with jazz greats Zoot Sims and Clark Terry. It was about at this time that Chic Cicchetti joined the band as a section trombone player. The HJO moved to Newington High School about 1979 and continued under the direction of John Mills. At this time, due to space availability, some of the meetings were conducted at the Newington town Hall.

The band moved back to MCC for a short time again under the direction of Bill Stanley. It was about at this time that Chic Cicchetti began to make his presence felt with his stellar musical arrangements, which led to his ultimate leadership. In the early 1980s the band moved to The Rocking Horse Café which was, at that time, owned by the DePalma brothers.

There were many personnel changes through all these years with a definitive surge in the quality of musicianship with the addition of Jack Nedorostek on lead trumpet and Tony DiMaggio on lead trombone. Seb Giacco has played the lead alto sax chair since the band’s inception. Dick Prestage, presently in the trumpet section, also is an original member but moved to Florida for three years before returning to the organization.

The band subsequently moved to the then famous Club 880 which, at that time, was the mecca of the Hartford jazz scene. It was during this time that singer Bobbi Rogers joined the group. Ms. Rogers, to this day, is the one and only vocalist to sing with the HJO.

The HJO was the house band at the 880 until the club owner expired and the establishment began to show signs of instability. Under Chic’s leadership, the band moved to The Great American Café in Glastonbury, Ct. for a short stay; then on to the Ramada Inn in East Hartford. In 1998, the HJO moved to the Arch Street Tavern where it remains to this day.

Chic Cicchetti died in May of 2000. Before his passing, he expressed the wish that his music would be under the stewardship of Dick Prestage, Jack Nedorostek, Don West and Seb Giacco. The present leader of the HJO is Donn Trenner whose tremendous bio appears elsewhere on this site.


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