Jazz News & Notices

Dan Hallett Drives Jazz Throughout the Region
Celebrating “Dan the Man,” Meadville’s Jazz Motor

Keyboardist Dan Hallett is the motor behind many of the jazz projects emanating from Meadville in recent years.  He leads two bands, until recently coordinated weekly jazz jam sessions at Meadville’s Bosco’s Bar & Grille, is a regular at the Cootie Harris jazz jams at the Meadville Council of the Arts, and frequently appears as a sideman in Erie area groups.

Dan HallettThe Soul Crackers

Initiated in 1997-8 by Dan and electric bassist Sean Demico, The Soul Crackers are a “groove-based, funk soul-rock fusion” band.  Dan plays electric piano, organ and synthesizer, sometimes sings.  Sean plays bass.  While regular drummer Dave Perry is away in Egypt, the drums chair is ably filled by Tim Driscoll or Matt Ferguson.  The group began with a regular engagement in 1997 at Hoppers Brew Pub in Erie.

Early on , the band included a horn, then morphed into a trio called REACH, then found its present form.  Repertoire includes a mix of covers and original arrangements.  Dan offers, as examples: Jimi Hendricks tunes (“Little Wing,” Foxy Lady”), Credence Clearwater’s “Green River,” ZZ Top’s version of the Sam & Dave tune “I Thank You,” Henry Mancini’s “A Shot In The Dark” (as surf rock), and Lou Rawls’ “Natural Man.”  With some exploratory, groove-based free improve mixed in.

The Soul Crackers will be featured on Friday, March 30, at the BrewErie’s “Arts & Drafts Fest,” from 11:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Dan has posted some of his recorded music on MySpace. Here is one of our favorites, A Funky Way to Go - Improv. BE PATIENT - The music take a bit to begin.

You can listen to a number of other tunes by Dan at www.myspace.com\danielhallettmusic.

The Dan Hallett Trio

A second band, sometimes with the same personnel, featuring straight ahead jazz, was formed in 2004-5.  This band plays jazz standards, American songbook standards, some bossa and samba tunes.  It has performed in restaurants and clubs in the Meadville and Erie areas.

The Dan Hallett Trio will be featured on Saturday, March 24, at Alto Cucina Restaurant in Erie, from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Here is a sample of Dan playing Footprints by Wayne Shorter. Again, BE PATIENT - The music take a bit to begin.

Solo Piano

Dan has also developed a solo project, performing his own arrangements of Scott Joplin tunes and occasional classics, as part of “A Taste of the Arts,” a traveling show sponsored by the Meadville Council of the Arts, which visits area Senior Citizen homes.

Getting Started

Dan started music lessons early.  Both parents were pianists, and his father, also Dan Hallett, taught vocal music at Maplewood High School in Meadville for over 30 years.  (Dan is actually Dan Hallett III; his dad is II.)

Dan and family spent their summers at Chautauqua, where Dan often qualified for piano lessons on scholarship.  It was at Chautauqua that Dan remembers his first exposure to jazz: The Preservation Hall Dixieland Jazz Band, and then Dave Brubeck & sons, ‘Two Generations of Brubeck'. ”Music as fun was a revelation.”


Dan was a jazz fan, and his piano teacher let him play some pop tunes of the day, but after a nonproductive year with his first jazz piano teacher in 9th grade, Dan ran out of enthusiasm and his interests turned to hockey.  Only when he began college – first at Behrend, then State College – did his interest in music pick up again.  He studied piano and classical guitar, and rediscovered Brubeck.  Another hiatus occurred after he returned to Meadville.

Back At It

Then in 1995, Dan returned to studying piano, with a vengeance, and has been at it since.  Over the years he has studied with Shirley Stripling in Meadville and Basil Ronzitti in Erie.  He has played with a variety of Erie musicians: Charles Ventrello, Frank Singer, Steve Trohoske, Brad Amidon, Dave Blaetz, Sheldon Peterson, Dave Callaghan, and many others.

JazzErie fans have heard Dan with Chuck Ventrello’s Jazz & Blues Walk bands for the past six years.  He also played with Allen Zurcher’s band during the Jazz Walk Reception at the Erie Art Museum this past year.

Keeping jazz alive in Meadville.  Go, Dan!!!

By Dick Thompson
March 7, 2012