Alexa Tarantino Quartet to bring acclaimed jazz to Club Hancher

On March 8, the Alexa Tarantino Quartet, led by award-winning saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and educator Alexa Tarantino, will bring critically acclaimed jazz to Club Hancher’s Strauss Hall for Hancher’s Golden Season lineup.


Anna Yatsekvich

Photos by Anna Yatsekvich

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

A dimly lit room set with tables and chairs, waves of smooth jazz played live on stage, crowds relaxing with refreshments as they absorb the performance — this is the scene Club Hancher’s Strauss Hall plans to set this month.

The Alexa Tarantino Quartet will perform at Strauss Hall for Hancher’s Golden Lineup on March 8.

Club Hancher will host the event, which is a program Hancher Auditorium implemented during the era of the Great Flood in 2008 to continue holding performances in available, undamaged facilities. Strauss Hall is a smaller venue than the main auditorium’s Hadley Stage and is set up with chairs and tables for guests to relax at.

Alexa Tarantino, a professional jazz musician, said spaces like Strauss Hall provide the ideal environment for jazz.

“It’s like a deep connection that doesn’t always occur in every type of music, and that’s why I really enjoy jazz because it’s improvised,” Tarantino said. “It’s collective, and it’s communal.”

Tarantino is an award-winning saxophonist, woodwind doubler, composer, and musical educator. After earning her undergraduate degree from University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and her master’s degree from Juilliard School, she went on to compose numerous works and founded the Cape Ann Jazz Workshop in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Tarantino has toured the world with the musical group ARTEMIS, vocalist Cecile Mclorin Salvant, and internationally acclaimed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the latter of whom famously described Tarantino as a “one-woman wrecking crew.”

This month, Tarantino is touring with the Alexa Tarantino Quartet, which has performed in several locations around New York City and Rockport. The ensemble currently holds residency as faculty members at the Rockport Jazz Workshop.

Tarantino has never performed at Club Hancher before, but she played in Iowa for adjudication and several jazz festivals and looks forward to returning, she said.

Rob Cline, Hancher’s director of marketing and communication, said he was introduced to hosting Tarantino after a staff member at Lincoln Center described her as one of three young jazz artists who could bring variety to performances with their stellar careers.

“[Tarantino] is young, and she’s got musical ideas of her own, so she and her bandmates sort of come to the stand with tradition firmly in mind but also a way of looking forward about the music that I think is really exciting,” Cline said.

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Cline said he believes Tarantino can inspire young students from the University of Iowa to pursue careers in music because she is an example of passion and success.

Cline also hopes the community will enjoy jazz in the setting of Strauss Hall.

“What we love about the club setting is this sort of opportunity to recreate what you might experience in a bigger city in New York and Chicago or in Minneapolis — where they have these wonderful jazz clubs, where the audience and the artists share a pretty small space and can interact and can appreciate the music in a different way,” Cline said.

The Alexa Tarantino Quartet is highly anticipated by the community, as both of its evening performances have been sold out for quite some time. Tarantino is thrilled about the turnout and is excited to engage with the audience.

Audiences can expect to hear the band perform jazz guided by Tarantino’s own stylized improvisation depending on how she is feeling and how she connects with the music.

“I mean, the improvisation of jazz is what initially drew me to it,” Tarantino said. “The improvisation with other people is a huge part of a voice. I love it. I love working with people, I love being part of a community, and I love being part of a team.”